My scholarly research focuses on the interrelation between work and writing. I am interested, in particular, in how and why manual labor is invoked as a metaphor for literary production across the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This figuration has ancient origins, of course, but it finds immediate expression during this period in the creative writing “workshop.” Where does this term originate, I ask, and to what ends? How do techniques such as structure, texture, and tone come to be thought of as creative writing “craft,” as strict, technical construction in the brick and mortar of language? For there is nothing inherent in creative writing that precludes one from practicing it in a “salon” or “studio” or “seminar.” There is nothing in the discipline that necessitates a craft-based approach over one based on affective response or literary history or even poetic theory. With the rise of the workshop in American culture, however, work and writing were welded together like steel plates—my research inspects that weld.
My book, Craft Class: The Workshop in American Culture (Johns Hopkins, 2022), argues that, despite growing interest in creative writing studies, the discipline’s central practice and primary institutional form, the workshop, has remained invisible before our scholarly eyes. Taking seriously the cultural resonances of that term, including its correlation of literary and material production, my work revitalizes the dead metaphor at the heart of creative writing—what is at stake, I ask, in the figuration of writing as craft labor? On whose behalf does the poet punch in?
English Literary History (ELH): "'A vast university of the common people': Meridel Le Sueur and the 1930s Literary Left" (88:1, Spring 2021)
American Literary History (ALH): "The Play's a Thing: The 47 Workshop and the 'Crafting' of Creative Writing" (32:2, Summer 2020)
Modernism/modernity: "'Addicted to the Lubric a Little': Spectacle, Speculation, and the Language of Flow in Ulysses" (24:1, January 2017)