Rachel was raised in Kansas City and lived in the Berkshire mountains, Osaka, New York City, Baltimore, and Boston before moving West to join the department in 2004. She teaches a variety of courses on American literature from the colonial period through the present as well as one of the department’s gateway surveys and a section of the College’s first year core. Currently, her favorite classes to teach are her 300-level course on Whitman and Dickinson, her Words course on contemporary American novels, and her senior seminar, which focuses on how African-American authors in the twenty-first century use novels to frame the traumatic history of enslavement. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century American literature–she has published essays on Emerson and Melville and is working on a book that pairs nineteenth-century authors like Melville, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James with twenty-first century writers like Ingrid Nunez and Tayari Jones. She is interested in questions of ethics and personhood, economies of scarcity, and the concept of satisfaction. She trained as a classical pianist for almost 20 years and has a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do, but these days spends most of her spare time enjoying her family, hiking, doing crossword puzzles, and hanging out with her cat, Frank.
SpecialtyAmerican lit, literature and ethics
PhD 2005 Johns Hopkins University
MA 2000 Johns Hopkins University
BA 1994 Williams College
Core 120 The Greatest American Novels: 2010-2019
English 206 Major Periods and Issues in English Literature
English 320 Inventing America: Literature of Colonialism and the Early Republic, 1540-1830
English 321 National Sins, National Dreams: American Literature 1830-1865
English 326 African American Literature
English 334 Whitman and Dickinson
English 450 Senior Seminar: Narratives of American Enslavement
“The Lawyer’s Tale: Preference, Responsibility, and Personhood in Melville’s ‘Story of Wall-street.’” Melville’s Philosophies. Ed. Branka Arsic and Kim Evans. Edinburgh: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.
“Rethinking the Value of Lyric Closure: Giorgio Agamben, Wallace Stevens, and the Ethics of Satisfaction,” PMLA, 2011.
“At the Limits of Identity: Realism and American Personhood in Melville’s Confidence-Man,” Novel: A Forum on Fiction, 2006.
“The Reality Effect: Emerson’s Speakers and the Phenomenon of Personality,” The Yale Journal of Criticism, 2005.