I am a writer, researcher, and Associate Professor of English at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA where I teach courses in American Literature and Creative Writing. My academic interests include contemporary American Literature, Southern culture, food writing, food studies, and women’s studies. My book, Inventing Authenticity: How Cookbook Writers Redefine Southern Identity, examines the rhetorical strategies that contemporary cookbook writers in the U.S. South use to argue for authenticity.
I earned my BA and MA in English, and I taught literature and composition at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Davis & Elkins College for three years before earning a PhD in English from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.
In addition to my academic work, I am passionate about biking, cooking, baseball, and bad television. I am a food adventurer, unafraid to eat anything twice.
Recent Blog Posts
I’ve been giving students advice a lot lately. It’s that time of the semester. For me, pumpkin lattes are the harbinger of panicked emails. It’s midterm, and in the best of times, it’s the moment when a lot of students recognize that they are no longer in the orientation phase but actually on the downhillContinue reading “Midterm Advice from Your Kooky Southern Aunt”
I’ve been philosophical about the feeling of teaching virtually in a pandemic, but now it’s time to get specific. Here’s a thing I’m doing with a literature survey class that seems to be working: a class podcast. In short, it’s the “audio_only” part of a Zoom recording. I tack on a little musical jingle-jangle atContinue reading “Making a Class Podcast”
It’s hard for me to imagine, but I’ve been practicing yoga for 16 years. I started in 2004 as a college sophomore getting my PE credits for gen ed. I was hooked. More or less consistently for the last 16 years, I have been taking classes in a studio or in a university gym. SoContinue reading “Learning in the Livestream”
When classes adjourned in March amid stay-at-home orders and campus closures all over the country, I moved my classes online for the last four weeks of the term like everyone else. I quickly pared down my literature courses into only their most essential parts: read, demonstrate evidence of reading, and write the final literary analysisContinue reading “Simple Presence”
Check Out My Book!
Inventing Authenticity is an investigation of the relationship between food labeled “authentically Southern” and the performance of “real Southern” identity.
This study takes up authenticity as a rhetorical construction and a cultural practice. I examine the language used to define authenticity in the discourse of Southern food, namely in the stories told in cookbooks. This study identifies three specific forms of origin narrative (historical, citation, and personal narratives) that attempt to convince us of the recipe’s authenticity by providing evidence of the recipe’s invention in the American South. My book focuses on the rhetorical moves that writers make to construct “authenticity” out of narratives of the past.
Southern Discomfort: Pleasure and Pain in Southern Cookbooks
The cookbook genre tends to be oriented toward celebration and pleasure. My first book, Inventing Authenticity: How Cookbook Writers Redefine Southern Identity (University of Arkansas Press, 2018), offered an understanding of the ways in which recipe headnotes act as origin stories as a means to celebrate the “authenticity” of recipes. This new project examines another narrative convention of the cookbook genre to reveal the unique ways that writers negotiate the expectation that cookbooks are tools for pleasure.
The central questions of this book attempt to understand the unique rhetorical situation of the Southern cookbook as it finds itself situated between the expectations of the genre and the metanarrative of essential Southern experiences, one focused in pleasure and one focused in pain. Each chapter is devoted to a different kind of pain, examining how that particular kind of suffering connects to an “authentic” Southern identity and how narratives of that suffering negotiate the conventions of the genre as they relate to pleasure. My unique application of these ideas is to examine the cookbook as a genre, where pleasure is a convention of the genre, an expectation of the reader, and a constraint on the writer.