Relevant Degree Programs
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
"Mind Reflected on Paper" explores the interrelations of Charles Dickens's first-person novels and mid-century psychological debates about the immateriality of the mind and immortality of the soul. Recent studies of the connections between Victorian psychology and the novel have tended to overlook the centrality of Christianity to nineteenth-century mental science; I address this oversight by examining the powerful shaping force exerted on Victorian psychology by widely felt religious anxieties about the threat of materialism. I restore Dickens's work to the midst of the controversy such fears aroused by reading his novels alongside popular and specialist nineteenth-century writings on the mind, and by charting Dickens's own often-overlooked interest in the psychological theorizing of his contemporaries. To be precise, I analyze both Dickens's deployment of the discourse of nineteenth-century psychology and his use of the first-person form as efforts to resist the encroachment of a scientific, physiological model of the mind. Yet I argue that since the key terms of nineteenth-century psychological discourse—mind, soul, consciousness, and so forth—were variously defined, Dickens's attempts to avoid the implications of reductionist mental science are undermined by the meanings accumulated by the psychological terminology on which his novels draw. Furthermore, because introspection remained the primary method of mental research at mid-century, making the first-person perspective the means by which theorists positioned themselves in psychology's battle of philosophies, I contend that even first-person narration carried with it the traces of such debate and meanings inimical to the model of the mind Dickens sought to endorse. In large part, then, it is precisely the confused and confusing way Dickens employs mental science in his fiction that makes his work such a valuable instance of how the mind was popularly constructed during the nineteenth century. "Mind Reflected on Paper" therefore reveals both what was at stake for most readers and writers in Victorian psychological debate—the possibility of immortality and the validity of religious belief—and the discursive means by which a mental science whose terms many worried were incommensurate with an afterlife was nevertheless able to rise to dominance in the period.
Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
The two primary aims of this thesis are to position Thomas Hardy in a history of nineteenth-century literary blushing that has not, as of yet, included him, and to consider the extent to which his representations of blushing correspond with contemporaneous discussions of the embodied mind. Hardy’s longstanding interest in the extent to which external signs can communicate internal states and in the limitations of self-knowledge intersect with many of the questions about consciousness, bodies, and social environment central to nineteenth-century literary and scientific explorations of the blush. The 1870s in particular saw an exacerbation of interest in and conversation about the blush, related, in part, to the publication of Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals on 26 November 1872 — four months after Hardy started writing A Pair of Blue Eyes, and seven months before he began seriously working on Far from the Madding Crowd. By tracing representations of blushing throughout these two novels, my thesis reveals Hardy’s growing distrust of the blush’s revelatory capacity and his more pronounced emphasis on the biological mechanism as an object of investigation and anxiety. My chapter on A Pair of Blue Eyes considers what or how much a blush can say about interiority, drawing primarily on the literary tradition, while my chapter on Far from the Madding Crowd considers what the blush can say about the body, suggesting that Hardy engages more self-consciously here with the physiology of blushing and the sexual politics of observation and exposure. The representations of blushing in both novels, however, incorporate both literary and scientific traditions as they explore how bodies absorb and reproduce discourses and narratives that repress or exploit them and how they resist such coercions, proving uncooperative or unreadable.