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Current Research

My principal research interest is political and literary representations of environment in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well as the sociopolitical effects environmentalist rhetorics have had. I have additional, related stakes in writing studies, multiethnic literatures of the United States, and gender studies and queer theory.

 

I have most recently explored intersections among these areas in my second monograph, Everyday Ecofascism: Crisis and Consumption in American Literature, which is in press with and forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press in Winter/Spring 2025. The book makes a case that ecofascism—an increasingly mobilized yet undertheorized term in both academic and popular media—is best understood not as a uniquely right-wing program but, as scholars have come to understand fascism more broadly, as a complex network of power, including subtle, everyday speech acts as well as overt, racialized physical violence. Faced with a slew of ecological anxieties, various individuals and groups across the political spectrum—right, left, and center—channel common, received assumptions about nature and identity in new ways that can unintentionally telegraph white supremacy and other forms of domination. The project in many respects expands work on place-based identity I pursued in my first monograph, Wild Abandon: American Literature and the Identity Politics of Ecology (Cambridge University Press, 2021), which traces how, in the 1960s, environmentalists began to borrow rhetorical strategies from social movements organized along lines of race and gender to frame ecology as an identity position rather than a scientific philosophy—a tendency that has often downplayed or erased the lived realities (and alternative environmental projects) of marginalized peoples.

 

Lately, I have begun preliminary research (and pursued hands-on experience) related to two new, public-facing book projects. I envision the first, tentatively titled Antifascist Environmentalism: Living with the Earth and Each Other, as a collection of short, journalistic vignettes featuring diverse, nonhierarchical, reciprocal environmentalist projects worldwide. The second is far more local in scope: a jointly historical and practical guide to sustainable gardening and agricultural practices rooted in southern New England, with particular emphasis on the ongoing dialogue between Indigenous and settler traditions.

In 2022, I also worked with colleagues across the country to develop Against the Ecofascist Creep, a digital educational resource for students, faculty, and community leaders based on our collective research into ecofascism, its rhetorical influence on mainstream politics, and how to combat it. (The project has not only been downloaded over 500 times, in most cases by instructors for classroom use, but also attracted widespread media attention. We are currently planning a “sequel” on the Anthropocene concept.)

Articles

“Hicks, Homos, and Home Cooking: Literary Recipes in Queer Appalachia.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 28, no. 3, 2022.

 

“The Reluctant Environmentalist: Finding Evidence of Injustice in James Wright’s Ambivalent Writing of Place and Identity.” Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, vol. 9, no. 1, 2022.

 

“The Ecological Alternative: Edward Abbey, the New Left, and Environmental Authenticity.” Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, vol. 61, no. 1, 2019, pp. 51-71.

 

“The Natural Death of Alexander Supertramp: Ecological Selfhood and the Freudian Rhetoric of Into the Wild.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 26, no. 1, 2019, pp. 46-64.

 

“Hallucinogenic Ecology and Psychoanalytic Prehistory in Margaret Atwood.” Mosaic, an Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, vol. 52, no. 3, 2019, pp. 19-36.

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"The American wilderness narrative, which divides nature from culture, has remained remarkably persistent despite the rise of ecological science, which emphasizes interconnection between these spheres. Wild Abandon considers how ecology's interaction with radical politics of authenticity in the twentieth century has kept that narrative alive in altered form. As ecology gained political momentum in the 1960s and 1970s, many environmentalists combined it with ideas borrowed from psychoanalysis and a variety of identity-based social movements. The result was an identity politics of ecology that framed ecology itself as an authentic identity position repressed by cultural forms, including social differences and even selfhood. Through readings of texts by Edward Abbey, Simon Ortiz, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, and Jon Krakauer, among others, Alexander Menrisky argues that writers have both dramatized and critiqued this tendency, in the process undermining the concept of authenticity altogether and granting insight into alternative histories of identity and environment."

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