The history of art is first and foremost the history of visual experiences. As a scholar of nineteenth-century French visual culture and funerary history, I work across disciplines in order to bring together studies of visual experience with their historical and social contexts. My dissertation, titled “Sépultures (non)remarquables: The Production of Parisian Funerary Monuments, 1804–1924,” discusses the complex space of the cemetery in nineteenth-century Paris. In examining the production and consumption of funerary monuments in the aggregate, this dissertation reconstructs the picture of the nineteenth-century Parisian cemetery at the intersection of visual studies, material culture and cultural economics. Specifically it defines the low-end market for funerary monuments in Paris after Napoleon’s burial reforms of 1804 and through the first phases of Haussmannization in the 1850s and 1860s. Situated among discussions regarding the role of large-scale, merit-based commemoration practices in nineteenth-century France, this dissertation considers the mass market for funereal monuments and a citizen’s willingness to pay for public memorials to ordinary people. Likewise, as a teacher of art history and visual culture, my primary goal for my students is to learn to recognize the various ways in which visual experiences inform our conceptions of and interactions with the world around us. I believe that this is best accomplished when students engage directly with the materials being studied and are given the opportunity to develop projects related to their own interests. For these reasons, I take a hands-on approach to art history, stressing the importance of seeing material in person to gain intimate understandings of artworks, objects and spaces as well as their particular contexts.
As a student in the Graduate School at Duke University I have completed coursework for the Certificate in College Teaching Program, which provides pedagogical training and opportunities for peer teaching observation. In my home department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, I have worked as a teaching assistant for four semesters with the Duke Art, Law, and Markets Initiative (DALMI). With DALMI, I have redesigned syllabi and course structures for two courses on art markets: an undergraduate-level lecture course, History of Art Markets, and a graduate-level seminar, Art & Markets. These two courses, which are both cross-listed with the Department of Economics, teach students to analyze various markets for the arts. In supervising team projects for both courses, I assist students in learning to gather, organize, visualize and analyze art sales data to understand buyer behavior over a variety of geographical locations and chronological periods. I have led technology and database workshops (for using Openrefine, Tableau, Artnet, and the Getty Provenance Index), as well as discussion sections for the History of Art Markets. During discussion sections, I push students to apply what they have learned in the lectures, which tends to be historical, to their understanding of contemporary art markets, which tend to be the focus of their projects. My goal is that each student leaves these courses with more than an understanding of art markets. In covering all aspects of data-driven research, students come out of these courses with valuable tools and knowledge applicable to any number of disciplines and research topics.
My art historical training and teaching experiences at Duke University have equipped me to teach courses on art markets, as well as surveys of art history and courses on the historiography and methodologies of art history. In my primary fields of research, nineteenth-century French visual culture and funerary material culture, I have developed sample courses on 19th-Century French Visual Culture and The American Way of Death. I have additional experience in religious studies, literature and material cultural studies, which contribute to the interdisciplinary nature of my research and teaching. My approach stresses the relationship between visual culture and society, and, as a result, my courses expose students to a range of scholarly texts, primary sources, literature and popular culture. In the classroom, I find that students ask the more complex questions and demonstrate a deeper understanding of the material when they have a more secure grasp of historical contexts and contemporary applications. Teaching art history and visual culture in an interdisciplinary manner encourages students to draw connections between visual culture and other fields that they have studied, enabling them to ask more critical questions about the contexts within and the processes by which artworks, objects and spaces were not only created, but also create of our modern sense of the world in which we live.