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Current Research Projects

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How does the past shape our responses to global warming and species extinction today?
A structure that resembles Noah's Ark and that Julian Yates is using for new book description

Julian Yates in collaboration with Jeffrey J. Cohen, Dean of the Humanities, Arizona State University, is embarked on a book titled, Noah's Arkive: Towards an Ecology of Refuge (under contract to University of Minnesota Press), which examines the way contemporary initiatives to combat the effects of global warming and the emerging genre of Cli(mate) Fi(ction) engage with the story of Noah's Ark. The book traces the way the elements of the flood story as they have been mediated by medieval and early modern traditions in art, text, and music shape writing and thinking that plot a response to anthropogenic climate change. We contend that the rich medieval and early modern afterlife of the Genesis narrative offers forgotten strands of thought, forgotten elaborations of the story, written from the perspective of Noah's wife and family, the animals on the ark, and crucially those excluded and so left behind to die, that speak more eloquently and compellingly to the ethical and political burdens of living through the Anthropocene than otherwise routine invocations of the flood story in contemporary culture and science evince. Noah's Arkive recovers these forgotten strands; charts where and how they resurface; and considers how they might lead us to imagine a more capacious and hospitable discourse of refuge. 

If you would like to find out about our recent research trip to a modern-day ark-in-progress in Frostburg MD, you can do so at Noah's Ark Being Rebuilt.

Composing Disabled Faculty
disabled sign (person in a wheelchair)

Stephanie Kerschbaum,  in collaboration with Margaret Price at Spelman College and funded by the CCCC Research Initiative, this project investigates the experiences of disabled faculty in higher-education settings, focusing specifically on the rhetorical event of disability disclosure. We understand disclosure as a multi-layered process constituted through the verbal, visual and temporal interactions of a rhetorical situation, rather than as a one-time, verbal utterance such as “I am disabled.” The way disabled faculty compose themselves and are composed by others is complex, and engages questions that have long occupied scholars with regard to issues of identity and positionality in classrooms and professional exchanges. Despite the apparent obviousness of signs of disability, faculty members must negotiate complex rhetorical positions in which they have to explain—repeatedly and for various purposes and audiences—what their disability means in the workplace, and their students and colleagues will need to learn over time what sorts of gestures and situations may impede this faculty member’s access. Research questions include: 

  1. What linguistic, rhetorical, and interactional choices are involved in a faculty member’s disclosure of disability?
  2. In what ways are disabilities perceptible—or not perceptible—to others?
  3. How is disability perceptibility accomplished, avoided and/or negotiated by faculty in various locations?
  4. How does a richer understanding of disability perceptibility productively impact the professional and social environments of higher education? That is, how might policies and/or professional practices adjust in response to a deeper, broader and more nuanced understanding of disability perceptibility?
The Death of Things: Ephemera in America
pictures of vanishing objects in contemporary American literature

Sarah Wasserman

This interdisciplinary book project is the first comprehensive study to address the role that ephemera—objects marked by their imminent disappearance or destruction—play in 20th century fiction. Planned obsolescence, technological change, and the shift from print to digital media have made ephemera ever more meaningful. The disappearing object, so definitive of post-industrial culture, is central in literature seeking to represent the experience of perpetual change and loss. Attention to these objects animates this project, which takes its cue from recent work done under the rubric of “thing theory.” If objects have lives of their own, what happens when they die? From the paper-mâché palaces of World’s Fairs to the abraded edges of postage stamps, disappearing objects intrigue writers like Don DeLillo, Ralph Ellison, Marilynne Robinson, and Philip Roth, elegists of the waning promises of American modernity. In my account, post-45 U.S. fiction responds to the vanishing object-world in ways that are both melancholic and transformative. Bringing material culture studies into dialogue with psychoanalytic theory, this book argues that literary portraits of our vanishing stuff never allow us to let go of or to fully posses our belongings. 

Colored Conventions Project
a black and white image from a Colored Convention

Gabrielle Foreman, in collaboration with Sarah Patterson, James Casey ; and many others too numerous to list here.  In the decades preceding the Civil War, free and fugitive Blacks gathered in state and national conventions to advocate for justice as Black rights were constricting across the country. recovers and shares information about delegates and associated women whose civic engagement, political organizing and publications have long been forgotten. The Colored Conventions Project, which features graduate students as leaders across its committees, has been covered in the New York Times and was selected as an NEH Digital Humanities grant winner.

To learn more, visit:

The Religious Experience in Literary Texts
An open book with a candle on one page

​George Miller  

His current research comes in two parts, both of which concern the nature of religious experience as it is embodied in literary texts. My focus is on texts which we as writers create and also texts in which writers attempt to embody or provoke a religious experience. The first book, in progress now, blends together medieval meditative practices used in lectio divina with modern composition and cognitive theory to explore a series of ways in which readers can respond to spiritual texts. Each chapter outlines and explores a different discovery strategy, provides sample models of how to apply the strategy, and concludes with a suggested series of texts that might be fruitfully explored. The second study examines selected texts that teach and explore the mysteries of faith. Some are intended for a wide audience who are in need of basic teaching; some seem intended only for those who are initiated. What is expected of a reader of such texts? How do these texts “teach”? Do reader expectations and experience differ as you move from genre to genre, from printed text to art and architecture? Readings include medieval interpretations of the Hebrew Bible’s “Song of Solomon,” the morality play Everyman, the York crucifixion play, Julian of Norwich’s mystical writings, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, George Herbert’s The Temple, Donne’s Devotions on Emergent Occasions, and Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Service Learning in the English Education major
Two students in a classroom discussing their work

Deb Bieler, in collaboration with Students enrolled in Intro to English Education, Spring 2012.

The 2011-2012 school year marks a significant milestone for UD’s English Education program, as a new program of study has begun with the entering Class of 2015. The revised major includes an introductory English Education course, a literacy and technology course, an adolescent literature course, and expanded early fieldwork experiences. The inaugural course in the new major, offered for the first time this spring, is Introduction to English Education (ENGL295). This semester, ENGL295 students are engaging in a service learning project at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, DE. This partnership is exciting for many reasons. First, because many Howard English faculty are recent alumni of UD’s English Education program, this partnership represents a new way for the program to connect with our alumni. Second, because Howard is a Partnership Zone school, we have an opportunity to actively support local teachers and students in a particularly high-stakes environment. Finally, at Howard, UD English Education majors are observing and participating in cutting-edge reform strategies, such as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). This spring, Howard commissioned ENGL295 students to work as a PLC to design a new SAT preparation course for its sophomores.

The Jackson Affair: Treason and Print Culture in the First Age of Terror
A cartoonish type picture from the French Revolution

​Matthew Kinservik

The Reverend William Jackson was a radical writer, an Anglican clergyman, and a spy for the French revolutionary government at the height of the Reign of Terror. He was arrested while on a spy mission to London and Dublin in April, 1794, was convicted of high treason the following year, and committed suicide at his sentencing hearing. The importance of the Jackson Affair has been noted by Irish historians, but my research shows that its impact was felt much more broadly in the Atlantic world in the 1790s, and has a significant relation to the infamous trials of the London Radicals and to the Alien and Sedition Acts in the United States. It offers us the opportunity to see how print and political discourse was affected by the Pitt ministry’s counter-terror measures in a new way because Jackson (unlike so many others targeted by the British government) actually was a traitor bent on the violent overthrow of his government.

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Current Research Projects
  • Department of English
  • 203 Memorial Hall
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • University of Delaware
  • Phone: 302-831-2361