Susan David Bernstein
- Professor, English, Gender and Women's Studies, Center for Jewish Studies / Director of Graduate Studies (English)
- 7195F Helen C. White Hall (Director of Graduate Studies)
- Alternate Office
- 6115 Helen C. White Hall
- (608) 265-3393 (DGS)
- Alternate Phone
- (608) 263-3804
- E-mail Susan David Bernstein
- Victorian literary studies, gender studies, print culture and the history of the book
Degrees and Institutions
PhD, Brandeis University, 1990
- Roomscape: Women Writers in the British Museum from George Eliot to Virginia Woolf. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013. 248 pp.
- Victorian Vulgarity: Taste in Verbal and Visual Culture. Co-editor with Elsie B. Michie. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009. 259 pp.
- Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
- Amy Levy, Reuben Sachs. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2006. 256 pp.
- Amy Levy, The Romance of a Shop. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2006. 278 pp.
- “Reading Room Geographies of Late-Victorian London: The British Museum, London and the People’s Palace, Mile End,” 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 13 (2011), special issue on “Revisiting the Victorian East End,” edited by Emma Francis and Nadia Valman.
- “Transatlantic Sympathies and Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing, ” The Cambridge History of American Women’s Writing. Ed. Dale M. Bauer. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 256-72.
- “Amy Levy’s Recycling Poetics,” Nineteenth-Century Studies 24 (2010): 101-22.
- “Sensation and Science.” The Blackwell Companion to Sensation. Ed. Pamela Gilbert. Oxford: Blackwell, 2011. 466-80.
- “'Mongrel Words’: Amy Levy and Jewish Vulgarity,” Amy Levy: Critical Essays. Eds. Nadia Valman and Naomi Hetherington. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010. 135-56.
- “Transparent.” Trans. Special Issue of Women’s Studies Quarterly. 36.3-4 (Fall/Winter 2008). 271-78.
- “Radical Readers at the British Museum: Eleanor Marx, Clementina Black, Amy Levy.” Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. 3.2 (Summer 2007).
During the past decade my interests have ranged from Victorian literature and culture, literature and science, gender studies, Jewish studies, “posthuman” studies (animals, things, environment), history of the book and print culture, and, most recently, digital humanities. I am currently finishing a book titled Roomscape: Women Readers at the British Museum from George Eliot to Virginia Woolf about the significance of London’s national library and its reading room as a networking space for women seeking careers as writers and readers; the book also develops a theory of exteriority. I have embarked on the “Victorian Serialization Experiment” where we are investigating Victorian novels through a digital analysis of data organized by serial installments. The project is designed to visualize seriality, and its relationship to other spatial components of novels including chapters and volumes. Through this research I am affiliated with the Humanities Research Bridge. I am book review editor for Nineteenth- Century Gender Studies, and co-organizer of the North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA) Conference, to be held in Madison in September 2012.
Victorian Things and Theories
Middle Modern London
Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, and Culture (co-taught with Prof. Lynn Nyhart, Department of the History of Science)
Victorian Marriage Plots
Edinburgh University Press
Susan David Bernstein argues not only that the British Museum Reading Room facilitated various practices of women's literary traditions, she also questions the overdetermined value of privacy and autonomy in constructions of female authorship, a principle generated from Woolf's feminist manifesto. Rather than viewing reading and writing as solitary, individual events, Roomscape considers the meaning of exteriority and the public and social and gendered dimensions of literary production.
Originally describing language use and class position, vulgarity became, over the course of the nineteenth century, a word with wider social implications. Variously associated with behavior, the possession of wealth, different races, sexuality and gender, the objects displayed in homes, and ways of thinking and feeling, vulgarity suggested matters of style, taste, and comportment.
The Romance of a Shop is an early "New Woman" novel about four sisters, who decide to establish their own photography business and their own home in central London after their father's death and their loss of financial security. In this novel, Amy Levy examines both the opportunities and dangers of urban experience for women in the late nineteenth century who pursue independent work rather than follow the established paths of domestic service.
Reuben Sachs, the story of an extended Anglo-Jewish family in London, focuses on the relationship between two cousins, Reuben Sachs and Judith Quixano, and the tensions between their Jewish identities and English society. The novel’s complex and sometimes satirical portrait of Anglo-Jewish life, which was in part a reaction to George Eliot’s romanticized view of Victorian Jews in Daniel Deronda, caused controversy on its first publication.
University of North Carolina Press
Susan Bernstein examines the gendered power relationships embedded in confessional literature of the Victorian period. Exploring this dynamic in Charlotte Bronta's Villette, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, George Eliot'sDaniel Deronda, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, she argues that although women's disclosures to male confessors repeatedly depict wrongdoing committed against them, they themselves are viewed as the transgressors.