Rebeccah Bechtold is an Assistant Professor of English with a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Her areas of interest in research and teaching include eighteenth and nineteenth century American literature and cultures, African American literature, women’s studies, sentimentality, and music.
Professor Bechtold’s current project, Composing the Body: Narrative in the Age of Improvisation, 1770-1867, analyzes how antebellum authors appropriated music—as bodily sentiment, scientific theory, and performative practice—to negotiate the social tensions that afflicted nineteenth century American culture. Drawing on a diverse archive of primary materials, this project argues that music’s development into an improvisational aesthetic inspired sentimental authors to integrate musical form and theory into their compositional practices in ways that allowed them to explore the limits and freedoms of feeling. Her work has appeared in Southern Quarterly and she has a forthcoming article in ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance.