Public Humanities

As a scholar, a teacher, and a community member, I am deeply committed to public-facing humanities work that engages with a broad range of audiences and seeks  innovative ways to make academic knowledge accessible in a variety of public venues. I believe that meaningful public engagement demands a reframing of academic conversations as thoughtful, community-based dialogues in order to cultivate trust and respect with local residents, as well as with diverse online communities that consumes  scholarship. Public humanities work matters because it creates mutually beneficial relationships with the publics we study, and of which we ourselves constitute a part.

My public humanities work has taken many forms. As a 2018-2019 Maynard Adams Fellow at the University of North Carolina, I collaborated with staff at Carolina Public Humanities to build a database of UNC-affiliated digital humanities projects for use by teachers, students, and Chapel Hill community members. As the graduate assistant for the Humanities for the Public Good Initiative in Spring 2018, I worked with Director Robyn Schroeder to maintain an accessible web presence and to promote the initiative’s various grants and other programs. For the past five years, though, much of my public humanities involvement has developed through work with the Jane Austen Summer Program, a yearly symposium that invites students, scholars, community members, and fans from a cross the country to enjoy a weekend of events surrounding a novel by Jane Austen. Developed by UNC Professors Inger Brodey and James Thompson, the program was recently awarded the Harlan Gradin Award by the North Carolina Humanities Council. From 2014-2018, I have contributed to the program as a discussion leader, a rare book exhibit curator, and a context corner speaker. My work with JASP is detailed below.


2018: “‘Do not imagine that I often read novels’: or, Dangerous Fiction and the Regency Reader” (Context Corner talk for “Northanger Abbey and Frankenstein: 200 Years of Horror”)

Access a video of this talk HERE. Access a PDF copy of the Isom_JASP2018handout.



2016: “Mansfield Park: Texts and Contexts” (Special Rare-Book Exhibition, co-curated with Taras V. Mikhailiuk for “Mansfield Park & Its Afterlives”

This exhibit featured editions of Mansfield Park from the 19th and 20th centuries, along with materials contextualizing Austen’s novel within Regency-era politics, literature, and aesthetic theory.

Blog Post available HERE.





2015: “Emma at 200″ (Special Rare-Book Exhibition, co-curated with Ted Scheinman, for the 2015 Jane Austen Summer Program)

This exhibit also included multiple copies of Austen’s novel, from first edition forward. It used the web of allusions found within Austen’s text to recreate the fashionable world of Emma Woodhouse’s Highbury.

Blog Post available HERE.