Sandra Tomc is a filmmaker and scholar of nineteenth-century US literature and print culture. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century book and magazine history, romantic authorship, the gothic, especially Edgar Allan Poe, transatlantic fashion, and visual culture. Her most recent book, Fashion Nation: Picturing the United States in the Long Nineteenth Century (2021), looks at the role played by clothing and décor in the development of nationalist visual itineraries in the nineteenth-century transatlantic world. Her scholarly work has appeared in ELH, American Literature, The Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe, and Representations. Her most recent documentary feature films include Citizen Marc (2013) and Cool Daddy (2019). She is also the author of Industry and the Creative Mind: The Eccentric Writer in American Literature and Entertainment, 1790-1860 (2012).
My current research is on the history of copyright law in the transatlantic eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In particular, I am interested in invisible labour economies. I am looking at the extent to which publishers in the early nineteenth-century United States relied on unpaid aesthetic and intellectual work to fill their books and magazines. This research is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant. Findings from this research are published in “Cheap Poe and Other Bargains: Unpaid Work and Energy in Early Nineteenth-Century U.S. Publishing,” ELH 86 (2019): 189–222. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/718871
I also continue to do research on visual materials, especially lithographs and aquatints, related to the nineteenth-century fad for folk culture and folk dress.
Selected Scholarly and Creative Publications
- Fashion Nation: A Tour of U.S. Looks and Scenes in the Long Nineteenth Century. University of Michigan Press, forthcoming. Fashion Nation argues that popular images of “America” as a place of glitter and lights, of gaudy costumes and dizzying visual surfaces, which are usually understood as features of techno-modernity, were in fact brewed in the rich, strange world of early nineteenth-century British and European folk nationalism, when nations were compelled to offer visual manifestations of their allegedly true ancestral form. Arguing that folk and ethnic nationalism are understudied influences on U.S. writing and culture, the book draws on a colorful visual archive of national costumes, cartoons, theatrical spectacles, and immersive entertainments to show how “America” was brought to life as a visual space for transatlantic audiences. It includes chapters on the cult of ethnic dress, the travel literature of Nathaniel Parker Willis, Charles Dickens, and Frances Trollope, and the nationalistic décor on display at late nineteenth-century world’s fairs and amusement parks.
- Industry and the Creative Mind: The Eccentric Writer in American Literature and Entertainment, 1790-1860. University of Michigan Press, 2012. This book looks at the figure of the eccentric, alienated writer in the U.S. arts and entertainment industry in the first half of the nineteenth century. I argue that romantic myths of writerly brilliance, rebelliousness, and anti-sociality, which are usually understood as markers of modern artistic autonomy, were foundational to the development of a highly capitalistic, cheap entertainment industry in the 1830s and 1840s. My scrutiny of this industry illustrates how veneration of “artistic” qualities in writers was directly tied to their exploitation as cheap labour in an early instantiation of cognitive capitalism. Precisely to the extent that writers were deemed other-worldly and transcendent of normative appetites, they were readily dismissed by entrepreneur publishers as personnel who did not need to be paid. These writers, I argue, formed a large invisible labour force in what historians call the antebellum print explosion. The book looks at the careers of Joseph Dennie, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Rufus Griswold, Park Benjamin, and Fanny Fern. https://www.press.umich.edu/4596043/industry_and_the_creative_mind
- Cool Daddy (feature documentary). Cool Daddy (feature documentary). 2019. A Roger Evan Larry and Sandra Tomc Film. Written by Sandra Tomc and Roger Evan Larry. Produced by Paul Armstrong, Roger Larry, Sandra Tomc. 78 mins. Directed by Roger Evan Larry. Made in association with the CBC and Canadian Media Fund. Aired on CBC March 10 and 12 and ongoing. Distribution by Capitol Motion Picture Group (North America) and Film Option (worldwide). Mobile Excellence Award from Awwards and Google, 2019 and Honors from Awwards and Google, 2019 for Kenny’s Jazz Pad, immersive website for Cool Daddy. Technical design by Relevision (Roger Larry and Sandra Tomc). Execution by Denman Digital https://kennysjazzpad.com/
- Citizen Marc(feature documentary). Written by Sandra Tomc and Roger Evan Larry. Directed by Roger Evan Larry. Produced by Roger Larry, Sandra Tomc, and Lianna Walden. Made in association with the UBC Hampton Research Fund, the Canadian Media Fund, the Telefilm Rogers Documentary Fund, Superchannel, and Cinemavault. World premiere: the Montreal World Film Festival, 2013. Exhibited at Whistler Film Festival, 2013. Streaming on Amazon Prime. https://www.primevideo.com/detail/Citizen-Marc/0P0VLRQT582MMXSKJA81NTBYX5
- Crossing (feature drama). 2005. A Roger Evan Larry and Sandra Tomc Film. Written and produced by Sandra Tomc. Directed and produced by Roger Larry. Starring Sebastian Spence, Crystal Bublé, Fred Ewanuick and Bif Naked. Made in Association with Telefilm Canada, CityTV, Astral, Corus. 115 mins. Premiere: Cinequest Film Festival, San Jose, 2005. Worldwide Distributor: Cinemavault. Soundtrack: Warner Canada. Six Leo Award Nominations, 2007: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress.
