Identifier

etd-04192010-182506

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

“Invisible Links, Abject Chains: Habit in Nineteenth-Century British Literature” argues that habit is a central characteristic of both Romantic and Victorian theories of imagination, originality, literary production, and subjectivity. Certainly, nineteenth-century culture often treats habit with suspicion, invoking language of bondage, slavery, and dangerous unconscious imitation to apply to everything from reading habits to opium use. However, by tracing a discourse of habit from association theory to pragmatism and drawing from philosophical, educational, medical, and psychological texts, I foreground how Romantic and Victorian texts redeploy habit as a paradoxical form of imaginative agency. In nineteenth-century culture, habit makes possible what seems to be its opposite—invention, authenticity, and imagination. The variety of activities, attitudes, and behaviors characterized as “habitual” in nineteenth-century discourse intervenes in how we understand issues such as Romantic genius, the mechanics of creativity and memory, automation and spectatorship, and addiction. Reading key instances in Wordsworth, Baillie, Coleridge, De Quincey, Lamb, Darwin, William James, and Collins, I show how alternative discourses of habit challenge our understandings of the (often self-fashioned) myths inscribed within Romantic and Victorian subjectivity.

Date

2010

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Michie, Elsie B.

Share

COinS