Alexander Ashland is a PhD candidate in English. He specializes in nineteenth-century U.S. literature, and his research interests include Media Studies, Poetry and Poetics, Literary Theory, and Digital Humanities.
Alexander is currently writing his dissertation, The Documentary Turn in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature, 1850-1877, in which he examines how midcentury writers negotiated literary and nonliterary media in an effort to respond to and shape changing conceptions of race, gender, and class. He argues that the hybrid aesthetic that began to emerge during this period encouraged not only an affective response to slavery and the war, but also an interrogation of the social and political structures that supported its institutionalization. Responding to a political climate marked by extreme “compromise,” writers of documentary literature deployed source material as a means of explicitly engaging the concerns that pressed most urgently on their readers. The texts that he has chosen radically altered, extended, and redefined the limits of what could be expressed in novels, poetry, and phototextual materials.
Additionally, he is the project creator and lead developer of Mapping Whitman's Correspondence (i.e. "Whitmap"), a collaborative DH project that includes members of The Walt Whitman Archive and the University of Iowa's Public Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio. His forthcoming chapter, "'All thy wide geographies': Reading Whitman's Epistolary Database" (Cambridge University Press, 2019), uses data gathered from this project to analyze the ways in which Whitman's epistolary activity and the geographic distribution of letters influenced his poetry and prose. Whitmap also has been developed from the ground up to be used as a pedagogical tool, offering teachers and students a means of exploring a dataset which has received far less attention than the poet's published materials.
Alexander works as a Research Assistant in The Walt Whitman Archive, and has taught Foundations of the English Major, as well as tutored in the Writing Center. He also taught Rhetoric and Composition 1 and 2 at Marquette University. In Spring 2020, he will serve as managing editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.