In February, I successfully defended my dissertation, “American Masculinity and Home in Antebellum Literature,” to the English Department at Stony Brook University. In the last few months while revising this document for final submission, I kept busy: I have read more from the authors who constitute the dissertation–Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Copway, Sojourner Truth, Mark Twain, and many others–to finish revisions. I also have drafted material for updating this web site and worked at both the Modern Language Association and the Northeast Modern Language Association, and now I am preparing forthcoming publications and upcoming conference panels.
In addition, just a few weeks ago, I walked at graduation—at three separate ceremonies, one for the doctoral hooding, one for the entire university, and one for the English Department. The events were varied, allowing me to catch up with other PhD recipients, professors, friends, and students. There were some downsides (“Pomp and Circumstance” is still stuck in my head, and a constant loop of the Dr. Horrible soundtrack does nothing to push out the musical memory), yet it is a relief to have made one accomplishment, and I look forward to the next steps in my research and teaching.
Now I have a few moments to type a somewhat proper thank you to a few people who helped me from the initial steps of the dissertation to its conclusion.
I started in the English doctoral program at Stony Brook University in Fall 2007, and the past seven years have constituted a lot of ups and downs, and I’m grateful to have shared the good experiences—and pushed through the frustrating experiences—with colleagues, friends, and family. Thank you to those who have contacted me with congratulations, and congratulations as well to many of my colleagues and students who graduated this semester; I was happy for the time to catch up with you on Long Island and via email.
As I work towards revising the dissertation for publication, and as I meet deadlines for publications I have coming out, I wanted to excerpt a portion of my dissertation, the acknowledgements, to post online. This excerpt is hardly exhaustive: I likely have exempted many people for whose guidance and support I am grateful to have received. The acknowledgements are also varied, ranging from students, fellow graduate students, professors, and helpful advisers at local comic book shops who could special order Runaways or secure me a discount on the complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 volume.
But I also hope the following identifies that a doctoral degree is not an individual effort. The process of researching, writing, and re-writing is isolating, and as I identify below there is much all of us within and outside of the academy must do for our students and our colleagues to provide more supportive, safer learning environments—housing being a key priority. Because we know the challenges that a doctoral degree entails, it’s up to us to advise strategies for facing them, and I hope this web site becomes one avenue to offer that guidance.
For your help, I thank you.
(Maybe the Soul Eater soundtrack can kick “Pomp and Circumstance” out of my head…)
It is coincidental that I was developing a dissertation about masculinity defined in relation to domesticity at a time in my life where I moved frequently—from one apartment to another, whether because of irate landlords, flooded basements, or a compromised budget with rent being too high. Such are the joys of a graduate student’s life, as my colleagues and my students have understood because of the complications that everyone has trying to find a place to call home. My friends and advisers have told me that every person’s dissertation is a reflection of their personal life; I hope the following study, rather than only emphasizing the negative aspects of such moves, emphasizes what I have gained from numerous moves. I also hope that the housing challenges experienced by many undergraduate and graduate students inspires others to do work to correct these problems in the near future: an education is best gained when students have a stable setting in which to learn and work, and we owe it to our students to make our universities places where they feel safe. In my efforts collaborating with organizations at Stony Brook University, including the Graduate Student Organization, the Graduate Student Employees Union, and the Safe Space Program, there is more work to be done.
Because this dissertation is the culmination of seven years of doctoral studies at Stony Brook University, I have many people to thank at this university and elsewhere for their support. Susan Scheckel, the chair of this dissertation, has been a helpful, compassionate mentor. Susan has made herself available particularly when it comes to discussing how to coordinate research and teaching interests so that each draws upon the other—and has helped guide some of my personal interests in reading the nineteenth century forward into studies of contemporary literature and culture. Her feedback to the chapters helped to focus the broad attention I have had when it comes to representations of gender and domesticity in numerous time periods, and I appreciate the advice she has offered moving forward with future studies. She and also Peter Manning provided considerable professional assistance—including Peter’s presence at my first presentation to the Modern Language Association in my very first year in the PhD program—for which I will always be grateful.
