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Scientific and cultural interpretations of volcanoes, 1766-1901

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Scientific and Cultural Interpretations of Volcanoes, 1766-1901 analyzes nineteenth-century conceptions of volcanoes through interdisciplinary literature and science studies. The project considers how people in the nineteenth century used science, aesthetics, and other ways of knowing to understand volcanoes and their

Scientific and Cultural Interpretations of Volcanoes, 1766-1901 analyzes nineteenth-century conceptions of volcanoes through interdisciplinary literature and science studies. The project considers how people in the nineteenth century used science, aesthetics, and other ways of knowing to understand volcanoes and their operations. In the mid-eighteenth century, volcanoes were seen as singular, unique features of the planet that lacked temporal and terrestrial reach. By the end of the nineteenth century, volcanoes were seen as networked, environmental phenomena that stretched through geological time and geographic space. Scientific and Cultural Interpretations of Volcanoes, 1766-1901 offers a new historical understanding of volcanoes and their environmental connections, using literature and science to show how perceptions of volcanic time and space changed over 135 years.

The first chapter, using texts by Sir William Hamilton, Hester Piozzi, and Priscilla Wakefield, argues that in the late eighteenth century important aspects of volcanoes, like their impact upon human life and their existence through time, were beginning to be defined in texts ranging from the scientific to the educational. The second chapter focuses on works by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Charles Lyell to demonstrate the ways that volcanoes were stripped of metaphysical or symbolic meaning as the nineteenth century progressed. The third chapter contrasts the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa with Constance Gordon-Cumming’s travels to Kīlauea. The chapter shows how even towards the end of the century, trying to connect human minds with the process of volcanic phenomenon was a substantial challenge, but that volcanoes like Kīlauea allowed for new conceptions of volcanic action. The last chapter, through a post-apocalyptic novel by M. P. Shiel, shows how volcanoes were finally beginning to be categorized as a primary agent within the environment, shaping all life including humanity. Ultimately, I argue that the change in thinking about volcanoes parallels today’s shift in thinking about global climate change. My work provides insight into how we imagine ecological catastrophes like volcanic eruptions or climate change in the past and present and what that means for their impact on people.

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2016

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Affecting objects, or, The drama of imperial commodities in English performance, 1660-1800

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Early modern theater was a major site of cultural exploration into Britain’s imperial ambitions. The frequency with which drama depicted exotic locations and foreign peoples has prompted a wealth of excellent scholarship investigating how London theater portrayed Asia and the

Early modern theater was a major site of cultural exploration into Britain’s imperial ambitions. The frequency with which drama depicted exotic locations and foreign peoples has prompted a wealth of excellent scholarship investigating how London theater portrayed Asia and the New World. With so much attention paid to the places and people of the world, however, dramatic scholarship has yet to take note of the way in which the commodities of empire, the actual driving force behind expansion of British trade routes and colonial holdings, featured in long eighteenth-century drama. "Affecting Objects; or, the Drama of Imperial Commodities in English Performance, 1660-1800" investigates how imperial commodities—goods made available by Britain’s rapidly expanding trans-Atlantic trade routes— were used as stage props in long eighteenth-century comedy as a means to explore domestic ramifications of Britain’s developing empire. "Affecting Objects" recovers the presence of exotic commodities in the theater by bringing together branches of object theory, material culture studies, performance scholarship, and theater history.

Drawing attention to imperial commodities used as theatrical props on the Restoration and eighteenth-century stage, I reassess commonly studied plays as well as critically overlooked works. Foreign “things” in performance, such as spices and produce in seventeenth-century Lord Mayor’s Shows, china in William Wycherley’s _The Country Wife_ (1675), jewels from the East in Oliver Goldsmith’s _She Stoops to Conquer_ (1773), and the Indian shawl in Elizabeth Inchbald’s _Appearance is Against Them_ (1785), informed reception of the works they appeared in while also influencing how the people of London understood the role of those commodities in their everyday lives. As the commercialism of British society increased, imperial commodities became necessary “actors” in British social relations; the British stage responded in kind by showcasing how such goods dictated and mediated communal relations and constructions of the self. I argue that the way in which exotic goods were utilized in performance served to create, investigate, underwrite, and/or critique a British national and personal identity constructed upon access to and control over imperial commodities.

