Main Focus

My main focus is in understanding how emotion is central to bringing people together into relationships and larger social formations. Many neuroscientists and psychologists have also been interested in how emotion is central to the processes of making sense of the world at the level of human consciousness. My most recent work shows how names nothing but the deadlock between, on one side, bodily sensation and, on the other side, meaning. This deadlock is experienced as a constant switching between the two ‘sides’ of sensation and meaning. This switching is the process of making sense that has been most robustly studied by history (as opposed to any of the biological sciences). I would argue that emotions (along with other, general concepts) are the means by which we manage the ineradicable experience of this deadlock at the level of social relationships. Once you take this symbolic parallax into account, it is impossible to nuance your understanding of emotions as central to human consciousness without history. Historians can, with greater specificity, zero in on the places of doubt around which scientific investigation pivots.

Incorporating emotion into the study of history has wide implications for history in general (as well as other humanities and social sciences). It allows us to more accurately and precisely show how social, political, and religious entities take shape as emotional structures rather than normative ones. This allows me to additionally show how—and this is my primary case study—the “well-nigh perfect oneness” between two men who served in the American Civil War (1861-1865) was representative of the more general idea of a national union (and continues to be in how we organize ourselves today) for the very fact that their “relations … were of peculiar and rarest intimacy.”

It is the story of Henry Clay Trumbull and Henry Ward Camp, both members of a Connecticut regiment on the Northern side of the war. My archive consists of close to two thousand pages of unpublished letters, hundreds of places, and a smattering of material objects, photographs, and drawings. Theirs will be the first historical account of a same-sex couple in the war. By demonstrating the sense-making processes of feeling and emotion through them, and focusing on how those feelings and emotions mattered in their world, especially in terms of their Christianity and the national union over which the war was fought, I will also show the continued need to foreground the absolute centrality of kinship relationships and sexualization to history more broadly. This will simultaneously advance the field of history of sexuality by providing a method of accessing individual’s desires beyond ideas of “sexuality.” For all of sexuality is emotionality.  

General topics of interest include:

  • Sexual Desire
  • Sexual Difference
  • Same-Sex Attraction
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Material Culture and the Built Environment
  • Theater and Dramaturgy
  • Sound and Music
  • American History
  • Critical Theory and Philosophy of History
  • Aesthetics

Curriculum Vitae

PhD, American Studies, Yale University (2017)

  • Graduate Certificate in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Dissertation: The Forgotten Union of the Two Henrys: A History of the "Peculiar and Rarest Intimacy" of the American Civil War

MA, American Studies, Yale University (2012)
MPhil, American Studies, Yale University (2012)
BA, Dartmouth College (2007)

  • Senior Fellow (In lieu of a major, Senior Fellowships are awarded for projects “with an intellectual scope and breadth of imagination beyond the existing curriculum." Four were awarded for 2007.)
  • Thesis: Better Safe Than Gay: How the Imperative to “Be Safe” Has Increased the Danger of Being Gay


Project

The Forgotten Union of the Two Henrys: A History of the “Peculiar and Rarest Intimacy” of the American Civil War


Selected Literature

Books

Articles

  • 2017: “The Pulpit of Henry Trumbull,” Experience, Edited by Alexander Nemerov, Chicago: Terra Foundation for American Art, pp. 78-98
  • 2011: “James Mars,” “Prudence Crandall,” and “Marian Anderson,” historical meditations on sites along the Connecticut Freedom Trail, “Freedom’s Journey: Poems and Meditations on African American Legacies in Connecticut," Curated by Laura Wexler and Elizabeth Alexander, a project of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, privately printed
  • 2006: “Whorified Virgins: Gay Youth and Sex,” Sex Matters: The Sexuality and Society Reader, 2nd Edition, Edited by Mindy Stombler, et. al. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, pp. 212-216

Book Reviews/Essays


Listen to my interviews of authors of new books in many of the above research areas, part of the New Books Network of podcasts.
And check out a special podcast I co-wrote and co-produced for C19 (The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists), "Networked Connections: Exploring Emily Dickinson in 1862," in which we integrated found texts and sound (the human voice, ambient noise, processed sound, silence) to explore how meanings and feelings stick to sound, and how sound can change them.

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