I am a native of Syracuse and, like my brother and two sisters, a proud Le Moyne College alum. I graduated in 1985 from Le Moyne as an English major with an Integral Honors degree. I attended the University of Virginia where I earned a Ph.D. in American literature. My primary scholarly work has been on the life and writings of Mark Twain. I am particularly interested in nineteenth-century American culture, popular culture as well as the more canonical and literary sort. I write frequently on the history of race and racism in American life. I am the co-editor of and contributor to Cosmopolitan Twain, and the co-editor and contributor to A Due Voci: The Photography of Rita Hammond. I have published widely on Mark Twain, and I am currently finishing a book-length project on Mark Twain and the gothic. I am the past president of The Mark Twain Circle and former editor of The Mark Twain Annual. I have been awarded The Henry Nash Smith Award for “lasting contributions to the field of Mark Twain Studies,” the Le Moyne College “Teacher of the Year” award, and I was named the O’Connell Professor of the Humanities for my work in the classroom, which is where I find my greatest professional reward. I teach a wide variety of courses at Le Moyne from Shakespeare, to the American Gothic, to the Harlem Renaissance, to courses on literature, film, and Transcendentalism, foundational classes in writing and Honors courses on Race and Reconstruction. Often these courses involve travel—to Harlem or Walden Pond or Seneca Falls—and sometimes they require extra-curricular activities of other sorts. In all cases, I ask students to push the walls of the classroom out beyond their conventional limits. I expect students to connect the histories, ideas, metaphors, and narratives we explore to the contemporary world around them.
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