Appointed As

Visiting Assistant Professor and Southern Futures Assistant Director

Program

ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program

Host

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

PhD Field of Study

PhD English, The Ohio State University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, English, The Ohio State University

PhD English, The Ohio State University

"Beyond the Flood: Environmental Memory, Precarity, and Creativity in Imagining Appalachia’s Livable Futures"

This project investigates literary and vernacular storytelling about regional flooding to understand the relationship between local and global life in an Anthropocene future. The Anthropocene, our current proposed geologic epoch, emphasizes how human activity has altered the planet on a geologic scale, aiding in devastating processes like climate change. In this project, I examine one effect of climate change—extreme flooding—to explore how Appalachian storytellers address socioenvironmental life throughout time and space. I argue that the Appalachian flood has become its own chronotope, a structuring time-space through which social and environmental concerns are creatively imagined and expressed. Through the chronotope of the Appalachian flood, I approach the Anthropocene as a constant conversation and movement between time-spaces to understand how people creatively reckon with historic environmental destruction, ongoing social marginalization, and increasing climate crisis.
Through four interdisciplinary chapters (two literary and two ethnographic) and a public-facing project based on fieldwork in southern West Virginia, I examine diverse storytelling that engages climate change and negotiates science skepticism. Chapter One, “Intersectional Place and Environmental Anxiety in Appalachian Literature,” explores how small moments of flood anxiety are woven into regional literary works despite an absence of floods in the plots, and Chapter Two, “Uncovering Rhetorics of Blame: Environmental Justice and Appalachian Literature,” examines how other regional literary works employ flood events in their plots as metaphors for enduring social and economic exploitation. I argue that these literary works are pieces of writer-activism and reflect how those living with multiple, intersecting forms of oppression and marginalization imagine livability despite institutional abdication and environmental ruin. Chapter Three, “Framing the Flood: Strategic Environmental Storytelling,” examines creative responses to floods like vernacular memorialization, public theater, and local music, and Chapter Four,
“Place, Environment, and a Livable Future in Wyoming County,” is an ethnography of the memory and storytelling of a 2001 flood in southern West Virginia. These creative works and personal narratives emphasize that floods, though destructive, are reminders of endurance through altered circumstances; floods are also spaces where creative community survival strategies emerge. In the heart of coal country, West Virginians are often associated with scientific skepticism and climate change denial; however, on-the-ground engagement reveals a much more complex situation. How do we address the Anthropocene in places where climate change is a contentious topic? I argue that storytelling about environmental disasters (like floods) that folks personally understand and often encounter allows them to safely navigate uncertain feelings about climate change, criticisms of extractive industry, and hopes for the future. The final section is a public-facing project that returns the research and stories I have collected back to Wyoming County. This digital storytelling platform tells the story of the 2001 flood while connecting it to other floods throughout time and space (like the failing levees during Hurricane Katrina). My goal is to reveal shared environmental experiences among people in global localities despite geographic and political differences.
This project emphasizes how local disasters can simultaneously be informed by and inform larger global conversations on life and living in Anthropocene times. Through the chronotope of the flood, I reveal how zooming into a specific type of environmental disaster—flooding—within a specific marginalized place—Appalachia—throughout time is one way to better notice how creative activism, life, and livability already exist despite science skepticism, environmental destruction, and capitalist ruins. The connections among various flood stories throughout time and space allow us to link past, current, and future life in the Anthropocene by zooming in and out of local storytelling to understand what it means to be human in an increasingly precarious world of economic uncertainty and political polarization, heightened social and biological disarray, and intense ecological disaster. By centering the environmental storytelling of those who historically experience the combined effects of oppression and destruction, my project amplifies the intersectional and creative activism of people who provide models for livability through ecological crisis.

PhD, English, The Ohio State University

"Beyond the Flood: Environmental Memory, Precarity, and Creativity in Imagining Appalachia’s Livable Futures"

This project investigates literary and vernacular storytelling about regional flooding to understand the relationship between local and global life in the imagining of a livable future in the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene, our current proposed geologic epoch, emphasizes how human activity has altered the planet on a geologic scale, aiding in devastating processes like climate change. Through four interdisciplinary chapters (two literary and two ethnographic), I examine one effect of climate change—extreme flooding—to explore how Appalachian storytellers address socioenvironmental life throughout time and space. The literary chapters examine moments of flood anxiety and flood events in plots as metaphors for enduring social and economic exploitation. I argue these literary works are pieces of writer-activism and reflect how those living with multiple, intersecting forms of oppression and marginalization imagine livability despite institutional abdication and environmental ruin. The ethnographic chapters examine local creative responses to floods—like vernacular memorialization, public theater, local music, and personal memory and narrative—across the coalfields region of West Virginia. These creative works and personal narratives emphasize that floods, though destructive, are reminders of endurance through altered circumstances; floods are also spaces where creative community survival strategies emerge. In the heart of coal country, West Virginians are often associated with science skepticism and climate change denial; however, on-the-ground engagement reveals a much more complex situation. How do we address the Anthropocene in places where climate change is a contentious topic? I argue that storytelling about environmental disasters (like floods) that folks personally understand and often encounter allows them to safely navigate and negotiate uncertain feelings about climate change, personal criticisms of extractive industry, creative activist strategies, and hopes for a livable future despite widespread political and industrial propaganda to fuel science skepticism, historic environmental destruction from extractive industry, and precarious life in capitalist ruins. By centering the environmental storytelling of those who historically experience the combined effects of oppression and destruction, this project amplifies the diverse and creative activism of people who provide models for livability through ecological crisis.