Hello! I am a program officer at the Mellon Foundation and an Associate Professor of Literature (on leave) at Bard College.

Through the Higher Learning program at Mellon, I make grants that elevate more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lay the foundation for more just and equitable futures; accelerate the demographic transformation of US academic faculties and institutional leadership to better reflect the population and center humanities expertise; and that broaden access to humanities higher learning opportunities.

My personal research interests include media studies and digital culture, childhood, fantasy and the afterlives of medieval literature, and the role of the humanities in contemporary society. I have published academic work in all of these areas, including my book Re-Enchanted: The Rise of Children’s Fantasy Literature in Twentieth Century, which was nominated for a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award.Maria2 copy.jpg

I was the founding director of the academic program and Center for Experimental Humanities at Bard from 2012-2020. EH focuses on how technology mediates what it means to be human and embraces historical, theoretical, and practice-based approaches to this question, often through interdisciplinary collaboration and justice-minded work in the community. In 2020 we launched the international Experimental Humanities Collaborative Network, part of the Open Society University Network, with 11 partner institutions around the world.

My own public-facing work also experiments with form, and has included a computational text analysis / digital humanities project based on The Babysitters Club corpus called The Data-Sitters Club (ongoing); a trio of video documentaries that explore staging and understanding early English drama; a podcast called In Theory about the relevance of academic theories to everyday life, co-hosted with Noorain Khan; and short speculative fiction.

I have been a National Project Scholar for the American Library Association’s Great Stories Club reading and discussion program for underserved youth across the United States since 2015. I am currently working on an interdisciplinary research project about the intellectual lives of teen participants based on GSC survey data.

I received my master’s in English Medieval Studies and doctorate in English from the University of Oxford, where I was a Rhodes Scholar. I did my BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, where I attended Newport News Public Schools.