Associate Professor of English
Although I specialize in Victorian literature, my scholarly interests are interdisciplinary in nature; they cross borders between different academic fields. Thus you might find me discussing the use of chaos theory in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia with my students or assigning excerpts from etiquette books and medical manuals along with a novel by Charlotte Brontë. Students in my classes can expect to learn about, not simply the literary works we read, but also the ways in which those works fit into a matrix of cultural practices and ideologies.
My research also transgresses disciplinary boundaries; my work stands at the intersection of literature and medical history. In particular, I am interested in the representation of human bodies with proportions, features or functions that fall outside of socially constructed norms about what bodies should be and do. My work examines the role of literature in the construction and maintenance of these societal norms and asks why certain bodies have historically been excluded and stigmatized.
My current book project, Conspicuous Consumptions: Fat in Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Culture, traces some of the roots of twenty-first-century attitudes toward fatness. I have published essays and presented papers on Wilkie Collins, Fitz-James O’Brien, Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Charlotte Brontë as well as on such cultural phenomena as a Victorian diet craze (very similar to the Atkins diet), nineteenth-century freak shows and the current debate over fat passengers on airplanes. I am on the editorial board of the journal Fat Studies. I’ve also written a poem entitled, “The Hymn of a Fat Woman,” which was selected for the Library of Congress’s Poetry 180 Project.
Areas of specialization: Nineteenth-century British literature, the Victorian novel, neo-Victorian literature (contemporary literature about the Victorian period) and the body in literature (especially fat and disability studies).
- Graduate: Victorian Studies, Contemporary British Literature, Studies in the Novel, Cultural Studies, Seminar in Theory (Disability Studies), Literary Theory 2, Research Methods
- Undergraduate: Nineteenth-Century British Literature, Contemporary British Literature, British Literature 1780-Present, Senior Seminar (Disability Studies), Senior Seminar (Gothic), World Literature, Reading and Writing about Literature
Joyce Huff's curriculum vitae