Kacie Wills

BFA in Creative Writing, Chapman University
MA in English, California State University, Long Beach

Research Areas:

Transatlantic Romanticism, Fashion Theory, Exploration, and the Romantic Global Imagination

Research Interests:

My research is rooted in the various approaches to literature which foreground social and cultural (mis) constructions of identity. In particular, my research seeks to intervene in conceptions of the Romantic period in order to broaden the scope and significance of these conceptions. The global and material nature of the period, demonstrated through the range of perspectives offered by exploration, has far-reaching effects, particularly as we consider the Great Exhibition and current conceptions of the British Empire that tend to, even if unintentionally, silence many other voices. Through a critical and literary emphasis on exploration culture and conceptions of the global, the individual perspective and experience again becomes central. This does not happen in the way commonly associated with Romantic thought and the inner quest for transcendence, but it occurs in a way that ultimately offers new points of connection between people. As bodies move through and interpret new spaces, contact inevitably occurs. Through examining these points of contact and the traces both they and the new experiences leave on a variety of surfaces, from the body, to calicoes, to the written page, I will expand our understanding of that Romantic quest for the transcendent. Rather than an abstraction, that quest, within the context of Transatlantic Romantic literature and global exploration, becomes intensely and undeniably material. This materiality is also revealed through the context of exploration to be present in the embodied and gendered nature of fancy and the imagination. By examining the marks of materiality through critical theories of objects and surfaces, I am ultimately considering the question of how we read these marks and the bodies and objects that bear them, allowing us to take into account the agency of every individual in the historical narrative. The more materially we consider this period, the more fluidly it connects to the developing empire and the more concretely it is capable of offering historical and social critique of that very development.

Recent Activity:


“Re-Thinking ‘Melodramatic Simplification’: An Examination of the Deathbed Tableau Arrangements in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House.” Watermark 7 (2013): 21-39.

“Occupying the Third Space in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Finding a Fluid Identity in Otherworldliness, Ugliness, and the Grandeur of Monstrosity.” Watermark 6 (2012): 79-93.



Oh Me Omai: Aesthetic Value, Polish, and the Tattooed Surface.” NAVSA, Phoenix, Arizona. November, 2016.

“The Permeable Body in Romantic and Victorian Literature.” Special Session Chair at PAMLA. Pasadena, California. November, 2016.

“’An old maid on a journey’: The Collection of Sarah Sophia Banks.” RSAA, Wellington, New Zealand. February, 2017.

Figured more by fancy than by custom’: Omai’s Tattoos and the Performance of ‘Polish’.” Paper presented at NASSR, 2016 at the University of California, Berkeley. August, 2016.

“Telescoping of the past through the present”: Understanding the Body, Measurement, and Experience in the Personal Narrative Alexander von Humboldt through the Lens of Walter Benjamin.” Paper presented at VISAWUS, 2015 at the Sheraton Downtown Hotel, Denver, Colorado. October, 2015.

UC Council of Writing Programs Panel Chair: “Reflections on Writing in the Disciplines and Writing Across the Disciplines.” UC, Riverside. October, 2015.

“Framing the Logic of Elimination: Assimilation and the Native American Male Body in Early Photography.” Paper presented at the British Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies Conference at the Hilton Desoto, Savannah, Georgia. February, 2015.

“Re-thinking ‘Melodramatic Simplification.’” Paper presented on The Victorians and Literary Theory panel at PAMLA, Riverside, November, 2014.

“’Feasting upon Shakespeare’: Eating and the Formation of Keats’s Poetic Identity and Creative Process.” Paper presented at the “Traditions and Transformations” Conference at California State University, Fullerton. April, 2013.

Related Experience:

(Dis)junctions Conference Chair (2015)

GSEA Vice President (2015-2016)

American Literature Editor; International/Diaspora Literature Editor

Watermark VI (2012); Watermark VII (2013)

English Graduate Student Association (EGSA), CSULB

Awards & Honors:

Outstanding Teaching Assistant, University Writing Program, UCR: 2015.

Department of English Graduate Essay Contest Award Winner, Third Place, UCR: 2015.

Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Program Recipient, CSULB: 2014-2018.

Distinguished Graduate Student, CSULB: 2013.

Graduate Dean’s List Nominee, CSULB: 2013.