My interdisciplinary research and teaching engages American Studies and Working-Class Studies to read cultural practices that obscure tensions of racial, ethnic and gendered identifications by staging working-class associations as commodities for the cultural marketplace. For instance, when literary figures like John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac distribute their hobo narratives to the twentieth century marketplace, they use working-class identity and/or aesthetics to prioritize bohemian-driven intellectual labor that capitalizes on representations of the material conditions of homelessness. This approach is a productive way to examine American literature and popular culture, wherein the resourcing of class identity can be seen–past and present–in advertisements, popular music, film, and television.
In this way, my work within American Studies and American literature answers Michael Denning’s call for the study of the “afterlife” of the Cultural Front. Not only does my work on the hobo narrative locate a contentious nexus point of gender, race, and class in the construction of early twentieth century autobiography and memoir, it also traces such tensions for more than a century of cultural productions into the contemporary moment. And while my research examines the literary implications of figures like the tramp, hobo, and bum, my studies have far-reaching implications that uncover how American depictions of labor often negotiate or evade labor in place of celebrating the self.