My dissertation considers the relationship between form and ethics in nineteenth-century literature. Specifically, it investigates acts of "cognitive self-control": moments in literature when controlling one's thinking on the level of perception affects moral action. The dissertation is interdisciplinary in its research, pulling frrom theories of cognitive self-control in neurobiology, psychology, philosophy, and economics. I use these theories to argue that most Victorian acts of self-control aren't simply a product of repression. Rather, they are attempts to control the complexity of mental life while simultaneously responding to the ethical demands of a larger world. Perception, in this formulation, becomes a product of choice, and the decisions one makes to perceive and ignore stimuli determine one's identity and moral stature. Ultimately, tiny acts of seemingly unrelated, benign cognitive self-control play a large role in determining how characters respond to the most important, morally critical problems they encounter.
I am currently a Preceptor of Expository Writing with the Harvard College Writing Program. I hold a Ph.D. in English Literature from Harvard University, and I received my B.A. and M.A. from the University of Virginia, where I wrote theses on Victorian women at the piano and Walter Pater’s aesthetics.