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Amelia Hall is a PhD candidate specializing in Romantic and Victorian British literature. Her dissertation, “Epigraphic Encounters and the Origins of the British Novel,” uncovers the crucial role that chapter epigraphs played in the evolution of the English novel’s form and develops a new theory for reading this structurally significant paratext. Drawing our attention to epigraphs’ profoundly expressive non-semantic qualities, including size, attribution, aggregation, optionality, and hierarchical organization, “Epigraphic Encounters” argues that writers of the long nineteenth century harnessed these elements in order to create meaning and negotiate generic transformations—first from poetry to the novel, and then from one novel genre to another. Case studies of Ann Radcliffe, Walter Scott, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot demonstrate how chapter epigraphs facilitated the emergence of gothic, historical, and realist novels by making literary history an indelible part of their structural framework. Her conclusion examines the influence of these texts on the twentieth-century writer John Fowles, and the role his novels played in characterizing chapter epigraphs as a “quintessentially” Victorian phenomenon. Though often regarded as inconsequential textual curiosities, epigraphs in fact mediated some of nineteenth-century British fiction’s most significant generic developments.
An article based on this dissertation’s research, “Epic-graphic Proportions in George Eliot’s Middlemarch,” is forthcoming in SEL Studies in English Literature. Amelia has published additional essays exploring new methods of teaching writing in WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship, and on the relationship between religion and leprosy in the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa.
With the support of the Cornell English department’s Harry Falkenau Fellowship, Amelia developed an undergraduate seminar framing her dissertation project for undergraduates titled “Collecting Your Thoughts in Nineteenth Century Britain.” Amelia has also taught “Medical Monsters” and “Word and Image,” and served as a co-facilitator of “Teaching Writing,” a course for new graduate instructors.
- 18th and 19th century British literature
- History and Theory of the Novel
- Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies
- Literature and Science