Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dino Franco Felluga

Committee Chair

Dino Franco Felluga

Committee Member 1

Manushag Powell

Committee Member 2

Emily Allen

Committee Member 3

Ruth Livesey


This dissertation argues that a new paradigm of selfhood emerged in nineteenth-century British literature, one that recognized the individual will and environmental influence not as antithetical but as dialectical forces in the formation of the self. The concept of an externally negotiated subject challenges both the inward and socially determined conceptions of self that have dominated the relevant criticism. Informed by empiricist, associationist, and evolutionary theories of the mind, the portrayals of subject-formation in this study highlight the radical changes occurring in the human environment in nineteenth-century, which catalyzed the conception of a malleable yet self-forming subject. Along with the increased variability of the modern environment, the urban sphere afforded an array of cultural artifacts and spatial tools by which human subjects could shape their cognitive tendencies and affective states of being. With an emphasis on human adaptability and agency, nineteenth-century literature espouses the paradigm of environmental self-fashioning and develops a form of psychological realism predicated less on depictions of interiority than on increasingly sophisticated portrayals of mental and behavioral engagement with external conditions.