Affiliated with the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture; Center for Latin American Studies; Medieval Studies
I am a scholar of religion and literature whose research and teaching stand at the intersection of medieval studies, critical theory, and queer of color critique. My work engages a variety of literary traditions—including medieval Latin, Middle Dutch, English, Spanish, French, and German—and places the premodern past in conversation with the present in order to explore how medieval Christian devotional practices might expand our understanding of contemporary formulations of desire, embodiment, and affect. I specialize in the dialogue between medieval Christian mysticism and contemporary queer theory, and my writing both queers the medieval past and identifies contemporary medievalisms in queer literature, art, and theory.
My current book project, Jubilation of the Heart: How Monastic Song Became Mystical Poetics, explores how vernacular mystical poetry emerges out of the devotional practices structured by the monastic conception of song, especially the recitation of the Psalms in the Divine Office and the Song of Songs commentary tradition. Drawing upon queer formulations of performativity, ritual, and desire, this project ties literary production by figures like Bernard of Clairvaux, Hadewijch, and John of the Cross to medieval rituals of song and works against the characterization of mystical poetry as spontaneous, immediate, and singular. I argue, instead, that mystical poetry is firmly grounded in the ritual, embodied, and communal practices of devotion that shape monastic and semi-monastic life and, as such, offers an opportunity to expand our understanding of embodiment, eroticism, and sexuality.
My second book project, tentatively titled Ecstasy: The Queerness of Being beside Oneself, explores the concept of ecstasy in its philosophical, theological, sexual, and narcotic registers and articulates the connection between medieval mystical ecstasy, psychoanalytic formulations of jouissance, and ecstasy in queer theory and queer of color critique. A third book project, Queer Melancholia: Grief in Theory, argues that queer readings of Freud’s essay “Mourning and Melancholia” in the context of the AIDS pandemic frame queer theorizing as a practice of mourning that is persistently concerned with mortality, the death of queer theorists, writers, and artists, and the posthumousness of queer theory itself.
I am co-editor, with Abdulhamit Arvas and Afrodesia McCannon, of the 10th-anniversary special issue of postmedieval titled “Confessions” (2020) and, with Eleanor Craig, Amy Hollywood, and Niklaus Largier, of a special issue of Representations on “Practices of Devotion” (2021). I am also collaborating with J. Kameron Carter and Amy Hollywood on a co-authored book on what it means to read Christian mysticism in times of pandemic, political failure, and ecological collapse.
I am committed to an anti-racist medieval studies that is constantly self-critical of its ethical and political investments and that strives to include underrepresented voices. To this end, I am currently organizing a symposium on “Queer Premodernisms and Queer of Color Critique” supported by the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, and the Franke Institute for the Humanities. And, with Noémie Ndiaye, Julie Orlemanski, and Patrice Rankine, I am helping to organize the 2023 RaceB4Race symposium on “Performance.”
Before joining the University of Chicago, I was an Assistant Professor of English at Fordham University and, before that, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Theology also at Fordham University.
Work with Students:
I advise Ph.D., M.A., and B.A. students working in medieval studies, religion and literature, medieval Christianity, gender and sexuality studies, and queer of color critique. I especially encourage projects that work across historical periods and explore medieval archives through a variety of contemporary theoretical frameworks. Topics of projects that I have advised include: psychoanalytic approaches to Cistercian theology; the connection between mystical literature and contemporary horror films; the queerness of autotheory; American and Latin American AIDS literature; queer theology in American literature; queer temporality in queer film; trans aesthetics in digital media; literary genealogies of pederasty; and sexual, ecological, and colonial violence in the work of Hanya Yanagihara.
Co-authored with Amy Hollywood. “Love Hurts: Hadewijch and Queer Jouissance.” In A Companion to Hadewijch. Edited by Patricia Dailey and Veerle Fraeters. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.
“Queer Melancholia.” Representations 153, no. 1 (winter 2021): 105–126.
Co-authored with Eleanor Craig and Amy Hollywood. “The Poetics of Prayer and the Devotion to Literature.” In “Practices of Devotion,” edited by Eleanor Craig, Amy Hollywood, Niklaus Largier, and Kris Trujillo. Special issue, Representations 153, no. 1 (winter 2021): 1–10.
“Practices of Devotion.” Co-edited with Eleanor Craig, Amy Hollywood, and Niklaus Largier. Special issue of Representations 153, no. 1 (winter 2021).
Co-authored with Abdulhamit Arvas and Afrodesia McCannon. “Critical Confessions Now.” In “Confessions,” edited by Abdulhamit Arvas, Afrodesia McCannon, and Kris Trujillo. Special issue, postmedieval 11, no. 2 (August 2020): 151–170.
“Confessions: 10th Anniversary Issue.” Co-edited with Abdulhamit Arvas and Afrodesia McCannon. Special issue of postmedieval 11, no. 2 (August 2020).
“‘That Abominable Solitary Vice We Call Theory’: John of the Cross, Queer Critique, and The Virtues of the Solitary Bird.” English Language Notes 56, no. 1 (April 2018): 21–42.
Archiving AIDS: Arts, Literature, Theory
Queer Theology and Queer of Color Critique
Mysticism and Modernity
Gender and Sexuality in World Civilizations