Title page for ETD etd-04192010-182506


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Mangiavellano, Daniel R.
Author's Email Address dmangi1@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-04192010-182506
Title Invisible Links, Abject Chains: Habit in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Michie, Elsie B. Committee Co-Chair
Novak, Daniel A. Committee Co-Chair
Hamm, Robert Committee Member
Weltman, Sharon Aronofsky Committee Member
Ross, Steven Dean's Representative
Keywords
  • Victorian literature
  • Romantic literature
  • creativity
  • addiction
  • habit in literature
Date of Defense 2010-04-16
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
“Invisible Links, Abject Chains: Habit in Nineteenth-Century British Literature” argues that habit is a central characteristic of both Romantic and Victorian theories of imagination, originality, literary production, and subjectivity. Certainly, nineteenth-century culture often treats habit with suspicion, invoking language of bondage, slavery, and dangerous unconscious imitation to apply to everything from reading habits to opium use. However, by tracing a discourse of habit from association theory to pragmatism and drawing from philosophical, educational, medical, and psychological texts, I foreground how Romantic and Victorian texts redeploy habit as a paradoxical form of imaginative agency. In nineteenth-century culture, habit makes possible what seems to be its opposite—invention, authenticity, and imagination. The variety of activities, attitudes, and behaviors characterized as “habitual” in nineteenth-century discourse intervenes in how we understand issues such as Romantic genius, the mechanics of creativity and memory, automation and spectatorship, and addiction. Reading key instances in Wordsworth, Baillie, Coleridge, De Quincey, Lamb, Darwin, William James, and Collins, I show how alternative discourses of habit challenge our understandings of the (often self-fashioned) myths inscribed within Romantic and Victorian subjectivity.
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