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University of Florida

Curriculum Vitae


I will be completing my book project, “Victorian Skin: Surface, Subjectivity, Affect.” For Victorians, skin was an important medium through which to read character, a membrane that as a matrix for the generation and interpretation of the self. Whereas the eighteenth century saw new materialist views of the psyche that challenged dualism by locating the self in the body, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century more definitively sourced consciousness in the nervous system and its distributed terminals on the surface of the body. Surface becomes so particularly interesting in this period partly because of this relocation of self, but skin as a tissue comes in for special focus as well with the rise of dermatology and new techniques of microscopy. As the self as individual (as opposed to representing a social position or family identity) comes to be central to the period’s economics, politics and literature, the surface-self, so available to the gaze, becomes the principal puzzle for the emergent understanding of psychology that underpins the period’s political and aesthetic theories. My project traces the origins and progress of this discussion across two central discursive fields: physiology (which is also philosophy and psychology) and literature (with excursions into related domains of aesthetics). It traces a broad attempt in the period to integrate the new materialist focus on the individual body into a longer narrative, often an idealist one of transpersonal, historical development framed as being at odds with that materialist focus. The French revolution for those who followed marked both the decisive high point of materialist physiology and a breaking point that demanded an accounting for the logic of historical development which would integrate that catastrophic event into an acceptable narrative of human development. The long arc of the debate that followed focused on the body as the site of human exceptionalism or continuity with the animal kingdom, and its surface as a site of subjectivity whose legibility was necessary to social cohesion, but dangerously liable to misreading.

Pamela K. Gilbert is Albert Brick Professor in the Department of English at the University of Florida. She has published widely in the areas of Victorian literature, cultural studies, and the history of medicine. Her books include Disease, Desire and the Body in Victorian Women’s Popular Novels, (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Mapping the Victorian Social Body (SUNY Press, 2004), The Citizen’s Body (Ohio State University Press, 2007), and Cholera and Nation (SUNY Press, 2008). She has edited a collection entitled Imagined Londons (SUNY Press, 2002) and co-edited Beyond Sensation: Mary Elizabeth Braddon in Context (SUNY Press, 1999, with Marlene Tromp and Aeron Haynie). She is the editor of the Companion to Sensation Fiction (Blackwell, 2011), co-associate editor of the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature (2015), and has edited a teaching and scholarly edition of Rhoda Broughton’s novel Cometh Up as a Flower (Broadview Press, 2010). Currently, she is series editor of SUNY’s book series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century. Professor Gilbert’s research interests include gender, the Victorian novel, the body, Victorian cultural and medical history, and medical humanities. She chaired the Department of English at UF 2007–2011.

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