Elizabeth Brogden received her PhD in English Literature from Johns Hopkins University in 2016, with a dissertation on ‘para-novelistic’ modes of writing and reading in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.  Her main areas of research include the poetics of genre, the history of reading, aesthetic and ethical theory, and visual culture in the long nineteenth century.

She has published articles on Henry James and Nella Larsen in NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction and Studies in American Fiction and is finishing her first book, entitled Stealing from the Story: Forms of Narrative Evasion in the Age of the Novel. She is also a visiting fellow at the Dahlem Humanities Center (Freie Universität Berlin).

Imagina{i}ry Worlds: Atmosphere in American Literature, 1860-1920
ICI Affiliate Project 2018-19

In my second book project, I investigate how new developments in the science of atmosphere influenced literary production in the United States between the Civil War and World War I. Even as new technologies of flight began permitting human access to the vertical frontier around the turn of the nineteenth century, leading to exciting breakthroughs in meteorology and climatology, the thematic and formal emphasis on celestial phenomena in literature is generally understood to have diminished. “Imagina{i}ry Worlds” reconsiders how the gradual demystification of the sky over the course of the long nineteenth century affected its mimetic status, as Romanticism’s emphasis on the occult powers of inclemency was replaced by a fascination with the empirical attributes of weather, wind, and clouds.

What happened to air in fiction and poetry as the anthropocentric novel gained transatlantic popularity during the Victorian era (“precisely that period,” to borrow Amitav Ghosh’s formulation, “when the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere was rewriting the destiny of earth”)? Bringing together elemental philosophy, aesthetic theory, the history of science, and original archival material, “Imagina{i}ry Worlds” re-interprets the aesthetic, social, and political significance of the aerial environs at the height of the realist century.

Stealing from the Story:
Forms of Narrative Evasion in the Age of the Novel
ICI Affiliate Project 2017-18

This project is located at the intersection of genre theory, the history of reading, and the ‘ethical turn’ in contemporary literary studies. Drawing on canonical texts by Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James, it examines the ways in which authors of fiction in the United States in the latter half of the nineteenth century articulated anxieties about the novelistic teleologies of plot, coming of age, and didacticism. It argues that ontologically errant protagonists — by fleeing from the narrator, circumventing interiority, exceeding or contravening narrative temporality, and developing out of sync with narrative events — critique the formal burdens of the novel, seeking relief from its relentless forward momentum, its structural reliance on psychological centrality, its overweening techniques of exposition, and its privileging of individual progress.

Stealing from the Story shows how the paradigm of evasion connects mimetic territories as diverse as the detective story, the tale, the romance, and the Bildungsroman, finally suggesting that nineteenth-century reading was as motivated by the pleasure of waywardness and estrangement as it was by those of vicariousness, sympathy, and surveillance.