Scholarly Adventures in Self-Help, Dieting, and Therapeutic Culture
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Projects

Some of my current work

Feeling Fat

I’m preparing for publication a journal article about “feeling fat” on Twitter. The widespread phenomenon of feeling fat, hitherto unexplored by scholars, saddens many of us because it normalizes body shame and imbues fat with moral meaning. I suggest, however, that to treat feeling fat as an ersatz emotion or individual pathology forecloses a feminist analysis that would historicize feeling fat.

Fat Memoirs

Looking at texts such as Roxanne Gay’s Hunger, I’m investigating how American writers of fat memoirs come to authorship during an “obesity epidemic.” Within a medicalized society deeply suspicious of the fat, female body, how do these authors claim moral authority, and how do their works appeal to a mass audience?

If You Just Believe

Raised on self-help books and the power of positive thinking, a Midwestern twentysomething—me—is shamelessly optimistic about her future. Until, a month before grad school ends, I am diagnosed with a disease I have never heard of and told I have thirty years to live. Why does a chronic illness feel like a moral failure? This memoir details my experience growing up with New Age parents and in a self-help culture where it is assumed that, with hard work and positive thinking, anything is possible.

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Teaching

Feedback from my students.

“One of the few classes I wish was longer."

“What most contributed to my learning? Jenny. Her enthusiasm and laid back yet extremely informative teaching style really helped me to feel comfortable in the class."

“You changed my English experience completely. Thank you for an excellent class. Definitely my favorite teacher I’ve had in a long time.”

“Probably the first English class of my life that I’ve enjoyed.”

“Jenny is extremely well researched and intelligent, and is not intimidating at all. I felt like almost everyone participated.”

“Jenny did a great job pinpointing valuable lessons in writing and teaching them effectively through examples. I’m very sad this class is ending.”

“Jenny was very sensitive to different learning atmospheres and the variety of things that work for students by having a mixture of small group, large group discussion, online postings and one-on one meetings.”

“Jenny is an awesome teacher, and I learned a lot. She was very fun and outgoing, too.”

About Me

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Jenny Dolan

We live in a culture that compels us--especially women--to feel bad about our bodies. Many of us believe that, if we find the right diet or purchase the right products, we will acquire health and beauty once and for all (starting Monday!). As a cultural historian, I study the history of this thinking and how it contributes to broader social narratives about gender, selfhood, and citizenship. My research explores how social meanings get mapped onto bodies and how our well-behaved (or misbehaving) bodies come to define our sense of self as worthy, moral, and good (or not). I am a PhD student in the American Studies program at Brown University.

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