The Personality of Things in Eighteenth-Century Britain


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships


English and American Literature and Language


Modern accounts of lyric, the novel, and theatrical character draw on notions of the person as a psychological self, a self-possessed individual, a rights-bearing subject. Yet things—worn objects, land, props, personal possessions—make human personality visible in the literature and culture of eighteenth-century Britain. This project addresses what happens to our understanding of the Enlightenment subject when we keep the object in mind. Drawing on novels, travel narratives, dressing-room poetry, advertisements, theater inventories, and legal treatises, this study examines the ways personal and collective identities are constituted in and through the things people possess.