My principal area of interest is how Americans forged cultural and intellectual responses to a social life shaped by a dynamic capitalism. I have investigated the links between a form of expressive culture (literary realism and naturalism) and industrial life in Writing Realism: Howells, James, and Norris in the Mass Market. My next book, Twentieth-Century Multiplicity: American Thought and Culture, 1900 − 1920, explored the ways in which many Americans at the beginning of the twentieth-century rejected or could not accept the validity of long-standing unifying synthesis. In the a wide variety of discourses and practices, I maintained, the impetus for cultural and intellectual life came from those who stressed the many, the particular, and the local as a central assumption in explanation and interpretation. In These United States, a collection of articles written expressly for The Nation in the 1920s which I edited and for which I wrote an introduction, I was concerned to understand how Americans understood diversity in the face of what were thought to be overwhelming forces of standardization and uniformity of mass culture and a national market.
In my next project, I will take those intellectual concerns to a later period. With Casey Blake (Columbia) and Howard Brick (Michigan), I will write the last uncompleted volume in the Roman & Littlefied series, which will investigate the immediate post-World War II era. When that project is finished, I will turn my attention to a history of dream interpretation in the United States
- Twentieth-Century Multiplicity: American Thought and Culture, 1900-1920 (2008).
- "The Strange Career of American Bohemianism" American Literary History (Summer 2002).
- "Aesthetics, Cultural Hierarchy, and Democracy," Intellectual History Newsletter (2002).
- "Success and the Single Man," Reviews in American History (September, 1998).
- "Sui Generis Veblen," International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society (1998).
- "The Strange Case of Theodore Dreiser and the Genteel Tradition," in The Pennsylvania Companion to Jennie Gerhardt (1995).
- "Edward Bellamy's Dream in His Times and Ours," Introduction to Looking Backward(1994).
- "Genteel Progressivism", Review (1992).
- "These United States": Portraits of America in the 1920s (1992).
- Writing Realism: Howells, James, and Norris in the Mass Market (1989).