From 1990 until 1998, most of my research and publications focused on intersections between historical and fictional writing in 19th-century Britain, especially on the ways different genres reflect or question gendered assumptions about plots, narratives, history, and agency. The major result of this work was my book, Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing (Garland, 1998).
In the next phase of my research I focused on on drawing together contemporary theorizing about fiction and ethics with Victorian theorizing about the novel. My literary-historical goal was to enrich our understanding of just how Victorian critics actually talk about the ethics of the novel; my larger interest was in seeing how listening to them might change, perhaps even improve, our own critical conversation about the moral role and effects of different kinds of fiction. My essays “The Soul of Art: Understanding Victorian Ethical Criticism,” published in English Studies in Canada, and “Martha Nussbaum and the Moral Life of Middlemarch,” published in Philosophy and Literature, address some of the more theoretical issues I considereded while working on this project. My anthology The Victorian Art of Fiction: 19th-Century Essays on the Novel (available from Broadview) made available some of the important primary materials relevant to this project.
Some of my other research and writing picked up specific aspects of my work on the ethics of George Eliot’s fiction in a new context: the novels of the Anglo-Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif. Often referred to as the “Egyptian George Eliot,” Soueif alludes often to Eliot’s novels in her own work. I have written about Soueif’s fiction in an essay for Open Letters Monthly, “A Novelist in Tahrir Square.”
In recent years I have taken a particular interest in bridging the divide between academic criticism and the broader sphere of reading and critical inquiry. I have pursued questions about the differences between academic and public criticism (in aim as well as method) in the conventional academic way, through research, conference presentations, and publications, but also, in a more hands-on way, through blogging, and as an editor, reviewer, and essayist.
Updated February 15, 2019