Celibate Pleasures: Convents, Asexuality, and Women’s Agency in British Literature,1660-1760

Analyzing the many ways in which eighteenth-century literature locates women’s pleasure and agency outside of heteronormative relational modes, this project uncovers the centrality of asexual singleness to early feminist thought. Commonly read through the lens of sapphic desire, convents and other renderings of female separatism are in fact focused on the vibrant, vital potential of female celibacy.

An article version of the first chapter was published as “The Trauma of Compulsory Heterosexuality: Pregnancy and Asexual Reproduction in Margaret Cavendish’s The Convent of Pleasure.” Restoration 45:1 (2021), 83-108.

An essay drawn from the second chapter, “‘Nothing but a Union with God’: Queer Desire and Religion in Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies,” will appear in the forthcoming collection Christianity and (Proto)Feminism in Late Medieval and Early Modern Women’s Lives and Works (1450-1800), edited by Holly Faith Nelson and Adrea Johnson. Volume under review with University of Delaware Press for the Early Modern Feminisms series.

Other Research Projects

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Essays

“Re-historicizing Genre: Teaching Haywood’s The Adventures of Eovaai in a Fantasy Themed Survey Course.” ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830 11:2, Winter 2021.        

“Fantasy and Education in Eliza Haywood’s The Adventures of Eovaai.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 34:3 (2022), 287-306.

“Catharine Macaulay.” The Routledge Research Companion to Romantic Women Writers, edited Ann R. Hawkins, forthcoming 2022.

“‘A Votress to Nature’: Asexuality and Queer Ecology in Early Modern Literature.” Invited for Early Modern Asexuality Studies, edited by Liza Blake, Cat Clifford, and Aley O’Mara. Under editorial review.

“The Fiction of Amatonormativity: Reactions to Queer Platonic Partnerships in Eighteenth-Century Literature.” Under review with Eighteenth-Century Fiction for special issue “Refusing Eighteenth-Century Fictions.”

“Creating an Asexual Public Sphere: Mary Astell and the Legacy of English Medieval Nuns.” Under review with Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature.

Book Reviews

“Variable Bodies and The Reconfiguring of Textual and Cultural Landscapes: Review of Novel Bodies by Jason Farr.” Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 62:1 (2022), 119-122.

Other Publications

“Working with Sources: Creating a Data Set.” I Write: A Writing Guide for the Undergraduate Rhetoric Program at the University of Illinois, edited by Kristi McDuffie. University of Illinois Department of English, 2020.

Articles in Progress

“From Mary Astell to Call the Midwife: Protestant Nunneries and Queer Sexuality.”

“A Model for Feminist Literary Criticism: Mary Astell’s Marginalia.”

Pedagogical Research

I have been privileged to partner on various faculty-led projects to analyze student services at UIUC. In 2019, I worked with Matthew Roberts, Ph.D, Librarian for Literature and Languages, on a project titled “Studying the research activities and support needs of students in the Department of English at the University of Illinois.” This project collected syllabi and conducted focus groups to understand how English instructional practices aligned with, and could be support by, recently developed national standards for library-supported research instruction.

I am currently working with Assistant Teaching Professor and Associate Director of Rhetoric Dana Kinzy on an assessment of UIUC’s first-year writing program, which seeks to both assess current practices and develop new student learning outcomes for the future.

Future Plans

My research agenda for the next several years includes revising my dissertation into a monograph, beginning a second project on queer platonic friendship in early modern literature, and pursuing several public-facing, digital/multimodal projects related to my research.

Awards and Prizes

My research has been supported by the Newberry Library, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the British Women Writers Association, the UIUC Literature and Languages Library, the UIUC English Department, and the UIUC Graduate College. I won the UIUC English Dept Peer Essay Prize in 2020 and was runner-up for the Humanities Research Institute Prize for Research in the Humanities in 2022.