Much of my scholarly work is based in the reciprocal relation of research and teaching. Teaching often leads me to new areas of research, and conversely my research always finds it way back into curricular development and classroom practice. Much of my teaching and research has focused on questions posed from an interdisciplinary perspective: How do poets understand or remake tradition? What language, form, metaphors, themes can migrate from one place to another, from one time to another? How do the material conditions of oral transmission, writing and publishing and the institutions of reception and preservation make possible the persistence of poems over time and space? How does literary form respond to ideas of history, political hopes, and personal understandings of identity?
These questions guide my research in American and other English language poetry in the period since the industrial revolution. My monographs, edited volumes, special journal issues, and essays return to these questions, and particularly to the nexus of historical understanding and poetic form. My first book, History and the Prism of Art: Browning’s Poetic Experiments (Ohio State University Press), investigated nineteenth-century historicisms and their implications for the dramatic monologue, historical irony, and the long poem. The book ranged across the whole of Robert Browning’s long career, from his early infatuation with Shelley’s politics through the great monologues to his late meditations on art and religion. The volume ended with a consideration of similar questions in the long poems of Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Charles Olson.
My second monograph, Epic Reinvented: Ezra Pound and the Victorians (Cornell University Press) continued this examination of history and historiography, politics and poetic form, literary inheritance and canon formation. It examined the social, political and literary dimensions of Ezra Pound’s engagement with poetic tradition from Dante to Browning, from Confucius to the Pre-Raphaelites. At the same time, it engaged with the ways forms of tropological reading might inform our understanding both of the poetic form and the political valence of The Cantos. I have returned to Pound recently, focusing on the period 1930-1950 and examining poetic time / Fascist time.
While I was examining the importance of nineteenth-century historical paradigms for modernist poetics, I was also pursuing another line of research, one extending postcolonial theory to the colonial archive. My research in archives in the UK, the US and India was supported by a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, and fellowships from the NEH and the National Humanities Center. It resulted the simultaneous publication of two books, Indian Angles: English Verse in Colonial India from Jones to Tagore and Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India, 1780–1913: A Critical Anthology.. Indian Angles is based in my identification of hundreds of books of English verse published in nineteenth-century India and selects from these volumes and authors to chart the invention of English language literature in India and its development across the long nineteenth century. Anglophone Poetry made accessible to North American readers for the first time the range of poems written in English on the subcontinent from their beginnings in 1780 to the watershed moment in 1913 when Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Even as the monograph established the reciprocal exchange between colony and metropole and the transperipheral connections making possible global Anglophone literacies, the anthology made available accurate texts for such well-known poets as Toru Dutt and the early nineteenth-century poet Kasiprasad Ghosh.
I am currently in the midst another book project. Cosmopolitan Poetics in Nineteenth-Century India: Four Literary Lives will comprise four literary biographies, designed to attract both scholars and general readers; it aims to provide a historical mirror on our own time of intellectual and cultural migrancy. On the basis of manuscript materials, newspaper archives, and published materials from the nineteenth century, I have begun to discern common patterns in these unheralded literary lives. From John Leyden, born in 1775 in a peasant cottage in the Scottish borders, to Emma Roberts who supported herself as the first woman journalist in India, to Honoria Lawrence embarking for India in 1838 to marry a man she hadn’t seen in ten years, to Toru Dutt born in 1856 to a wealthy family in Calcutta, the four poets I examine defined cosmopolitan spaces. They lived in what James Clifford calls “worldly, productive sites of crossing.” They created fragmentary connections between the global and the local through the medium of English verse. And they died young, having no time for memoir or recollection. Rather, they left records of financial transactions and poems, letters and travel writing, giving evidence of their efforts create places for themselves in Scottish, Irish, English and Indian societies. Taken together they represent the tensions between transoceanic empire and internal colonialism. Though all four occasionally associated with the powerful, they were ordinary middling people who, at moments of great stress or anxiety, created extraordinary lyric poetry
Along with these monographs, I have published a number of edited books, from the collection of essays on Browning which to collections of short stories by Southern women writers. My most recent editorial project is Science Fiction in Colonial India, 1835-1905: Five Stories of Speculation, Resistance and Rebellion (London: Anthem Press, 2019). These stories connect elliptically to the project of historical poetics as they include two stories from the famous Dutt family of Calcutta.
- *“The Garden and the Empire: Family Drama and Global Politics in Tennyson’s Poetry.” Poetry: Text and Context. Ed. Jharna Sanyal and Krishna Sen. Calcutta: UGC Academic Staff College, 2003, 159-74.
- “Brook and Creeks” [essay on Robert Frost’s “Hyla Brook”]. Paideuma. Forthcoming fall, 2022.
- “Canto 51.” In Readings in the Cantos. Edited by Richard Parker. Clemson, S. C.: Clemson University Press in association with Liverpool University Press, Vol. 2, in press, forthcoming, summer 2022.
- “Regionalism and Provincialism: Where is the Local?” in The Routledge Companion to Victorian Literature. Edited by Dennis Denisoff and Talia Schaffer. New York: Routledge, 2020, 449-61.
- Science Fiction in Colonial India, 1835-1905: Five Stories of Speculation, Resistance and Rebellion. London: Anthem Press, 2019.
- “The News from India: Emma Roberts and the Construction of Late Romanticism.” In British Romanticism in Asia: The Reception and Transformation of Romantic Literature in India and East Asia. Edited by Alex Watson and Laurence Williams. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, 39-66.
- *“Transforming Late Romanticism, Transforming Home: Women Poets in Colonial India.” A History of Indian Poetry in India. Edited by Rosinka Chaudhuri. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016, 64-81.
- With Jason Rudy. “Colonial and Imperial Writing.” Cambridge Companion to Victorian Women’s Writing. Edited by Linda Peterson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015, 189-205.
- *“Indian English Poetry.” The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature. Edited by Dino Felluga, Pamela Gilbert and Linda Hughes. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015. Pp. 775-782.
- Gibson, Mary Ellis and Britta Martens. “Browning’s Bodies and the Body of Criticism.” Introduction. Robert Browning Bi-Centennial Issue. Victorian Poetry. 50.4 (2012) 415-29.
- *“Poems of Mary Carshore: The Indian Legacy of L. E. L. and Tom Moore,” Victorians Institute Journal 32 (2004): 63-79.
- History and the Prism of Art: Browning's Poetic Experiments. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1987. 341 pp.
- *“Representing the Nation: Poetics, Landscape, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Culture.” Victorian Literature and Culture (1999): 337-52.
- "Gender, Genre and Audience in Matthew Arnold's Lyrics." In Gender and Discourse in Victorian Literature and Art. Ed. by Antony Harrison and Beverly Taylor. Chicago: Northern Illinois University Press, 1992, 30-48.
- "The Criminal Body in Victorian Britain: The Case of The Ring and the Book." Browning Institute Studies 18 (1990): 67-88.
- "One More Word on Browning's 'One Word More.'" Studies in Browning and His Circle 12 (1984): 76-86.
- "The Photographer's Art and the Construction of History (Richard Howard)." Parnassus 13 (1986): 220-229.
- "Approaches to Character in Browning and Tennyson: Two Examples of Metrical Style." Language and Style (1982): 34-51.
- Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India, 1780-1913: A Critical Anthology. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2011. 397 pp.
- Indian Angles: English Verse in Colonial India from Jones to Tagore. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2011. 334 pp.
- Epic Reinvented: Ezra Pound and the Victorians. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995. 240 pp.