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2015

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Mixed-race heroines in early nineteenth-century literature: a look at Jane Austen and her contemporaries

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The purpose of this project is to analyze Jane Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon (1817) and its inclusion of a character of color. This thesis discusses Austen's mixed-race heiress, Miss Lambe, in the context of two other pieces of fiction that

The purpose of this project is to analyze Jane Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon (1817) and its inclusion of a character of color. This thesis discusses Austen's mixed-race heiress, Miss Lambe, in the context of two other pieces of fiction that feature mixed-race heroines--the anonymously published The Woman of Colour (1808) and Mary Ann Sullivan's Owen Castle (1816). Scholarship on Austen's awareness of the Abolitionist movement and her sympathy for its politics has previously been published. I advance our conversations on the subject by discussing Austen's Miss Lambe as a mixed-race heiress in the context of gender, race, and ethnicity in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novels. My thesis considers literary and historical treatments of people of color and provides a trans-Atlantic approach to female characters identified as mixed race.

Juxtaposing Sanditon, The Woman of Colour, and Owen Castle provides insight into how Austen was working within a set of established literary traditions, while creating ways to disrupt some of its problematic elements. This project looks at conventions of the mixed-race female characters in five ways. To begin, I discuss the mixed-race heroine and the compulsion to define her place of origin. Second, I consider the convention of describing mixed-race heiresses' rights to their inheritance. An analysis of the significance of naming mixed-race heiresses follows. I discuss literary conventions of the betrayal of mixed-race females. Lastly, I explore the common use of black maid figures in novels of this era to advance social critique against prejudice. Comparative analysis of Austen with other novels featuring mixed-race heroines in this era allows us to reach new understandings of Sanditon. Austen's unfinished last novel is shown to question the power of fortune, to undermine the orthodoxy of categorizing race and ethnicity, and to unsettle the hierarchy among characters of different races and ethnicities.

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2017

The Significance of Literary Outliers in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction: A Stylometric Analysis

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This dissertation looks at two works of nineteenth-century British fiction that are considered outliers: Sir Walter Scott's Saint Ronan's Well (1824) and George Eliot's "The Lifted Veil" (1859). Saint Ronan's Well, a work of domestic fiction, has long been described

This dissertation looks at two works of nineteenth-century British fiction that are considered outliers: Sir Walter Scott's Saint Ronan's Well (1824) and George Eliot's "The Lifted Veil" (1859). Saint Ronan's Well, a work of domestic fiction, has long been described as unusual for Scott because it is unlike his signature historical novels. "The Lifted Veil,” a Gothic novella, is generally understood as different in kind from Eliot’s realist and social problem fiction. I describe both texts as outliers because they have been described as atypical (in the case of Eliot) or less worthy of study (in the case of Scott) by scholars, for myriad reasons. My work uses both computational methods and tools and traditional literary close readings to test and assess these outlier works. I use stylometry, a computational tool that reads and compares texts to determine authorship attribution, to determine if both texts are indeed outliers for these authors. In addition, I use stylometric methods to analyze claims made by initial reviewers and contemporary critics about comparative authors and genres for Saint Ronan's Well and "The Lifted Veil." I examine statistical or stylistic evidence to test whether those long-standing claims of literary difference are supported with computational evidence. Each chapter consists of a series of stylometric tests that are analyzed in conjunction with close readings of text. The dissertation reaches three conclusions, based on the results of stylometric tests described across its four chapters. First, I find that, although Saint Ronan's Well is written in a unique subgenre for Scott, it is statistically and stylistically similar to his other novels. Second, I argue that "The Lifted Veil" is both an outlier for Eliot and an outlier among canonical work of the period in general, as indicated by the results of several stylometric tests. Finally, I argue that focusing on literary outliers is a necessary and productive step forward for traditional and computational literary studies. Focusing on texts that are literary and statistical outliers shows how computational and traditional literary methods can blend together to test the extent of generalizable knowledge in literary studies, especially with nineteenth-century British fiction.

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2021