Dr Briony Wickes
- Lecturer in English Literature (Victorian Studies) (English Literature)
- Victorian literature and culture
- Critical animal studies
- Histories of colonialism
- Posthumanism and theories of 'the nonhuman'
- Literature and ecology
- Migration, emigration, and settlement
- Critical and cultural theory
I am a Lecturer in English Literature (Victorian Studies) in the School of Critical Studies. Before coming to Glasgow in 2019, I taught at King's College London, where I also received my PhD in English Literature, and completed BA and MA degrees in English Literature with Victorian Studies at the University of Exeter.
My primary research and teaching interests are in nineteenth-century literature and culture, and arise at the intersection of several critical discourses, including the environmental humanities, settler colonial studies, animal studies, affect theory, and contemporary posthumanism. In particular, I am interested in the cultural production of ‘the nonhuman’ as a category in the Victorian era. My work seeks to explore the ways in which human-nonhuman borders are policed, crossed, dissolved, and reinscribed in literary texts, and to illuminate the ongoing entanglements of nonhuman life with conceptions of race, labour, and care.
I am currently working on my first monograph: a study of the significance of literary animals in Anglo settler colonial cultures. Reading texts by Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Olive Schreiner, amongst others, the book makes the case for the representation of the human-nonhuman divide, reflected in selected nineteenth-century texts, as an ideological lynch-pin for settler colonialism. Examining the historical technologies and ecologies of sheep farming, the fur trade, whaling, and the feather industry, I argue that literary representations of animals in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa were foundational to the tactics and strategies of white settlement, providing a conceptual (as well as an economic) means of displacing indigenous communities from the land via the interactive imaginaries of race and species.
Recently I have been involved in two other projects. I have been part of an international research network that explored opium as a global commodity in the nineteenth century. In this we considered opium as an agent of sensory pleasure and pain that shapes individual corporeal and psychological experience, but also a player in the proceedings of British colonial expansion, a constituent in the construction of the ideology of ‘free trade’, an item of commodity culture, and a medium of both colonial oppression and resistance. I am editing (with Josephine McDonagh) a special issue of Literature and History on ‘Writing Opium and the Opium Wars’ which explores opium in the context of transformations in commodity production, ‘free trade’, and militarisation that affected transnational contact worldwide.
My next research project draws together key emerging areas in literary studies to address the links between literary representation, caregiving and service work, and human-nonhuman relations. The project will aim to uncover and explore a history of nonhuman carers (including animals, plants, machines, and automata) in the literature and science of the nineteenth century. Reading a range of literary texts – from the realist novels of Dickens and George Eliot, to the scientific studies of Charles Babbage and Charles Darwin, to the science fiction of Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells - it considers the ways in which ideas about the nature and practices of care have been shaped by nonhuman imaginings and asks to what extent can Victorian writing about nonhuman care be deemed 'posthumanist'.
I would be especially interested to hear from students wanting to work on topics relating to nineteenth-century literature and culture, literature and ecology, histories of colonialism and/or migration, and literary theory (including, but not restricted to, projects that engage with animal studies, biopolitics, ecocriticism, and/or posthumanism).
- Realism and Fantasy in Victorian Literature
- Living Memory: Looking Backwards in the Mid-Victorian Novel
- Victorian 1: Writing the Times
- Literature 1830-1914
- English Literature 1B: The Novel and Narratology
I am the current Assistant Membership Secretary of the British Association for Victorian Studies.