Forms of Empire: Law, Violence, and the Poetics of Victorian Power


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


English Literature


Victorian England was the first empire in history to imagine itself as liberal, believing that its own power could bring law to the most unruly corners of the globe. My project tracks a network of London-based authors and theorists as they engaged in live debates about the role force played in an empire of peace. Using literary analyses to trace a world power's decline --as the mid-Victorian “age of equipoise” gave way to open militarism of the late 19th century-- this project shows how literary methods can help us read the dynamic political contests about force and order, liberalism and empire, in which these figures were engaged. It explains, too, how the pressures of a newer world rule, ours, continue to expose the difficulties that emerge when liberal theory faces up to violence.