HUMANITIES RESEARCH CENTER

Postdoctoral Fellows


Travis Alexander | Postdoctoral Fellow in Medical Humanities, Rice Academy of Fellows
Ph. D., English, University of North Carolina
A Glamorous Nightmare: HIV/AIDS, American Literature, and the Viral Power of Whiteness
Travis Alexander's research and teaching at Rice draw on an archive of U.S. fiction, film, drama, psychoanalysis, and philosophy to examine relations among health, race, sexuality, and power across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Prior undergraduate courses, for instance, have addressed the history of protest movements aimed at health disparities in the U.S. and the history of immunity as both a political and biomedical concept. An upcoming course will examine the role of social media in mental health discourses today. In particular, Travis's writing explores the racial undercurrents implicit in fictional representations of virality and infection, most often with regard to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Peer reviewed articles on the health humanities and related subjects have appeared in American Literature; boundary 2; Criticism; symploke; Literature, Interpretation, Theory; Public Culture; and the Quarterly Review of Film and Video. He also publishes on his research and teaching specialties in a wide of variety of public outlets, including Aeon and Pop Matters. His book manuscript, A Glamorous Nightmare: HIV/AIDS, American Literature, and the Viral Power of Whiteness, is in preparation.


Kevin MacDonnell | Postdoctoral Fellow in Humanities
Ph. D., English, Rice University
Economy, Empire, and Environment
Kevin is currently working on his book project, "Ecologies of Innovation: Economy, Empire, and Environment in Eighteenth-Century British Literature." The project is based on his dissertation, which won the 2020-21 John. W. Gardner Prize for best dissertation in Rice's School of Humanities. "Ecologies of Innovation" examines how eighteenth-century British writers, from Daniel Defoe to Olaudah Equiano, used literary form and genre to mediate their responses to the economic innovations that were transforming the Atlantic world. His project aims to construct a cultural history of innovation, revealing how the intersections of literary culture and market society produced the defining social and environmental markers of Britain's imperial project. His work can be found published or forthcoming in Philological Quarterly, Green Theory & Praxis, British Literature and Technology, 1600-1830, and The Routledge Handbook of Energy Humanities. He is the founding editor of "Classroom Ecologies," a forum on pedagogy in environmental studies, and has taught courses at Rice in the Department of English, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Program in Writing and Communication.


Alexander Lowe McAdams | Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow (Fall 2021)
Ph. D., English, Rice University
Theophanic Reasoning: Science, Secrets, and the Stars from Spenser to Milton
Alexander's project is a literary history that focuses on the English response to the Cosmological Revolution in the seventeenth century. Positioned in the direct aftermath of Italian theologian and natural philosopher Giordano Bruno's public execution in 1600, Theophanic Reasoning argues that literary authors frame their narratives around the concept of theophany - the actual manifestation of deities in the physical world. In particular, this project argues that English authors incorporated theophany into their works to understand and reconcile their Christian belief system with a cosmological model that was swiftly erasing God from its countours. English authors, therefore, coopted the ancient Pythagorean concept of the world-soul, or spiritus mundi, and inserted it into their works. This project thus argues that the works of Spenser, Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, and Milton theorize the natural change of a moveable universe as a direct result of the spiritus, or spirit, of God. Theophanic Reasoning contemplates the religious, political, and social ramifications of this first wave of the Cosmological Revolution and, as a result, demonstrates the co-equal and co-evolving relationship between religion and science, faith and reason.

Alexander's research extends beyond the cosmological realm into the earthly environment, and her essay titled, "Toward a Blue Gender Studies: The Sea, Diana, and Feminine Virtue in Pericles," was recently published in a special issue of the open-access journal, Représentations dans le Monde Anglophone, and her work on Spenser and ecology has appeared in Spenser Review, a public-intellectual forum. Alexander's current role as manager of the Civic Humanist program at Rice has led to several professional opportunities beyond Rice, including the recent invitation to publish her essay, "Pedagogy without Place: Democratizing Knowledge Using Writing Center Praxis," for Scholars in COVID Times, the inaugural title in Cornell University Press's new book series, Publicly Engaged Scholars.


Sophie Sapp Moore | Public Humanities Diluvial Houston Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph. D., Cultural Studies, University of California-Davis
Freedom's Ground
Sophie Moore is an interdisciplinary political ecologist whose research uses ethnographic and historical methods to understand intersecting processes of socio-ecological and political change in the Afro-Americas. Moore's current book project, Freedom's Ground, examines the political ecology of radical agrarian life in Haiti's hinterland. The book pursues two main questions: how do anticolonial and anti-imperial struggle shape rural socio-ecologies? And what configurations of power emerge from those transformations?The argument highlights the specific ways that state and imperial forms of plantation power have transformed agrarian life in Haiti's hinterland since independence, building on analyses that demonstrate the spatial and environmental dimensions of Afro-Americans' liberation struggle. It examines both the entirely ordinary, banal experiments in the production of imperial power and global capital that transformed Haiti's high Central Plateau in the past three centuries, and the radical practice of imagining more just futures that emerged in the same experimental space. Ultimately, it shows how rural people have imagined and enacted freedom in Hispaniola's borderlands, whose environments have in turn been transformed by that struggle. Freedom's Ground terms this 300-year movement towards racial freedom the counterplantation, a liberatory formation that is at once a place, a praxis, and a politics.