My teaching and research have focused on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry and culture. I'm particularly interested in the ways American poets have talked back to Walt Whitman over the years, and how Whitman tapped into American culture in surprising ways to construct a radical new kind of writing. My first book, Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song, which I edited with Jim Perlman and Dan Campion, grew out of a Whitman seminar I taught (Jim and Dan were participants in the seminar). We gathered the most illuminating responses to Whitman over the century. In 1998, Jim, Dan, and I issued a revised second edition of the book, bringing the continuing poetic debate with Whitman up to the edge of the twenty-first century.
I have published on Whitman's relationship to various American cultural developments; my book Walt Whitman's Native Representations deals with photography, Native American policy, dictionaries, and baseball. Other essays have dealt with Whitman and race and Whitman's relationships to place. I have also been interested in Whitman's influence on modern and contemporary writers in America and around the world. With Gay Wilson Allen, I edited Walt Whitman and the World, which examines Whitman's presence in a variety of international contexts. I directed a symposium on Whitman in Translation, bringing together fifteen translators of Whitman's work from around the world (the symposium has since been published as a special issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, a journal that I edit here at Iowa). In 2000, I directed a conference on Whitman in Beijing, China, and my book Whitman East and West gathers some of the essays by the North American, European, and Asian scholars who participated in that conference. In the fall of 2005, I organized a symposium here at Iowa on Whitman as a bookmaker and curated a large exhibit at the University of Iowa Museum of Art of all the books Whitman made. I wrote a book based on that event, called Whitman Making Books / Books Making Whitman, which offers a printing history of all of Whitman's books in their myriad variations.
I have also written about twentieth-century American poets like William Carlos Williams, W.S. Merwin, and Gary Snyder, as well as other nineteenth-century writers like Frederick Douglass and Emily Dickinson. In recent years, I have become involved with electronic scholarship, co-editing a CD-ROM archive of Whitman's work, co-directing an online hypertext Whitman archive, and joining ten other professors from around the country on the construction of a "Classroom Electric"—a gathering of websites to facilitate the teaching of Whitman and Dickinson. My recent book Re-Scripting Walt Whitman (co-authored with Kenneth M. Price) uses the thousands of manuscripts we have gathered for the Whitman Archive to offer a rethinking of Whitman's "writing life," a life much more involved with manuscript revision than we previously thought.
I teach courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, including a survey of American poetry and a doctoral seminar on Whitman and his influence.