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Skidmore College
English Department

Ruth McAdamsRuth M. McAdams

Visiting Assistant Professor

B.A., summa cum laude, University of Pennsylvania
M.Phil., University of Edinburgh
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Office: Palamountain 331
Phone: (518) 580-5174

Curriculum Vitae

Teaching and Research Interests:

  • Nineteenth-Century British literature
  • Historical fiction in a global context
  • Theory of the novel
  • Life-writing
  • Writing Composition

Courses Taught:

  • EN 105: Writing Gender
  • EN 105: Work!
  • EN 110: Introduction to Literary Studies
  • EN 211: Fiction
  • EN 362: Objects and Materials and/in 18th-Century Literature
  • EN 364: The Historical Novel in a Global Context
  • EN 371: Dostoevsky (independent study)


I am currently completing a book, The Unfashionable Age: Progress’s Others in Victorian Literature, which debunks the widespread scholarly misconception that the Victorian period was the heyday of progressive, positivist history. I argue that just as Victorian historical writers were trying, and often failing, to theorize progress and to establish methods for revealing it, literary writers were exploiting fault lines in their work, cannily using the tools of historicism to undermine and critique progress from within. In readings of fiction and life-writing by Benjamin Disraeli, William Makepeace Thackeray, Harriet Martineau, Thomas Hardy, and others, I find a flourishing of alternative conceptions of time theorized against the emerging dominance of a progress narrative. These non-linear visions emphasize temporal forms that are progress’s others: regress, cyclicality, stasis, and rupture. I focus on this unusual grouping of Victorian writers because they illustrate diverging responses to the idea of continuous improvement—with Disraeli and Martineau struggling to narrate it, and Thackeray and Hardy struggling to reject it. Analyzing a variety of Victorian detractors from progress, many of them conservative or reactionary, the book draws connections between a nineteenth-century ambivalence about liberal progress and the temporal forms that shape our own post-liberal age. 

My work in progress considers the Regency as a historiographical concept and the absent presence of religious difference in Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge. Future projects will consider the historical novel in a global context and the relationship between the Victorian industrial novel and labor activism.

Selected Publications


Reviews and Shorter Pieces