While my research is situated in the long nineteenth century of British literature and culture, I am an interdisciplinary scholar with an interest in the history of the novel and narratology, critical theory, aesthetics, and globalization studies.
My dissertation, tentatively entitled Worldly Figures: Character and the Nineteenth-Century British Global Imaginary, investigates forms of world-making in the literary fiction of the nineteenth century. Specifically, Worldly Figures identifies how British writers used the form of the character type—a character that is not particular to any one instance—to model and represent the abstractions of global modernity. The dominant narrative of realism in nineteenth-century studies occludes the non-psychological and de-personalized aspects of fictional character that continued to populate fictional representation. Critics, in turn, have tended to critique this form of representation as a simplistic generalization or, worse, a dangerous universalization. This preference for the unique and the particular, however, overlooks the ways in which British novelists represented social and collective life at scales that exceed the everyday. Writers employed the character type in order to critically engage with the boundaries, exclusions, and forms of collective life in the nineteenth century, but especially a collective life born out of the expanding and changing geopolitical landscape.
Worldly Figures draws on an archive of literary fiction, including historical novels, burlesques, romance, and adventure novels, by writers as diverse as Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray, H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Lewis Carroll. Ultimately, I argue that nineteenth-century British novelists depended on this conceptual analogy between the form of the character type and global modernity not only to make abstract concepts imaginable to readers, but also to emphasize the constitutive role of the imagination in modern political and collective identity.
Obligation and Literary Form
In addition to my dissertation, I am currently preparing an article that I believe will serve as an initial investigation into a second project on obligation and literary form. The article turns to the fiction of the fin-de-siècle aesthete Vernon Lee, notably her novel Miss Brown (1884). In it, I examine how the problem of financial indebtedness highlights issues of autonomy and literary form at the turn of the century. This article draws on a long-standing interest I have in aesthetic philosophy and visual culture in the nineteenth century.