Thesis ID: CBB607947783

The Social Ecology of Character: British Naturalism and the Mid-Victorian Sensation Novel (2022)


Logan, Peter Melville (Advisor)
Thompson, Scott C. (Author)

Logan, Peter Melville
Temple University
Publication date: 2022
Language: English

Publication Date: 2022
Physical Details: 218

My dissertation tracks an emergent theory of character in the wake of the ecological turn in the mid-Victorian period. It identifies the connection between changing representations of character in the popular sensation novel and developments in contemporary psychology. “The Social Ecology of Character” tells the story of how the idea of character fundamentally changed as a result of the development and popularization of the theory of ecology, the burgeoning notion of organisms as plastic and dynamic, given form by the precarious balance between internal physiobiological expression and external social forces. Rather than an innate quality or the result of “blank slate” impressions, character was conceptualized as a dynamic nexus of internal and external pressures in constant adjustment to its physical and social environment. This, what I call, “ecology of character” is intelligible in the sensation novel, a genre born out of a complicated overlap between the perceived physiological effects on readers and the scandalous storylines and infamous for its complex relationship between character and plot. I demonstrate how the sensation novel dramatizes the dynamic interplay between the internal and external forces that determine psychological development. Drawing on an interdisciplinary combination of literary theory, history of psychology, philosophy of science, theories of realism, gender studies, and novel and periodical theory, my dissertation argues that the sensation genre brings to the foreground the effects of the mid-Victorian ecological turn on literary character and incubates a distinctly mid-Victorian British determinism that anticipates late nineteenth-century naturalism.

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Authors & Contributors
Cameron, Lauren
Perletti, Greta
Alexander, Sarah C.
Brooke-Smith, James
Brown, William L.
Fabian, Andrew C.
Nineteenth-Century Contexts
Victorian Literature and Culture
Victorian Studies
19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Stanford University
Cambridge University Press
Oxford University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
University of York (United Kingdom)
Science and literature
Philosophy of science
Poetry and poetics
Dickens, Charles
Carroll, Lewis
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
Darwin, Charles Robert
Davy, Humphry
Eliot, George
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
Great Britain

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