Elaine Auyoung received her Ph.D. in English from Harvard University in May 2011. She is currently the inaugural Mellon Postdoctoral Associate in the English Department at Rutgers University, where she specializes in nineteenth-century literature and culture, the history and theory of the novel, and cognitive and aesthetic approaches to the arts. In Fall 2013, she will join the Department of English at the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor.
Her book manuscript, “Missing Fiction: The Feeling of Realism,” reveals how nineteenth-century novels prompt readers to feel as if vibrant, expansive fictional worlds exist beyond the printed page. From Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy, realist writers rely on, and self-consciously dramatize, the power of partial cues to suggest persons and scenes that are absent and implied. Yet the more that novel readers succumb to suggestion, the more they come into conflict with the fact that nothing in the text exists at all. Realism creates heightened instances of this cognitive dissonance, which is a major source of its aesthetic complexity.
Her second major project will recuperate Victorian accounts of aesthetic absorption in response to three categories of stimuli: nature, music, and representational art. She will explore how these accounts of spontaneous self-forgetfulness, by literary artists from George Eliot to Gerard Manley Hopkins, critics such as John Ruskin and Walter Pater, and scientists including James Sully and John Tyndall, open up new ways to understand Victorian attitudes toward aesthetic response.