Thesis ID: CBB001567362

Embodying Agency: The Liberal Will, the Psychophysiological Individual, and Intersubjective Connections in the Victorian Novel (2012)


Kelly, JoAnn (Author)

Blake, Kathleen
LaPorte, Charles
Woodward, Kathleen
University of Washington
Brown, Marshall
LaPorte, Charles
Woodward, Kathleen
Brown, Marshall

Publication Date: 2012
Edition Details: Advisor: Blake, Kathleen; Committee Members: Brown, Marshall, LaPorte, Charles, Woodward, Kathleen.
Physical Details: 227 pp.
Language: English

My dissertation examines the emergence of a new language for agency in nineteenth-century literature and science, which articulated a form of intersubjectivity that departed from a central element of Victorian liberal ideology: the emphasis on the autonomous will as key to the advancement of civilization. I show that writers like Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Wilkie Collins understand character development as importantly physiological, reflecting a movement in Victorian psychology that, for the first time, proposed a scientific account of the relationship between body and mind. The novels I take up do not necessarily affirm the kind of isolated, distanced individual that is typically associated with Victorian liberalism and the form of the novel. Instead, the relationship between body and agency is often imagined as a play of affective influence, constituting the theorization of an embodied intersubjective agency able to form and transform character through connections between bodies. As I show, this deviates from hallowed liberal ideals such as self-formation, the linear development of individual and society, the idea of evolutionary progress, and the role of a rational intellect in producing moral behavior.


Description Cited in Dissertation Abstracts International-A 74/06(E), Dec 2013. Proquest Document ID: 1313216774.

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Authors & Contributors
Perletti, Greta
Cameron, Lauren
Zigarovich, Jolene
Bhattacharya, Sumangala
Greene, Gayle
Vrettos, Athena
Victorian Literature and Culture
Victorian Studies
19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Nineteenth-Century Contexts
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Oxford University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Chicago Press
Virginia, University of
Brandeis University
University of Notre Dame
Science and literature
Philosophy of mind
Mental disorders and diseases
Science and culture
Mind and body
Dickens, Charles
Eliot, George
Brontë, Charlotte
Hardy, Thomas
Gaskell, Elizabeth
Collins, Wilkie
Time Periods
19th century
Great Britain
British Isles

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