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Writing at the Margin: Economics and the Victorian Sensation Novel

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This paper explores how marginalist economics defines and inevitably constrains Victorian sensation fiction's content and composition. I argue that economic intuition implies that sensationalist heroes and antagonists, writers and readers all pursued a fundamental, "rational" aim: the attainment of pleasure.

This paper explores how marginalist economics defines and inevitably constrains Victorian sensation fiction's content and composition. I argue that economic intuition implies that sensationalist heroes and antagonists, writers and readers all pursued a fundamental, "rational" aim: the attainment of pleasure. So although "sensationalism" took on connotations of moral impropriety in the Victorian age, sensation fiction primarily involves experiences of pain on the page that excite the reader's pleasure. As such, sensationalism as a whole can be seen as a conformist product, one which mirrors the effects of all commodities on the market, rather than as a rebellious one. Indeed, contrary to modern and contemporary critics' assumptions, sensation fiction may not be as scandalous as it seems.

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2014-12

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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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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