Research: Finding the Right Question
Some of the wisest advice I've ever received about research was from Dr. Matthew Philpotts, my MA thesis advisor. Dr. Philpotts told me to think of the text not as the object of study, but as a way of wrestling with a particular question. This completely changed the way I thought about the study of literature. Although as a literary scholar I'm clearly still concerned with texts (by which I mean film and TV, as well as novels and poetry), new research projects that I take up inevitably start with a broad question that interests me. That might be, "How does empathy work in postmodern fiction?" or "What happens when reading becomes social or collaborative?"
I got my first taste of research as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, then again as an MA student at the University of Manchester. As you will see, I've addressed a number of questions over the years; so many, in fact, that I once referred to myself as having "intellectual ADD." But during my time at Stanford, and through the arduous and rewarding process of developing a dissertation project, one central driving question has emerged: Why do we love what we love? In other words: Why is the text that I experience different from the text that you experience - and why is it so hard for me to communicate to you how amazing it is? Although this question is rooted in literary study (as well as a lifetime of being a geek arguing with other geeks about texts I love), my exploration of this question has driven me far afield to the realm of cognitive science and psychology.
Please take a moment to read more about my most significant research endeavors.
- My dissertation, currently in progress, titled The Ethics of Emotion: The Dialectic of Empathy and Estrangement in Postmodern German Culture. (In progress; expected completion date June 2015)
- Educational research with the Lacuna Stories Project focusing on student experience and collaborative reading. (In progress)
- My MA Thesis at the University of Manchester, awarded the grade of "Distinction." (2008)
- Published an article in an edited volume on nostalgia in German exile literature. (2009)
- Received a Dean's Award in the Humanities for my undergraduate thesis. (2005)
- Received a Humanities Undergraduate Research Award at UC Santa Cruz. (2004)