Forming Person: Narrative and Psychology in the Victorian Novel


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project explores how Victorian narratives, both literary and scientific, shifted the locus of consciousness from a self-contained mind to a sensory-biological body reacting to its environment. Reading popular and canonical Victorian novels alongside the fledgling discipline of psychology, the project shows that fiction was uniquely able to experiment with an embodied consciousness that science was only able to theorize and describe. The result was a concept of a person quite different to the self-governing, mind-centered ideal usually attributed to Victorian literature. The novels focused on here use formal techniques to imagine the person as a multi-centered, process-oriented body reacting to situations and stimuli as they arise by mobilizing appropriate cognitive and sensory functions.