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British Literature and the Rise of Picture Identification

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects

1/01/07 → …

Picture identification (defined as matching an embodied face to a represented face to verify a proper name) is everywhere in global culture and yet, astonishingly, almost nowhere in the theories of identity that preoccupy so many humanities academics. This interdisciplinary study asks why and seeks to redress this inordinate and hitherto unexplicated gap by theorising picture identification and historicising intersections between its mass rise and British literature from the late eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth. It aims to shed light on how and why picture identification became the chief means of social identification worldwide and how picture identification has changed concepts of what "identity" is, setting these concepts in dialogue and debate with mainstream theories of identity in the humanities.

This research has already produced one monograph, Portraiture and British Gothic Fiction: The Rise of Picture Identification, 1764-1835 (Johns Hopkins University Press, in2012). A sequel, Victorian Fiction and the Rise of Picture Identification, 1836-1918, is underway.