I also wish to thank other members of my committee. As chair to the defense, Andrew Newman supervised much of the process in revising the following chapters, as well as providing mentorship to my teaching, writing, and research. Michael Kimmel enriched this dissertation with guidance towards contextualizing literary works within their moments of production, with emphasis on the legal, cultural, and societal impact upon and from such literature. Finally, Jeffrey Santa Ana has been a consistent source of support, identifying common threads in my scholastic interests, which allowed my contemporaneous research in an eclectic range of topics—comics, contemporary popular music, anime, superheroes, online fandom, and the works of Joss Whedon—to draw from, or speak to, themes and conceptions of gender explored in nineteenth-century United States literature and culture. In my conversations with Jeffrey, he provided mentorship to identify commonalities across form, genre, and time period that kept me motivated throughout researching and writing this dissertation, which also benefited my teaching and academic conference talks (there is no better feeling for me than getting a row of students at New York University cheering when I make a Fullmetal Alchemist reference while lecturing about, of all things, the works of Emerson and Poe.) My research and teaching philosophy owes much to Jeffrey’s encouragement, and I owe so much to all committee members for their guidance in completing this dissertation.
I also am thankful for the guidance I received in the earliest research on this project. Michael Harrawood at Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College provided direct, clear feedback, from the overall focus of my study to the minute detail of sentence structure. Hilary Edwards at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill offered guidance in some of the earliest research that served as the foundation to this dissertation. Laura Barrett at Armstrong Atlantic State University is one of the reasons I came to Stony Brook University, and I can only hope to make the critical interventions that she has made in her wide range of significant research. Bonita Rhoads at Masaryk University, as well as members of the Poe Society and the Hawthorne Society, offered insights on domesticity and masculinity before the United States Civil War that enriched this dissertation. Elizabeth Abele of the Northeast Modern Language Association provided guidance in studies of masculinity and American culture. I also would like to thank Nan Wolverton, Katherine C. Grier, and other organizers of the 2013 visual and material culture seminar at the Center for Historic American Visual Culture and the American Antiquarian Society. Through hands-on use of antebellum household materials, this session emphasized strategies for using material and visual culture towards understanding the development of domestic ideology throughout United States history. My dissertation benefited from conversations I had with seminar leaders and participants alike. As well, resources at the American Antiquarian Society were of great assistance in particular on the chapters focused on Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Copway.
The English Department at Stony Brook University, as well as the Department of Cultural Analysis and Theory and the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, was a supportive community throughout the process of researching and writing this dissertation. I am grateful to Jesse Curran, Matthew Gilbert, Kat Hankinson, Patrina Jones, Ursula Klein, Kathryn Klein, Lauren Neefe, Michael Streeter, and Lawrence Zellner for their notes regarding early versions of this project, and to Kristin Boluch, Naomi Edwards, Les Hunter, Christina Lam, and Brandi So for reviewing later drafts of chapters. I also wish to acknowledge fellow graduate students and colleagues (both at Stony Brook University and elsewhere) whose friendships sustained me in writing and revising this dissertation: Angela Carter, James Capp, Giuseppe Costa, Kimberly Cox, Ryan Davidson, Marcelo Disconzi, Nate Doherty, Katherine Foret, Meghan Fox, Jeremiah Garretson, Karen Green, Margaret Hanley, Maggie Helming, Al Herrera-Alcazar, Valerie Hyatt, Mary Ellen Iatropoulos, Margaret Kennedy, Matthew Kremer, Katy Kress, Emily Lauer, Jim McAsey, Keith McCleary, Haseena Milea, Lila Naydan, Joel Simundich, Tucker Stone, David Vibert, and K. Wayne Yang. As well, the insights of my students—too many to name, but especially those students from my upper-division course on the intersection of contemporary popular culture and Edgar Allan Poe—helped to show me how studies in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century United States culture continue to inform our ideas in the twenty-first century. A historical perspective on earlier American society is vital towards approaching many of the challenges we face today, especially when it comes to a better understanding of gender.
As well, my mother and father provided moral support in my education: cell phones have been a great way to communicate across large geographical distances. Both of my parents have shown me that gender is in no way monolithic—the work that my mom has performed herself to repair and re-build parts of my childhood home is but one example. And I hope some of the best parts of my dad’s sense of humor appear in this dissertation, especially when it comes to reading the works of Mark Twain. Finally, during my studies at Stony Brook, I was relieved that, when I have ever needed a reprieve from life on Long Island, much of my father’s family was only a short train ride away. I am grateful that they provided another home whenever I needed one.