Visiting Fellow at the Dahlem Humanities Center
September 2017 – March 2018
Stealing from the Story: Forms of Narrative Evasion in the Age of the Novel
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, I examine 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. I argue 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.
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 an affiliated fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry.