I hold Bachelors and Masters degrees in History from Virginia Commonwealth University and a PhD in American History from the University of Michigan. I was born and raised in Virginia’s Southside, a place where the American past not only “isn’t dead”—to riff on a one-time University of Virginia writer-in-residence— “it isn't even past.” As a child I scampered around on civil war earthworks and in long-abandoned farmhouses where portraits of Roosevelt still moldered on the walls. My first history lectures were taken in when the adults gathered to play cards. Bits and pieces of the past unwound in the air and mixed with the smoke, waiting to be breathed in.
My research interests range across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and are heavily influenced by the eclecticism and curiosity of working class storytelling. Past projects have explored Southside Virginia’s plank roads; the trope of insanity in American popular music; slavs in the American South; radical individualist “egoism;” twentieth century anarchists and modern “enchantment.” My dissertation, “Vox Machinae: Phonographs and the Birth of Sonic Modernity, 1870-1930,” charts the peculiar evolution of modern ideas about recorded sound, paying particular attention to the role of capitalism and mechanical technology in shaping the things said and believed about the stuff “in the grooves.”