Bridget Reilly

Postdoctoral Fellow

I teach and write about nineteenth-century American literature. In particular, my research investigates the intersections between literary culture, medicine, and constructions of disease. I am currently working on a project provisionally titled “Cholera’s Clock: Race, Illness, and Time in the Nineteenth-Century American Literary Imagination.” My work has been supported by the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, and UVA’s Americas Center/Centro de las Américas, amongst others. As a teacher, I aim to create an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their experiences and voicing their thoughts, no matter how provisional. I think of the classroom as a space for mulling over ideas, for trying on and taking off arguments—not as a space of conclusion. Uncertainty, I tell my students, is not an undesirable intellectual state but a starting line, a prompt for critical inquiry. Arriving at insights from confusion requires intellectual flexibility (a willingness to allow assumptions to dissolve) and generosity (a willingness to let yourself and others err). These are the muscles I ask my students to exercise in class.