BA, Briar Cliff University; MA, University of Missouri at Columbia; MA, Ph.D., Iowa State University
I am a Professor in the Department of English, past Carolyn Werner Gannett Chair in the Humanities and the past Chair of the English Department at RIT. I specialize in the rhetoric of science, technology, and medicine – particularly through rhetoric's fourth canon, memoria, the memory palaces, the common places, and information culture.
Since 2019 I have been collaborating with Rebekah Walker, DHSS Librarian, and a team of undergraduate students to create a Scholarly Digital Edition of a collection of manuscripts from the firm of William Townsend & Sons, printers, bookbinders, account book manufacturers, Sheffield UK (1830-1910). The collection is held in the Cary Special Collections. We are transcribing and encoding the “Business Guide and Works Manual,” which is a rare manual offering instructions for a specific type of stationery bookbinding, a financial record documenting business expenses, and a commonplace with jottings about daily schedules, references to Charles Dickens, pages of trade/business addresses, and tucked-in ephemera. As a 400-page idiosyncratic volume with no hierarchical textual structure, many tables and formulae, and random marginalia, this manuscript is an artifact of information culture regarding the network of books, book buyers, book materials, binders – forwarders, apprentices, journeyman, sewers. If it is to be accessible to scholars now, it must be encoded and turned from a flat digital scan to a dynamic searchable edition. RIT students are using TEI (best practices for creating digital editions in the humanities as cited by MLA and AHA) to encode the text with XML markup and a customized schema. They are also researching 19th century commodities, the potential shift in handwriting, and Sheffield history.
My book, Manic Minds: Mania's Mad History and Its Neuro Future (Rutgers UP, 2011), emerges from textbooks, asylum records, genetic research articles, memoirs, and diagnostic manuals. Not only has “mania” never been stabilized as a modern medicalized disorder, the memoria of 'mania' has emerged fluid from pre-professional to professional American psychiatry and now persists frenzied into the neuro-future.
As co-PI on a team awarded an NEH Humanities Connections Grant (2017), I directed the first delivery of a course sequence emphasizing public memory and “community” from a host of disciplinary perspectives: historical, geographical, literary, environmental and socioeconomic. Undergraduate students engaged with Rochester, NY as a city that formed, changed and often retained a distinct sense of place amid shifting economic, political and technological forces. This course sequence built on the University’s long-standing tradition of community service, as well as faculty engagement with area communities.
In the News
March 31, 2020
Podcast: Experiencing History Where it Happened
Intersections: The RIT Podcast, Ep. 34: Studying history is more than poring over textbooks and old documents. History Professor Richard Newman and humanities Professor Lisa Hermsen talk about place-based learning, which gets students into the community to experience where the history happened.