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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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Monstrous bodies of knowledge: the undead as epistemological tool in the Romantic period

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This research conceptualizes Gothic literature featuring undead characters produced and popularized by Britain in the early nineteenth century as educational texts. As an influx of new ideas at home and abroad disrupted the lives of the Romantics, not to mention

This research conceptualizes Gothic literature featuring undead characters produced and popularized by Britain in the early nineteenth century as educational texts. As an influx of new ideas at home and abroad disrupted the lives of the Romantics, not to mention the literal uprising of bodies in the French Revolution and the lost war with the North American colonies, British citizens dedicated themselves to preserving the relative safety of their shores from external and internal threats. I expand the definition of the “undead” to include any tangible, corporeal being once technically dead and now reanimated. In doing so, I invite a broader range of texts, and authors, into the conversation of Gothic literature and the genre’s continued legacy. My work reads male and female authors in dialogue with one another, both sexes working within common networks, rather than as creating separate or disparate traditions. The production of instructive undead bodies becomes particularly important to the development of British national identity and reveals a reliance on the maternal to educate and inform future citizens. The texts examined in this dissertation reveal the necessity of contemplating the histories and experiences of the past, of non-white voices, and of the female influence.

The texts range in publication date from 1805 to 1863 and thus demonstrate the continued used of the undead in the Gothic genre. An examination of the reanimated corpse in Romantic narrative demonstrates how authors utilized the undead as an educational tool both for the characters inside the text and the actual individuals reading the narrative. The undead offers a lens to look at the Gothic not regarding authorial gender or even a character’s gender, but rather in how the genre portrays bodies, and how those bodies interact with and instruct others. This dissertation’s perception of the undead as a powerful educational force in literature assists in the attempt to complete a more comprehensive analysis of Gothic, and therefore Romantic, literature.

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2018

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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

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The Anglo-Scottish Union and British national identity in women's writing, 1780-1820

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The union between England and Scotland, which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain, generated heated discussion both before and after the Acts of Union took effect on May 1, 1707. Members of Parliament, the nobility, clergymen, pamphleteers, and authors

The union between England and Scotland, which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain, generated heated discussion both before and after the Acts of Union took effect on May 1, 1707. Members of Parliament, the nobility, clergymen, pamphleteers, and authors from both nations participated in debates on the Union, in many kinds of writing, for many years after 1707. The voices of British women, however, have not been sufficiently considered in our scholarship, and are often conspicuously absent from our accounts of these polemical wars, which were still raging in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This dissertation seeks to fill this gap in the academic conversation by taking Scottish, English, and British nationalisms as its theoretical paradigm in approaching writing by female authors. The dissertation's chapters examine how the Anglo-Scottish Union figures in the works by five women writers (Jane Austen, Cassandra Cooke, Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Brunton, and Susan Ferrier) publishing from 1780 to 1820.

I argue that, in the aftermath of the Union, these women writers often expressed specifically gendered concerns— such as the maintenance of social etiquette, better education for women, making sense of national prejudices, and the erasure of regional socio-economic differences. In doing so, they ranged beyond a typically masculine focus on parliamentary politics, international military endeavors, macro economy, and national churches. English women writers' attitudes towards the Union were more positive than those entertained by Scots authors, but compared with contemporary male writers, both sides were less optimistic about the potential for building a blanket national identity for the entire Kingdom.

Taken together, the chapters of the dissertation provide a more comprehensive view of how the Anglo-Scottish Union figured in the minds of Britons, male and female, a century after its establishment, when the Kingdom was going through the Napoleonic Wars and another union with Ireland. The dissertation enriches our research on women's use of literary genres and techniques when taking part in political debates. It also serves to point out the need for more extensive surveys of the nuances of individual women writers' national affiliations.

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2016

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