Tuggle_new_22Aug2017.jpg

My first book, The Afterlives of Specimens: Science, Mourning and Whitman's Civil War,  is forthcoming with the University of Iowa Press's Whitman Series (fall 2017). Focusing on Walt Whitman’s poetry and prose, I explore the space between science and sentiment, the historical moment of convergence at which the human cadaver is both lost love object and subject of anatomical violence. Leaves of Grass offers a unique vantage from which to study Civil War legacies of death, disease, and amputation through discourses of mourning, trauma, and sexuality. Over the course of his lifetime, Whitman witnessed drastic changes in relations between the living and the dead. In the space of a few decades, the practice of dissection evolved from a punishment enacted on the bodies of criminals, to an element of preservationist technology worthy of the presidential corpse. The extended public display of Abraham Lincoln’s body was made possible by recent innovations in embalming, developed on the bodies of unknown soldiers. In the intervening years, Whitman transitioned from a fervent opponent of medical bodysnatching to a literary celebrity who left behind instructions for his own autopsy. How did Whitman arrive at an understanding of the corporeal afterlife so far removed from his initial anxiety in the face of posthumous wounds? What catalyzed this startling transformation, and how did it respond to cultural changes in medical, mourning and burial practices? The Afterlives of Specimens establishes Whitman’s role in shifting cultural understandings of the body as an object of posthumous discovery and desire.