Nicholas James Hudson


Research Classification

Research Interests

Literary or Artistic Work Analysis
literature and history
social class
studies of language
studies of race

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Research Methodology

post-marxism; cultural materialism


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

A biocultural exploration of risk, risk-taking, and female sexual engagement in British narratives, 1683-1740 (2018)

This dissertation explores the role of risk, the function of risk-taking, and women’s sexual behaviour as expressed in British narratives published between 1683 and 1740. I adopt a biocultural approach — namely, a consilient perspective that gives primacy to how human nature developed through the coevolution of biology and culture. Hitherto, most eighteenth-century literary and cultural critics have not taken advantage of the explanatory and revelatory power of the biocultural approach. The four case studies I present here explore the function of women’s risk-taking in my chosen texts. I focus on possibilities that emerge for heroines at the risk of being raped, being socially or sexually abandoned, suffering loss of financial security, facing poor marriage prospects, ruining romantic attachments, and being deprived of sexual gratification. My introductory chapter lays out the biocultural approach and details some of the key features of our evolved psychology that inform human sexual behaviour. Chapter One explores a much-neglected novel, The London Jilt. In this chapter, I argue that the novel’s heroine emerges as a prosocial whore who willingly incorporates altruistic punishment as a strategy for managing intersexual conflict, even as her prosociality is continually offset by her own opportunism. Chapter Two examines Daniel Defoe’s sexualized characterization of Lady Credit who, I argue, deploys a whore’s stratagem to recruit bipartisan support for England’s nascent credit system. Through Lady Credit, homosocial cooperation is made possible despite distrust between warring political factions. Chapter Three considers the effects of loss aversion and intrasexual competition on female sexual risk-taking in Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess. In this chapter, I also detail how sexually climactic possibilities might emerge from intentional delay of sexual gratification. Chapter Four investigates Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. I assert that Pamela’s self-deception is an intrasexually competitive strategy that allows Pamela to increase sexual risk-taking while avoiding social and parental punishment. And ironically, Pamela’s self-deceptive tactics allow this heroine to win over the man who continually threatens Pamela with rape. Ultimately, my dissertation reveals that, by way of a biocultural perspective, risk and risk-taking bring out new facets and dimensions of women’s sexual nature thus far overlooked and undiscovered.

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The Arts of Empire: Re-Articulating the Coercive Consultation Event, 1492-1693 (2015)

The following is a transatlantic study of the initial English and Spanish reactions to the problem of language difference in the Americas, focusing on the language related literature of England, Spain, New England, and New Spain, from 1492 to 1693. As part of the arts of empire, which is the use of language technologies for domination, both English and Spanish explorers, historians, and colonists created bilingual word-lists in the primary phase of the language encounter, yet the burgeoning empires’ responses diverged significantly with the deployment of missionary linguistics, resulting in the extremely uneven production of Amerindian grammars. This disparity in descriptive linguistics signals an understudied historical problem that I explain through comparative analysis of the English and Spanish traditions of language policy and language sciences, with particular regard for the effects of the Reformation on monastic communities and the funding of missionary expeditions. Another problem resides in the manner in which linguistic imperialism de-articulates the linguistic data from the language consultant and the historical context. Moving from texts founded on the interview of language slaves to texts requiring more willing collaboration, my response is the creation of an interpretive model, called narrative re-articulation, that combines linguistic data into a virtual syntax in such a way that the moment of language exchange, called the coercive consultation event, is reinserted into the historical narrative. This expands our understanding of the language encounter and linguistic imperialism by identifying language consultants by name, when possible, and by demonstrating the survivance of Amerindian cultures and Amerindian historical figures. Pushing against the early modern de-articulation of the Amerindian consultants from the consultation event, and questioning the reasons for such divergent literary responses to the problem of language difference, I create an interpretive frame for recovering the moment of language exchange and explain the theological and institutional differences between the English and Spanish models for linguistic imperialism in the Americas.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Linguistic relativity, interpretive empathy, and the "connection of ideas": Eighteenth-century theories of linguacultural development (2013)

This thesis looks at theories of the emergence of linguistic difference put forward by three philosophers of the (long) eighteenth century—Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715–1780), and Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803). The conventional, and in most regards accurate, assessment of these figures places them in different traditions (respectively rationalist, empiricist, romantic); however, I argue, on the matter of the growth and diversification of natural languages, they operate to a nontrivial extent on common ground, unified by a view of language as 1) creative, using metaphor, analogy, and similar figurative operations to expand its expressive base; 2) social, rooted in the desire for human communion; and 3) relativistic, meaning both that language shapes or constitutes thought and that the precise nature of this effect varies according to the individual characters of different languages. These common ideas emerge, despite the different preoccupations of their authors, as a result of their common need to grapple with the “linguistic turn” effected by the Essay Concerning Human Understanding of John Locke (1632–1704) and the emergence of proto-linguistics as a field in its own right. I then consider the implications of this creative–social–relativistic episteme for the current (twentieth- and twenty-first-century) line of research on linguistic relativity inaugurated by BL Whorf (1897–1941). I will try to illustrate that Whorf is connected to the eighteenth century, and Leibniz, Condillac, and Herder to each other, by several specific shared concepts: 1) that linguistic and cultural variation happens due to the use of words to organize the world in ways that vary across communities (what Condillac calls the “connection of ideas”); 2) that alongside or underneath its relativism, meaning is always to some degree universal and innate, a notion to which each writer considered here brings a different admixture of rationalism, empiricism, and theosophy; and 3) that Herder’s advocacy of a translinguistic, interpretive Einfühlung, or ‘empathy’, dependent on the preservation of both universal and relativistic principles, is crucial to the attainment of an intercultural harmony that respects and does not reduce the differences in linguacultural thought-worlds.

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