joins MIT’s Literature Section as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. She completed a Ph.D. in English at Boston University in 2014, and taught in Harvard’s interdisciplinary History and Literature program during the 2014-2015 academic year.
As a scholar of nineteenth-century American literature and science, Mary studies how aesthetic, scientific, and cultural engagements with plant life disrupted property-based, object-oriented attitudes towards the environment. The growing field of animal studies has reworked our conception of the human, but plant studies, when approached from a literary and historical perspective, challenge the human/nonhuman binary in politically and epistemologically vital ways. Her work shows how the idea of an autonomous plant world—in which plants were mobile, sentient agents embedded in transnational networks—emerged over the course of the nineteenth century. Literary authors, she argues, drew upon this notion to imagine alternatives to the conventional body politic.
Other research and teaching interests include environmental history and literature; the literary pursuit of racial, economic, and social justice; sustainability studies; and material culture.