Elizabeth Helsinger, Emeritus

John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service, Department of English, Department of Art History, Department of Visual Arts

I have long been fascinated with the interplay between literature and the visual and material arts. My early work focused on art and social criticism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Ruskin, Hazlitt, Baudelaire, Pater): on the aesthetic or social assumptions that writers on the arts helped to formulate and the art that shaped their and their readers' sensibilities. Reading became a central term, as I studied how these critics borrow from and in turn shape techniques of looking and of more literary reading and interpretation. I've also worked extensively on landscape as an especially interesting aspect of the shared literary and visual culture of the first half of the nineteenth century - and as the site of competing, often highly politicized constructions of Englishness.

My recent research and writing has focused on the Pre-Raphaelite poet-artists, William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as a way of reconsidering questions of history, poetics, and the material cultures of later nineteenth-century Britain. Current projects include work on Victorian aesthetics; Swinburne's poetics and politics; and gothic, fantasy, and uncanny fictions of art, visuality, and history. My teaching, however, ranges more widely across genres and periods. I take for domain of inquiry the long nineteenth century, from c. 1770 to 1910. Victorian poetry, fiction, and non-fiction prose and Victorian painting, illustrated books, and other arts of design are central topics, but often starting in the late eighteenth century or reaching into the early twentieth. I also teach courses on the social history and literary production of 19th century women; on the relations between historiography and historical (and realist) fiction; on the problems of national representation in the early and mid-Victorian years; on image-text relations both more generally and with specific reference to particular topics: the Pre-Raphaelites; landscape; or the mutually implicated developments of museums and exhibitions and of book authorship, design, and publication.

Selected Publications