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Department of English Language and Literature


Rebecca Stern

Title: Associate Professor
Department: English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-2171
Office: HUO 506
Resources: English Language and Literature


PhD, Rice University, 1997

Areas of Specialization 

    Victorian Literature and Culture
    Cultural Studies
    Gender Studies

Recently Taught Courses 

ENGL 282     Fiction
ENGL 289     British Literature II
ENGL 412     Victorian Literature
ENGL 725     The Victorian Novel
SCHC 450G  The Marriage Plot

Professional Accolades 

    Yale Center for British Art. Visiting Scholars Fellowship. May 2010.
    Research Opportunity Program Fellowship, University of South Carolina, for 2009-2010.
    National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend. University of South Carolina Nominee. Summer 2008.
    Graduate English Association Teaching Award (with Tony Jarrells). University of South Carolina, Spring 2007.
    Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Huntington Library, April-May 2005.
    Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, February-March 2005.
    NEH Summer Stipend. Summer 2002.

Current Research Projects 

My current book project, tentatively entitled Conjugating Victorians: Essays on Time, Grammar, and Other Living Forms, theorizes the relationship between nineteenth-century sciences and the often-conflicting means by which Victorian authors, designers, and social commentators imagined and constructed their temporal present. Bringing together material and narrative representations of time in Victorian England, this book will contribute to an emerging discourse in the humanities about the relationship between the human conceptualization of time and nineteenth-century advances in science and technology.

Victorian England offers a particularly rich field for studying formal revisions of time. Technological advances and new developments in biology, geology, and natural history (among other fields), fundamentally and often conflictingly remapped both the temporal scale and representational shapes of human events. As Paul Ricouer writes, these new branches of science effected "not only a progressive extension of the scale of time beyond the barrier of six thousand years, assigned by a petrified Judeo-Christian tradition… but also an increasing differentiation of the temporal properties characteristic of each of the regions of nature open to an ever more stratified natural history." No longer a flat, linear backdrop against which human beings played out their lives, time became multiple and mobile. There was no single, solid ground against which to measure the events of human history. Time took on depth, becoming ever more plural, fluid, and uneven.

Changing Victorian ideologies of history, the present, and the future took concrete forms, I argue, in such diverse areas as architecture, interior design, painting, and literary style. I am organizing this collection of essays around the grammatical figures of present participles and gerunds, adjectives and nouns ending in "ing," which derive from verbs existing in a state of perpetual present tense. These figures, both fixed and vibrant, both stable and active, emblematize my understanding of my objects of this study. As this project has taken shape over the past two years, I have conceived of seven chapters. Conjugating deals with literal Victorian grammars of English; "Regretting" reads the unsteady grammars of mid-century novels against the burgeoning sciences of oceanography and archaeology; "Touching" considers innovations in advertising in light of new discoveries about memory and the ephemerality of sensory perception; "Telling" reads images of clocks in print media in conjunction with the architectural aesthetics of A.W.N. Pugin; and "Evolving" draws upon Victorian debates about home décor to analyze the relationship between the new temporalities of the natural sciences and the aftermath of the Design Reform movement of the 1850s and 60s. Each chapter of Conjugating Victorians draws upon archival materials to investigate temporal designations key to both cultural and aesthetic analysis, so as to provide a rough map of the categories and artifacts of Victorian presents, so as to emphasize the flexible nature of cultural forms and the significance of linguistic activity to their circulation.

Selected Publications 

    Home Economics: Domestic Fraud in Victorian Culture. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, May 2008.

    "Time Passes: An Introduction to Temporalities." Narrative. 7.3 (2009): 235-241.
    "Reading William North, or What to Do with City of the Jugglers?" Victorian Newsletter. Fall 2009.
    "Our Bear Women, Ourselves: Affiliating with Julia Pastrana." Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in the Nineteenth Century. Ed. Marlene Tromp. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2008.
    "Adulterations Detected: Food and Fraud in Christina Rossetti's 'Goblin Market.'" Nineteenth-Century Literature 57 (2003): 477-511.
    "A Use in Measured Language: Victorian Poetry and Poetic Criticism after September 11th." Victorian Poetry 41 (2003): 636-42.
    "'Personation' and 'Good Marking Ink': Sanity, Performance, and Biology in Victorian Sensation Fiction." Nineteenth Century Studies 14 (2000): 35-62.
    "Moving Parts and Speaking Parts: Situating Victorian Antitheatricality," ELH 65 (1998): 423-449.
    "Gothic Light: Vision and Visibility in the Victorian Novel," South Central Review 11:4 (1994): 26-39.

    Guest Editor, Narrative 17:3 (2009). Special issue on Temporalities, featuring essays by Wai-Chee Dimock, Mark Currie, Helena Michie, Rae Greiner, Gretchen Woertendyke, Elana Gomel, and Molly Clark Hillard.

    Review of Forgery in Nineteenth-Century Literature and CulturFictions of Finance from Dickens to Wilde by Sara Malton. (Palgrave 2009) for Victorian Studies. (Forthcoming)

Recent Presentations 

    "David Copperfield's Times." The Dickens Universe. University of California, Santa Cruz. August 2009. (Invited talk).
    "Withering: The Secret Lives of Victorian Walls." North American Victorian Studies Association. Yale University. November 2008.
    "Perpetual Present." Narrative Conference. Austin, TX. May 2008.
    "Structures of RegrePromoting Strategic Investment in the Victorian Novel." Modern Language Association Conference. Chicago, IL. December 2007.
    "Debt and Décor: Business, Men, and the Well-Appointed Home." Modern Language Association Conference. Chicago, IL. December 2007.
    "Hedging: Circumventing the Worst in Love and Money." North American Conference for British Studies. San Francisco, CA. November 2007.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.