Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197
Current project: My current research project is a book-length manuscript titled Queer Accounts: Victorian Fiction and Economic Deviance. This project rearticulates what was once a well-established link between sexual and economic forms of difference in a capitalist society. In nineteenth-century Britain, the word “queer” was associated not only with emergent forms of same-sex desire, but with strange—and potentially fraudulent—forms of financial association and trust. While many Victorian novels rehearse a predictable economic plot that rewards a protagonist for his hard work and moderation, Queer Accounts decenters this narrative (the mythos economists would later reify as homo economicus or “Economic Man”) to recover a different Victorian story and economy: one characterized not by steady gains, but by the booms and busts of a high-risk financial economy. I begin by asking why popular literature of the era fixes so persistently on precarious economic figures outside the traditional family: servants, the nouveau rich, working class misers, single wealthy heiresses, non-reproductive widows, and businesswomen of color. Rather than reading these figures as anomalies who must be assimilated into dominant capitalist ethos, I show that they are vestiges of queer deviation who defy national ideals of economic self-interest and progress. George Eliot’s childless young widow heroines, for instance, use their economic independence to rescue other women from domestic violence and disrupt impoverishing patterns of patrilineal reproduction. During the Crimean War, the controversial Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole eschews an individualist entrepreneurial strategy in favor of “making friends” ; she succeeds by tendering the exploitative and invisible economic logics of post-slavery Britain into visible social patterns of exchange. Beyond the Victorian novel, my research asks how and in what genres we tell economic stories. To forge queerer, more inclusive paths of economic mobility, we need “queer accounts” : better economic narratives of the unpredictable interests, debts, and liabilities of capitalist life. Articles drawn from this project have been published in Victorian Literature and Culture and Nineteenth-Century Contexts.