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19th-century British Literature

Nineteenth-century British literature and culture is one of the most exciting fields of study in English right now. Scholars at Penn State are pursuing and teaching the intersections between literature and culture that define contemporary scholarship.

These topics include:

Science Studies: Literature and the history of science, medicine and psychology; Darwinism and evolutionary theories of culture and the body; Romantic and Victorian anthropology and race theories; monsters and monstrosity in Romantic writing; nineteenth-century utopianism and science fictions.

Visual Culture and Visual Arts: Histories of aesthetic value; the Gothic revival; photography, Pre-Raphaelite painters, and Victorian avant gardes; Aestheticism, Decadence, and fin-de-siècle culture.

Gender and Sexuality: Victorian feminisms and the "Woman Question"; "Muscular Christianity"; sexuality, gender and religion; the rise of queer culture and the invention of sexology.

Class, History, Politics: Marxism, working-class culture and the rise of labor politics; industrial revolutions, Crystal Palaces, and conditions of England; parliamentary reform, Catholic emancipation; transatlantic exchanges between Britain and America; liberalism, liberty, anarchy, free trade; the rise of Modernism and modernity.

Genre: Realism, the novel and narrative theory; literary canons and the invention of English studies; "new canons" of Romantic and Victorian poetry; poetics and gender; Romantic dramas, Victorian melodramas; poetics of Catholicism and atheism; Romantic poetry and critical theory.

Literature and Empire: Romantic slave narratives and the subjectivities of empire; British colonial interventions in and representations of Ireland, India, Africa; the "Eastern Question"; travel writing; postcolonial theory; subaltern studies.

Mass Culture: Medievalism; conduct guides, illustrated magazines; sensation, gothic, and detective fictions; vampires, prostitutes, criminals, "savages."

People specializing in this area

Tenure-Line Faculty

Anne McCarthy

My research deals with Romantic and early-Victorian literature, mostly -- though by no means exclusively -- poetry. My current book project, Reading for the Pause: The Uses of Suspension in Nineteenth-Century British Poetry, examines the ways in which tropes of pause, paralysis, and cessation associated with the Romantic sublime continue to have formal and ethical consequences in Victorian poetry. I am also working on an article-length project dealing with competing forms of subjectivity in Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Finally, I'm in the very early stages of a second book project on literary form, aesthetic philosophy, and early nineteenth-century spirituality, with a special emphasis on the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sara Coleridge, and F. D. Maurice.

My scholarly work has been published in Romantic Circles and Victorian Poetry, and I have presented papers at a number of academic conferences.