I am a Professor in the Department of English and the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. I began my career in the 1990s as a cultural historian of the British Atlantic world, with a focus on American plantation zones, and a particular interest in how American nature and American races were co-constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries through scientific networks. Retaining my interests in the nature/race/knowledge bundle, but increasingly attending to environmental history, I turned my attention to a 20th-century ecocatastrophe in the US cotton kingdom of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Most recently, I have been focusing on contemporary fiction, film and photography to see how this long history of the plantation, and especially Black connections with, and alienations from, the natural world are being imagined by artists today.  I have served on the editorial boards of American Literature, Early American Literature, the Winterthur Portfolio, and The Faulkner Journal. I have been a council member at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, have served on the Executive Committee of the MLA’s “American Literature to 1800” Division, and been elected as a member of the American Antiquarian Society. Closer to home, I have served as a Director of Undergraduate Studies in English, and as its Associate Chair. I began a new role as Chair of the Michigan Society of Fellows in January 2021.

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