Her research is motivated by questions about how relationships to place are negotiated through literature and through historical writings. More specifically, she is concerned with how the problems of settler colonialism—the problems inherent when colonizers from an “old” world seek to inhabit a “new” one already inhabited by others—are represented formally or aesthetically. Her work examines settlement as a problem that manifests itself across literary genres and cultural forms.
Questions about representations of settler colonialism as well as travel and cross-cultural contact have taken Melissa from the United States to New Zealand and back, and now to Canada. As a result, her work is invested in reorienting geographic as well as temporal and generic boundaries.
In the classroom Melissa encourages students to develop the fundamental skills of literary analysis, to engage in conversations with texts and with each other, and to hone their writing. She likes students to leave her classes excited by the range of U.S. literatures they have encountered and eager for more.
Before coming to the University of Toronto Melissa taught at Rice University and Cornell University.