I find myself at Kalamazoo College because I have been continually transformed by ideas. While I understand why people sometimes speak of academe as distinct from the “real world,” I find that my active service in various communities arises from learning with and through others. Without the knowledge and values enriched by shared emotional and intellectual work, I wonder if I could be as “real.”
In my classes, we explore challenging texts through active-learning strategies. Following study of Puritan documents in an early United States literature class, we form collaborative teams and dramatize the trial of Anne Hutchinson. I have helped build a facsimile of the “loophole of retreat” described in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Constructing her hiding space gives life to the literal and figurative constraints embodied in her narrative. In my first-year seminar (Crossing Borders: Autism and Other Ways of Knowing), we engage in service-learning, connecting teams of three students to individuals with autism and their families.
Two critical studies and one edited volume have emerged from my teaching and scholarship in U. S. literature: Poe, Fuller, and the Mesmeric Arts: Transition States in the American Renaissance (2005), Cultural Reformations: Lydia Maria Child and the Literature of Reform (1994), and Child’s Letters from New-York (1999; originally published in 1843).
Having a son with autism has also affected my personal and vocational journey. I consider myself an advocate for those with autism and their families. I have served in leadership roles on the Autism Society of Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, presented at national conferences on autism, and currently serve as a board member of The Gray Center, a non-profit organization whose mission is to assist those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). I am completing a book of essays (“An Archaeology of Yearning”) that explores autism in the context of how we imagine conflicting desires and memories.