I am Professor of English at Boston College, where I teach and write about poetry and poetics. I am the author of Meter and Modernity in English Verse, 1350–1650 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021) and English Alliterative Verse: Poetic Tradition and Literary History (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which won the 2018 English Association Beatrice White Prize. With Irina Dumitrescu, I edited The Shapes of Early English Poetry: Style, Form, History (Medieval Institute Publications, 2019). I edit the Yearbook of Langland Studies with Alastair Bennett and Katharine Breen. My writing on literature, politics, and higher education appears in The Atlantic, Vox, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and elsewhere. At Boston College, I direct the English PhD program. In collaboration with my students, I am mapping Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and building a digital textbook for Middle English alliterative poetry.
My research focuses on meter and poetics (what makes poetry tick). I am especially interested in poetry from the medieval period, which has led to an interest in periodization itself. All of my scholarship addresses the historicity of early English literature: its forms and cultural meanings, and how those are mediated by modern disciplinary study. My scholarly method bridges ‘formalism’ and ‘historicism.’ I am interested in the social implications of literature, the phenomenology of poetry reading, and how we come to know what we think we know about the past. These interests converge on William Langland’s Piers Plowman, an enigmatic long alliterative poem of the fourteenth century.
My current project, Unheard Melodies: Apophatic Poetics in English Literature, brings my interests in phenomenological poetics to the full gamut of English literature, from Beowulf to Claudia Rankine, and to the music of Bob Dylan, with emphasis on the fourteenth and twenty-first centuries. Pivoting historically around John Keats’s translation of Christian theological apophaticism into lyric poetry, Unheard Melodies concerns the paradoxical power of literature to represent what literature cannot represent: novels no one can read, lyrics no one can hear, syllables no one can pronounce, spaces no one can inhabit, experiences no one can have, and more. A separate series of notes and articles in progress reconsiders the Latin poetry of John Gower.