Research Projects

Current Research Project: "Revisions of the American Eve: Gender, Community, and the Technoscientific Imagination in U.S. Speculative Fiction (1870-1920)" (AT)

This study re-examines the cultural motif of the "American Eve,” suggesting that it has been used at least since the mid-nineteenth century to negotiate the relationship between individual and society in the context of technological and scientific progress. Speculative fiction of the 1870s to the 1910s portrays “American Eves” as contested figures of ideal American womanhood that are placed in an American Garden marked by all kinds of machines and fruits of knowledge. Late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American Eves and the texts that feature them remain highly relevant for cultural debates about the social effects of technological and scientific progress until today, because they combine progressive views about women’s place in the world with what would today be considered socially conservative or outright reactionary political positions, challenging simplistic notions of technoscientific development as social progress. Examining the ways in which ideas of a "better" society come in conflict with ideas of a more just society, this study is not merely concerned with the technoscientific imagination of American speculative fiction during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Rather, it is concerned with the many roles and functions women fulfill in cultural texts that dramatize the technologicial and scientific advances in U.S. society between 1870 and 1920. By revisioning women's roles and functions in light of these advances, I argue, the analyzed texts participate in larger cultural debates of their time about which kinds of social change produced or promised by technoscience society should embrace, and which ones it should resist.

Dissertation: "Poetic Place-making: Nature and Mobility in Contemporary American Poetry"

Completed in the DFG-funded project "The Environmental Imagination of Mobility: Umwelt und Migration in der Amerikanischen Gegenwartslyrik," directed by Prof. Dr. Christine Gerhardt, University of Bamberg.

This study analyses the works of contemporary American poets of migration who combine a concern for different kinds of geographical movement and a concern for concrete physical environments. It focuses on American poetry that deals with human mobility, both voluntary and forced, while also being invested in thinking and working through mobile subjects’ relationships to the natural world as it has been brought into focus by ecocriticism. In five thematic chapters, I focus on poetry published between 1990 and 2017 by Caribbean Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott, Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali, Lebanese American writer and painter Etel Adnan, Anglo-American poet Juliana Spahr, and Chamorro poet and educator Craig Santos Perez. The relationships of migrants of various ethnic backgrounds to nonhuman environments, the analysis of my primary texts reveals, are complex and fraught with histories of gendered, class-based, racial, colonial, and indeed environmental violence, raising questions about place-based notions of belonging, identity, and community. My study starts with the observation that many poets who write about nature and mobility in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century do not contend themselves with evoking urban spaces or broaching issues of displacement as movement through abstract cultural spaces, as scholarship on literatures of migration tends to emphasize. Instead, their texts engage with very concrete American locales, featuring mobile speakers who are struggling to maintain, regain, or develop meaningful relationships to the natural world. By actively and creatively reimagining such relationships in their poetry, a process I refer to as “poetic place-making,” these texts testify to the potential as well as to the limits of literature when it comes to producing non-parochial environmental imaginaries for our contemporary age of mass mobility as well as global environmental crisis.

Research Interests

  • 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-Century American Poetry
  • Figurations of the American Eve in American Fiction
  • Single-Sex Societies in American Culture
  • Ecocriticism, Technocriticism
  • Theories of Place, Theories of Mobility
  • Gender and Queer Studies, Feminist Criticism

Conference Organization

Conference Presentations (Selection)

  • 2019/06: "Post-Mobility and Queer Ecological Empathy in the Poetry of Etel Adnan," ASLE Conference 2019, UC Davis (USA)
  • 2019/03: "'deutschland im herbst / mir graut vor dem winter‘: Teaching Comparative Cultural Studies Courses on Race in Germany," Conference "Herausforderung ‘Kulturelle Lehrerinnen- und Lehrerbildung’: Perspektiven für das Studium der Geisteswissenschaften,“ University of Bamberg (Germany)
  • 2019/01: "Poetic Place-Making: Natur und Mobilität in deutscher Gegenwartsdichtung." Lunch-Meeting of the Rotary-Club Schloss Geyerswörth, Bamberg (Germany)
  • 2018/11: "'In a Mirror Darkly': Bordercrossing and Imperial Feminism in Star Trek: Discovery." 2018 AAAS Conference "American Im/Mobilities," University of Vienna (Austria)
  • 2018/09: "Groundwork, Fieldwork, Topopoetics: Reading Lorna Goodison's 'The Garden of St. Michael in the Seven-Hilled City of Bamberg.'" EASCLE Conference 2018, Universität Würzburg (Germany)
  • 2018/01: "'Entfernung gilt nichts': Walt Whitmans Dichtung und poetisches Erbe." Lecture Series "Amerika," Studium Generale, VHS Coburg (Germany).
  • 2017/06: "Mobility and/as Recovery in the Materialist Ecofeminist Poetry of Sharon Doubiago," ASLE Conference 2017, Wayne State University, Detroit (USA)
  • 2017/03: “Teaching Intersectional Feminism in Transatlantic Contexts: Developing a Comparative Seminar on Issues of Gender and Race in German and American Feminism.” Second Biennial EAAS Women’s Network Symposium 'Transnational Feminism and/in American Studies,' University of Lausanne (Switzerland)
  • 2016/11: “Conflicted Territorialities and Archipelagic Environments in the Poetry of Craig Santos Perez." Internationale Konferenz 'The Environment and Human Migration: Rethinking the Politics of Poetry,' University of Bamberg (Germany)
  • 06/2016: "Paying the Price for an Impossible Love: Etel Adnan's Defiant Ecopoetics of Hope." Ecopoetics Conference 'Dwellings of Enchantment: Writing and Reenchanting the Earth,' Université de Perpignan, Perpignan (France)
  • 06/2016: "Bodily Perspectives without Lyric Subjects: Materiality and Mobility in the Poetry of Juliana Spahr." BAA Summer Academy 'Material Culture,' Florida International University, Miami (USA)
  • 02/2016: "Of Spaceships and Ocean Planets: The Ethics of Mobility in Joan Slonczewski’s Pragmatic Utopias." Conference 'Maritime Mobilities: Critical Perspectives from the Humanities,' University of Vienna (Austria)
  • 10/2015: "From Identity Politics to a 'Postmodern Poetics of Witness' in American Poetry of Migration," Conference 'Poem Unlimited: New Perspectives on Poetry and Genre,' Augsburg University (Germany)
  • 06/2014: "Dwelling in Diaspora? The Environmental Politics of Displacement in Arthur Sze's The Gingko Light," Annual Conference of the GAAS 2014, Würzburg University (Germany)
  • 03/2014: "Beyond Nature Poetry: Arthur Sze's Intimate Translocal Geographies," ACLA Conference 2014, New York University (USA)
  • 06/2013: "From Ecocriticism to Geocriticism and Back - Place and Displacement in Contemporary Transnational American Poetry," 10th Biennal ASLE Conference 2013, University of Kansas (USA)
  • 04/2013: “Nature as a Reluctant Muse – Place and Displacement in two Poems by Derek Walcott and Agha Shahid Ali,” ACLA Conference 2013, University of Toronto (Canada)
  • 11/2012: (Poster Presentation): "Planetary Perspectives: Technology and the Natural World in Ed Roberson's poem 'Topoi'," Conference 'Risks - Effect & Affect: Technology and Narratives of the 21st century,' University of Bayreuth (Germany)