Ruth M. McAdams
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
Teaching and Research Interests:
- Nineteenth-Century British literature
- Historical fiction in a global context
- Theory of the novel
- Writing Composition
- EN 105/105H: 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)
- GN 371A: The English Major and Beyond
I am currently finishing 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 envision and represent progress, literary writers were exploiting fault lines in their work, cannily using the tools of historicism to undermine and critique progress from within. The book began from an attempt to find for myself a connection between a progressive historiography and nineteenth-century literature that is a foundational assumption of the field. What I found instead was a robust set of detractors from positivist progress in Victorian literature.
These detractors point to temporal forms that are what I call the others of progress: regress, cyclicality, stasis, and rupture. In readings of fiction and life-writing by Benjamin Disraeli, William Makepeace Thackeray, Harriet Martineau, Thomas Hardy, and others, I find numerous alternative conceptions of time theorized against the emerging dominance of a progress narrative. This unusual grouping of Victorian writers illustrates 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 these varied approaches, many of them conservative or reactionary, the book explores the shapes of time theorized by Victorian literature. In so doing, it draws connections between a nineteenth-century ambivalence about liberal progress and the temporal forms that shape our own post-liberal age.
Additional 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.
- “Progress.” Victorian Literature and Culture, Keywords Issue, vol. 46, no. 3/4, Fall/Winter 2018, pp. 809-812. doi.org/10.1017/S1060150318000906.
- “Clothing Napoleonic History in Vanity Fair and The Trumpet-Major.” Victorian Studies, vol. 60, no. 1, Fall 2017, pp. 9-28. doi: 10.2979/victorianstudies.60.1.01.
- “‘Ladies Scorn Dates!’: Women Life Writers Look Back on the Regency.”Nineteenth-Century Contexts, vol. 40, no.1, Fall 2017, pp. 33-50. doi: 10.1080/08905495.2017.1393735.
- With Theresa Tinkle, Daphna Atias, and Cordelia Zukerman. “Teaching Close Reading Skills in a Large Lecture Course.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, vol. 13, no. 3, Fall 2013, pp. 505-535. doi: 10.1215/15314200-2266432.
Reviews and Shorter Pieces
- “Review of John Murray’s Quarterly Review: Letters, 1807-1843, edited by Jonathan Cutmore.” Victorian Periodicals Review, vol. 53, no. 1, Spring 2020, pp. 170-172. doi: 10.1353/vpr.2020.0001.
- “Peter N. Miller, History and Its Objects: Antiquarianism and Material Culture since 1500.” European History Quarterly, vol. 49, no. 1, January 2019, pp. 145-147. doi: 10.1177/0265691418822189v.
- “Review of Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease, by Carolyn A. Day.” Victorian Studies, vol. 61, no. 1, Fall 2018, pp. 132-134. doi: 10.2979/victorianstudies.61.1.18.
- “Review of Victorian Narratives of the Recent Past: Memory, History, Fiction, by Helen Kingstone.” Review of English Studies, vol. 69, no. 290, June 2018, pp. 594-596. doi: 10.1093/res/hgx119.
- “Review of Histories for the Many: The Victorian Family Magazine and Popular Representations of the Past, The Leisure Hour, 1852-1870, by Doris Lechner.” Victorian Periodicals Review, vol. 50, no. 4, Winter 2017, pp. 833-836. doi: 10.1353/vpr.2017.0060.
- “Review of Writing the Stage Coach Nation: Locality on the Move in Nineteenth-Century British Literature, by Ruth Livesey.” The Hazlitt Review, vol. 10, 2017, pp. 77-80. ISSN 1757-8299.
- “Review of The Historical Novel in Europe, 1650-1950, by Richard Maxwell.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 37, no. 3, 2015, pp. 272-274. doi: 10.1080/08905495.2015.1030843.
Work in Progress
- The Unfashionable Age: Progress's Others in Victorian Literature [book manuscript under review]