Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Talia Schaffer

Committee Members

Tanya Agathocleous

Caroline Reitz

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles


Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Henry James, Victorian Novel, Space


My dissertation, “Here Time Becomes Space: The Spatiality of the Victorian Novel,” addresses the Victorian realist representation of space as the open zone of interaction where the circulation of affect among embodied subjects and the places and things in their environment challenges the individualist axis of Victorian plots. I envision this spatiality as a composite literary practice emerging from contact with eighteenth-century realism, the Gothic novel, and the radical revision of the social imagination under the Romantics. Through an analysis of major works by Charlotte Brontё, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Henry James, I trace the dialectical development of realist spatial practice and its complex interactions with successive socio-economic transformations throughout the period. What emerges is a vision of these authors as profound and still urgently important critics of the increasing abstraction of spatial relations in the industrial capitalist consumer society. It is the purpose of this dissertation to reposition these novelists, with the help of the critical tradition of Henri Lefebvre, as representatives of Victorian realism as a project not nearly as at home with the new norms of this society as typically thought, whose concrete sensibilities look neither to a reactionary dream of the past nor to a radical vision of the future but to the capacities for reclaiming embodied spatiality as a value of everyday life.