Isom-Rachael_PhotoI am a Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My research examines the intersections of religious and poetic identity in nineteenth-century British women’s writing, with particular interest in Romantic-era discourses of enthusiasm, reflection, and feminine restraint.

I have published related articles on Hannah More’s poetics of reflection in her 1809 novel Cœlebs in Search of a Wife (Essays in Romanticism, 2016), and the much-understudied religious poetry of Caroline Fry (New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century, 2014). My article on poetics of enthusiasm in Mary Shelley’s Valperga (1823), forthcoming in Studies in Romanticism, reads Valperga as a critique of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Defence of Poetry and as a call for a feminized expression of enthusiasm inflected with Wollstonecraftian politics of restraint.

This article draws on a chapter of my dissertation, “The Female Enthusiast: Nineteenth-Century Women and the Poetics of Inspiration.” The project adopts a postsecular approach in order to trace the figure of the female enthusiast across the poetry, novels, and expository writing of British women during the first half of the nineteenth century. Many of these women sought to mitigate Joanna Southcott’s controversial prophetic legacy by interpolating the improvisatrice model of Germaine de Staël’s Corinne (1807); however, in doing so, they risked losing the authority attributed to divine mediums. My dissertation also contextualizes Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s female enthusiasts within the growing tradition of the dramatic monologue in the 1820s and 1830s, and reads Maria Jane Jewsbury’s 1830 novella The History of an Enthusiast alongside her earlier religious meditations on enthusiasm. The final chapter examines Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s paradoxical preservation of the female enthusiast figure in Aurora Leigh (1856). The project is supported by fellowships from the Huntington Library, the Armstrong Browning Library, the New York Public Library, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

During my graduate studies, I have taught and assisted with several undergraduate courses, including Introduction to Poetry, Introduction to Fiction, 19th-Century British Novel, and First-Year Composition. I am currently teaching a special humanities-focused section of first-year composition, where students have recorded poetry podcasts, presented art historical conference papers, and written blog posts on the history of student activism at UNC.  Alongside these teaching duties, I have served on the Writing Program’s Peer Mentoring Committee, as a Graduate Research Consultant for the Office of Undergraduate Research, as a Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities, and as a Graduate Assistant to the Humanities for the Public Good Initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill. I also work as a Project Assistant for the William Blake Archive.