A selection of books recently authored by members of the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies. For further information on articles, previous books, digital projects, and other publications, please look through the research profiles of individual members.
Emily Senior, The Caribbean and the Medical Imagination, 1764-1834
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Caribbean was known as the ‘grave of Europeans’. At the apex of British colonialism in the region between 1764 and 1834, the rapid spread of disease amongst colonist, enslaved and indigenous populations made the Caribbean notorious as one of the deadliest places on earth. Drawing on historical accounts from physicians, surgeons and travellers alongside literary works, Emily Senior traces the cultural impact of such widespread disease and death during the Romantic age of exploration and medical and scientific discovery. Focusing on new fields of knowledge such as dermatology, medical geography and anatomy, Senior shows how literature was crucial to the development and circulation of new medical ideas, and that the Caribbean as the hub of empire played a significant role in the changing disciplines and literary forms associated with the transition to modernity.
David McAllister, Imagining the Dead in British Literature and Culture, 1790-1848
Imagining the Dead in British Literature and Culture, 1790-1848 offers the first account of the dead as an imagined community in the early nineteenth-century. It examines why so many Romantic and Victorian writers believed that influencing the imaginative conception of the dead was a way to either advance, or resist, social and political reform. This interdisciplinary study contributes to the burgeoning field of Death Studies by drawing on the work of both canonical and lesser-known writers, reformers, and educationalists to show how both literary representation of the dead in fiction and poetry, and the burial and display of their corpses in churchyards, dissecting-rooms, and garden cemeteries, responded to developments in literary aesthetics, psychology, ethics, and political philosophy. Imagining the Dead in British Literature and Culture, 1790-1848 shows that whether they were lauded as exemplars or loathed as tyrants, rendered absent by burial, or made uncannily present through exhumation and display, the dead were central to debates about the shape and structure of British society as it underwent some of the most radical transformations in its history. The Review of English Studies: ‘McAllister mobilizes a wide array of material and is yet judiciously selective. Imagining the Dead draws upon sources of an imaginative and historical nature, blending literature, politics, educational psychology and social history to identify a unique, convincing and rather unexpected narrative that traverses periodic boundaries to connect two significant phases of development in the cultural history of death in Britain. It is a highly commendable addition to what is a burgeoning field of study.’
Hilary Fraser, Women Writing Art History in the Nineteenth Century
This book sets out to correct received accounts of the emergence of art history as a masculine field. It investigates the importance of female writers from Anna Jameson, Elizabeth Eastlake and George Eliot to Alice Meynell, Vernon Lee and Michael Field in developing a discourse of art notable for its complexity and cultural power, its increasing professionalism and reach, and its integration with other discourses of modernity. Proposing a more flexible and inclusive model of what constitutes art historical writing, including fiction, poetry and travel literature, this book offers a radically revisionist account of the genealogy of a discipline and a profession. It shows how women experienced forms of professional exclusion that, whilst detrimental to their careers, could be aesthetically formative; how working from the margins of established institutional structures gave women the freedom to be audaciously experimental in their writing about art in ways that resonate with modern readers.