Literary scholar; Writer (literary theorist); Educator
Humanities and Arts
Literature and Language Studies
Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. Contributions in American literature, Haitian historiography, and American legal scholarship. Publications include Fables of Mind: An Inquiry into Poe's Fiction (1987), which identifies a Calvinist Poe rather than a transcendental one, arguing that his studies of mind (reinvigorating Locke, Newton, Edwards, and Swift) are not anachronistically modern but have simply been misread outside their natural context of early American writing; Haiti, History and the Gods (1998), which recounts the story of colonial Haiti from the composite perspectives of legal and religious texts, letters, fiction, and her own knowledge of the country; The Story of Cruel and Unusual (2007), which exposes the paradox of the eighth amendment to the Constitution, showing that in the United States, cycles of jurisprudence safeguard rights and then justify their revocation; and The Law is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons (2011), which examines how the fictions and language of law turn persons (and other legal non-entities like dogs, ghosts, slaves, felons, and terror suspects) into rightless objects.