My work is rooted in nineteenth-century fiction and periodicals. My first book, Married, Middlebrow, and Militant: Sarah Grand and the New Woman Novel (University of Michigan Press, 1998), considers how feminists argued their politics through plots during the 1890s.
More recently, I have been investigating Victorian conceptions of aging, which anticipate our own anxieties about late life. I discuss the trope of "second childhood" in "Little Women: The Aging Female Character in Nineteenth-Century British Children’s Literature" (Figuring Age: Women, Bodies and Generations, 1998) and examine wide-ranging representations of aging—from politics to poetry—in "Growing Old" (A Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture, Blackwell, 1999). The interplay of human anxieties about aging and the rise of middle-class pet culture is the subject of "Dog Years, Human Fears" Representing Animals (2002). My book-in-progress, The Victorian Invention of Old Age, encompasses novels, poetry, medical texts, conduct literature, popular periodicals, paintings, and cartoons, among the many texts that fashioned old age in the last century.
Looking ahead, I am writing a series of articles that will lead to a new project, Victorian Arguments with Animals. In addition to conducting research on animals, I have developed a course that asks students to analyze the stories humans tell about animals both in literature and in the local animal shelter. Together with an interdisciplinary group of faculty members from across the University of Iowa, I will also be co-hosting a series of community activities and interdisciplinary symposia focused on human-animal relationships over the next several years