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Communities of Care

Communities of Care: The Social Ethics of Victorian Fiction (Princeton UP, 2021) uses the feminist philosophy of ethics of care as a way of understanding Victorian social relations. I’m interested in how caregiving suggests alternative ideas of character in the 19th century novel (thinking about how service work troubles the notion of the deep individual, for instance), and I explore what we can learn about care communities by looking at case studies that predated modern professional medical care. I look at Austen, Dickens, Eliot, the Brontës, James, Yonge, and I think about care’s temporality, performativity, discursivity, and affiliation. I define care as “meeting another’s need,” and, crucially, see it as an action rather than a feeling – a new way of theorizing care that acknowledges its roots in African American extended family networks and queer families of choice, and that suggests ways we can mobilize it today.. What happens, I ask, if we imagine our academic lives according to an ethics of care? How might we reimagine the literary tradition in terms of care?

The book won the Literary Encyclopedia Book Prize and honorable mention for the NAVSA Book Prize. You can see talks I gave from the book here and here. I wrote much of it as a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University in 2018-2019.