James Gillray, "New Morality," The Anti-Jacobin Review, 1797

Recently Completed Projects

Re-Viewing Thomas Holcroft, 1745-1809: Essays on His Life and Works
Eds. Miriam L. Wallace and A. A. Markley

This collection reassesses Thomas Holcroft’s contributions to a remarkable range of literary genres—drama, poetry, fiction, autobiography, political philosophy— and to the project of revolutionary reform in the late eighteenth century. Aiming to revive scholarly attention to this important transitional figure, this edition collects in one site the best current critical scholarship engaging Holcroft’s varied oeuvre and provides contextual material such as an updated and corrected chronology and key images that  enables more concerted and focused future scholarship or teaching.

The work of Thomas Holcroft is not merely important because he himself was such a remarkable figure, but because he was a hinge-figure himself between laboring Britons and the dissenting intelligentsia, between Enlightenment traditions and developing “Romantic” concerns, between the world of self-made hack writers and that of established critics. Taken together, the essays in this collection situate Holcroft’s self-fashioning as a member of London’s literati, his central role among the London radical reformers and intelligentsia, and his theatrical innovations within ongoing explorations of the late eighteenth-century public sphere of belles lettres and debate.

Contributors include:
Anne Chandler, Philip Cox, Hilary Fezzey, Antonia Forster, Diane Long Hoeveler, Rick Incorvati, A. A. Markley, Ian Newman, Jonathan Sachs, W. M. Verhoeven, Miriam L. Wallace, and Jeremy Webster. Essays range from considerations of Holcroft's poetry, drama, novels, translations, memoirs, and literary reviews to the art of theatrical illustration as exemplified by illustrations from his late play, A Tale of Mystery, and even a consideration of his "proto-Marxism."

available for ordering now

Current Projects

Keynote for Vari(A)bilities III Conference: London, June 2017

The Spector of the Singular Body in Frankenstein (1818):

Difference and Constructed Community

 “Oh my body; make of me a man who questions”

-- Frantz Fanon



Bodily impairment reminds us constantly that we are at heart, embodied—not merely a mind imprisoned in a body, but a subject constructed not only in language, but in flesh. Social activist and political approaches to minimizing the impact of impairment on the real lives of persons have been widely successful in ameliorating for instance, encounters with the built landscape and institutional access. But what gets left behind in these approaches? Sometimes the upbeat call to understand disability only in terms of inhospitable physical structures or technological or prosthetic mediation evades the ways that the body itself and impairment too ebb and flow, treating disability as so “constructed” that we can simply construct our way out of it. As effective as it has been, the very useful unifying term “disability community” or even “crip community” has a way of eliding the precise specificity and the loneliness of one’s individual embodied experience and interface with the material and social world.

I turn to Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein; or the New Prometheus to think about the meditation that novel makes on an extreme singularity and to Object Relations theories for its focus on self-in-relation. Although there have been innumerable responses to Frankenstein, (literary, theatrical, filmic, academic), I want to think through a disabilities approach about the novel’s extensive meditation on loneliness, singularity, and isolation, on being the only one of one’s kind. How is the problem of unique embodiment (unique to a particular body; unique to a particular moment in a particular day) in relation or tension with efforts to built communities based on particular collections of ability or impairment? Does turning back to the old term “differences” offer a way to reconsider a dominant social constructionist approach that tends to elide bodily specificity and variation?

Speaking Subjects and Criminal Conversations

This project explores the intersection of variant discursive fields, particularly oratory and public political speech, and  fictive and legal discourses. I'm interested in metaphors of translation, ventriloquism, and linguistic "passing" as connected to the advent of a public political realm that aimed to reform political or legal institutions.
Sites where spoken or written language are construed as improper, illicit, or even criminal in the later eighteenth century are of particular interest: trials for "constructive" treason or "criminal conversation" and other legal fictions, suspicion towards silence where speech is compelled or its truthfulness a matter of oaths, translations into English and theoretical statements on the function of translation, restrictively gendered or raced rhetoric (i.e. attacks on some kinds of speech as "effeminate," representations of dialect that authorizes or deauthorizes the speaker), women's engagement with legal speech in fiction, canting speech and canting dictionaries, grammars or oratory instruction directed to those excluded from certain kinds of speaking or writing, representations and documentation of societies for debate and spouting societies. I'm also working on problems of embodied speech, from  period elocution handbooks and John Thelwall's writing on speech impediments, to satirical prints of speakers both institutionally authorized and those depicted as illicit. Finally, I'm interested in the way that rethinking speech  by attending also to the corporeal aspects of the speaking subject places the emphasis not solely on language as the actor, but on the speaking body as a site where culture is made.