Research

Below you will find information about my ongoing research projects and activities.

ARSENICAL LITERATURE: POISON, SCIENCE, AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF VICTORIAN CRIME FICTION

Brief Abstract:

Arsenical Literature rethinks how nineteenth-century crime fiction responds to cultural perceptions about the progress of Victorian science.  To this end, my project examines how authors use the poisoner—a figure who adapted empiric methodology for murderous ends—in order to explore criminal applications of cutting-edge science.  Utilizing a variety of rare and underrepresented texts gathered from the archives of the British Library, my analysis focuses on critically ignored works from authors such as George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and Ellen Wood.  This approach allows my project to reassess these authors’ relationship to science as well as their contributions to generic innovations in crime fiction.  Contemporary criticism of Victorian crime literature has overwhelmingly focused on the rise of the detective; by shifting the critical focus onto criminal figures, such as the poisoner, Arsenical Literature provides an alternate history of the development of nineteenth-century crime fiction.  For example, my first chapter demonstrates how deeply the male-dominated genre of Newgate fiction was indebted to an earlier tradition of women’s writing by showing how Edward Bulwer’s Lucretia revises Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s Silver-fork novel Ethel Churchill.  Employing similar poisoning figures, these two works engage in a critical dialogue about women, scientific education, and chemistry.  Subsequent chapters continue to explore the intersections of science and chemical crimes at moments of generic transformation, revealing that crime fiction is more willing to challenge scientific authority than previously thought.

Publications associated with the project:

Price, Cheryl Blake. “Poison, Sensation, and Secrets in The Lifted Veil.”  The Victorian Review. 35.1 (2010).

Conference presentations associated with this project:

“Hypnotic Poison: Forensic Science and Unconscious Crime in Charles Warren Adams’s The Notting Hill Mystery.”  North American Victorian Studies Association Conference (NAVSA), Madison, WI, 2012 (upcoming).  A link to the conference website can be found here or for an abstract of this presentation, click here

“Making the Invisible Visible:  Imagining the Victorian Female Poisoner.” North American Victorian Studies Association Conference (NAVSA), New Haven, CT, 2008.

“Poison, Sensation, and Secrets in The Lifted Veil.” Literature and Pathology Conference, Davis, CA, 2008.

Resources and Links:

For a more extensive abstract of Arsenical Literature click here

For bibliographic resources on Victorian poison click here

For an image gallery of Victorian poisoners click here

MAN-EATERS: ECOPHOBIA AND THE EMPIRE IN FIN-DE-SIECLE FICTION

Brief abstract:

My second monograph project is entitled Man-Eaters: Ecophobia and the Empire in Fin-de-Siecle Fiction.  This work focuses on literary representations of colonial “man-eaters”—from jungle cats to vampiric orchids— in order to explore how the British imagined colonial environments and dealt with the impact of imperial conquest on native lands.  Utilizing an ecocritical lens derived from the work of Simon Estok and Tom Hillard, Man-Eaters demonstrates that Victorian writings often display ecophobia  (a fear or hatred of the natural world) towards colonial environments that radically differed from bucolic representations of the English countryside.  Yet, even when displaying a negative view of colonial lands, many texts featuring man-eating creatures nonetheless promote a protective or conservationalist stance towards unique native environments.  In these works, the “man-eaters” are not the only gothic monsters; instead, the machinery of the empire is also situated as a type of gothic monstrosity that destroys the delicate balance of colonial environments.  Indeed, these works share such similar concerns about the effect of imperial conquest on colonial lands that they can collectively be grouped as a sub-genre of late-Victorian Gothic fiction.

Publications associated with this project:

Price, Cheryl Blake.  “Vegetable Monsters: Man-Eating Trees in Fin-de-Siècle Fiction.”  Victorian Literature and Culture.  41.2 (2013): forthcoming.

Presentations associated with this project:

“Vegetable Monsters: Man-Eating Plants in Fin de Siècle Fiction.” Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) Conference, Bloomington, IN, 2011.

Resources and links:

For bibliographic resources on Victorian “man-eaters” click here

For an image gallery of Victorian “man-eaters” click here

OTHER RESEARCH ACTIVITIES

Publications:

Price, Cheryl Blake.  “Imagined Criminalities: The New Woman and Crime.” Review of Framed: The New Woman Criminal in British Fiction at the Fin de Siècle, by Elizabeth Carolyn Miller. Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. 6.3 (2010).  A link to this work can be found here

Presentations:

“Immunization, Child Abuse, and Female Disfigurement in Bleak House.” Picturing Women’s Health Conference, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 2011.  The conference website can be found here

“Doctors, Ethics, and Children in Three Short Stories and a Picture Book.” National Endowment for the Humanities Conference on Science and the Humanities, Asheville, NC, 2007.