Right now, I’m working on finishing up coursework while thinking about coming up with orals lists and doing some research and brainstorming on a possible dissertation project. For this, I’m approaching Victorian lit (primary texts still to be decided) from three perspectives:

  1. China and world history–in particular, revisionist work started by Roy Bin Wong, Andre Gunder Frank, and Kenneth Pomeranz arguing that until 1800, China and Western Europe, in economic terms, were at similar levels of development, and that the “great divergence” only happened in the nineteenth century.
  2. Thing theory–in particular, “Freedgoodian readings” of the forgotten social histories embedded in fictional things such as mahogany furniture and calico curtains.
  3. Temporality–in particular, an investigation of Victorian “chronopolitical” constructions of China which “denied coevalness” (the terms of Johannes Fabian) by maintaining that China had reached a high degree of civilization but remained stuck in temporal stasis.

So, I’m looking at relations between China and Britain in the mid-nineteenth century (when the Opium Wars were fought) through the medium of material culture.