Book Chapter(s) or Journal Article(s)
- “Cheap Poe and Other Bargains: Unpaid Work and Energy in Early Nineteenth-Century U.S. Publishing,” ELH 86 (2019): 189–222. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/718871
- “Poe and His Enemies,” Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. J. Gerald Kennedy and Scott Peeples. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. 559-75. https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190641870.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780190641870-e-32
- “A Form of Life in Which Art is Not Art”: “Life in the Iron Mills” and the Artist as Worker in the Nineteenth-Century U.S., American Literature 89:3 (September 2017): 497-527. https://read.dukeupress.edu/american-literature/article-abstract/89/3/497/129256/A-form-of-life-in-which-art-is-not-art-Life-in-the?redirectedFrom=fulltext
- “’Clothes upon Sticks’: James Fenimore Cooper and the Flat Frontier.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language51:2 (Summer 2009): 142-178. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40755537?seq=1
- “Revisions of Probability: An Interview with Judith Thompson.” The Masks of Judith Thompson. Ed. Ric Knowles. Toronto: Playwright’s Canada Press, 2006. Rpt. from The Canadian Theatre Review 59 (Summer 1989): 18-23.
- “Re-styling An Old World: Nathaniel Parker Willis and Metropolitan Fashion,” Representations85 (Winter 2004): 98-124. https://online.ucpress.edu/representations/article/85/1/98/91648/Restyling-an-Old-World-Nathaniel-Parker-Willis-and
- Co-Authored with Patricia Badir. “The New and the Noteworthy in the Making of a Civil Society.” English Studies in Canada29: 1-2 (2003): 7-16.
- “A Change of Art: Hester, Hawthorne and the Service of Love.” Nineteenth-Century Literature56 (2002): 466-494. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/ncl.2002.56.4.466?seq=1
- “Poe and His Circle.” The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Kevin J. Hayes. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. 21-41.
- “’The Missionary Position‘: Feminism and Nationalism in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.”and intro. Harold Bloom. Modern Critical Interpretations. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001. Rpt. from Canadian Literature 138/139 (1993): 73-87.
- “David Mamet’s Oleannaand the Way of the Flesh.” Essays in Theatre 15 (1997): 163-75.
- “An Idle Industry: Nathaniel Parker Willis and the Workings of Literary Leisure.” American Quarterly49 (1997): 780-805.
- “Dieting and Damnation: Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire” Anne Rice With the Vampire Generation.
- “Dieting and Damnation: Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire.” Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture. Eds. Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1997. 95-113.
- “Questing Women: The Feminist Detective After Feminism.” Feminism in Women’s Detective Fiction. Ed. Glenwood Irons. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1995. 46-63.
- “‘Disentangled Doom’: The Politics of Celebration in Howard Brenton’s Bloody Poetry.“ Howard Brenton: A Casebook. Ed. Ann Wilson. New York: Garland, 1992. 127-44.
I teach nineteenth-century U.S. literature, twentieth-century U.S. entertainment and film, gothic literature and film, screenwriting (I am a screenwriter and filmmaker as well as a literature scholar). My current theory interests include affect and psychoanalytic theory — especially to do with fear and horror – and film and image theory. I most commonly supervise students working in nineteenth-century American literature and gothic literature, with a focus on Edgar Allan Poe. I also supervise projects on nineteenth-century fashion, folk dress, and visual culture.