I work on early modern French literature and environmental criticism, and in particular on the many ways early modern texts represent, already, concerns about sustainability, and the increasing weight being put on the environment by human appetites. I’m interested in the special role and power of literature to formulate, complicate and unsettle what we think our relationship with the environment, and with each other, is.
I have taught and published on topics such as urban garbage, ecology, the dating of the Anthropocene, and Ancient cynicism, particularly in the works of François Rabelais and Michel de Montaigne. What unites these interests is the investigation of the purpose, or potential vanity, of ecological endeavors. I’m currently writing my first book, Ecologies of Waste: Literature and Sustainability in Renaissance France, about the influence of the New World in the ways French authors conceived of their growing footprint, despite France’s lack of involvement in colonization at the time. I also co-edited Early Modern Écologies with Phillip John Usher (2020, University of Amsterdam Press).
I have also started work on my second book project on early modern ecofeminism, investigating the structural link between women and the environment in Renaissance and seventeenth-century France. My first article on this project will come out in 2023 in L'Esprit créateur, a reflection on menstruation and the role of plants in allowing women to carve out a space outside of a merely reproductive conception of sexuality.
Before UChicago, I taught a variety of courses at The George Washington University and at Vassar College, on popular expression in France, on medieval and early modern race, gender and religion, on monsters in the Renaissance, and more recently on insurrections. I experiment with practices that allow students to take charge of their own learning experience, from grading structures that allow them to choose assignments depending on their strengths and abilities, to immersive simulations such as the French Revolution historical game.