Cogut Institute for the Humanities

Christina Gilligan

2021–22 Graduate Fellow, Ph.D. Candidate in English
Pembroke Hall 006
Project "Readerly Identification in the Realist Novel from Austen to Hardy"
Last updated August 9, 2022, based on June 2021 biographical sketch


At the time of her fellowship, Christina Gilligan was a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English. Her dissertation explores readerly identification as a key site of anxiety and experimentation for novelists of 19th-century Britain. While critics have long associated the Victorian novel with an uncritical encouragement of identification, this project contends that the identificatory engagements of Britain’s realist authors were marked by ambivalence and instability. Indeed, her dissertation argues that the questions it poses about the pleasures, limits, and power of identification, as well as the suitability of identification for various aesthetic, ethical, and political projects, were also open questions for these authors — questions with which they attempted to grapple through formal experimentation and adjustments in their novelistic projects. This project seeks to track strategies of identification, attending both to the ways in which structures of narration and character figure or resist identificatory pull and to the ways in which these novelistic forms collide with social forms, including race, gender, and class. In so attending, it seeks to determine the extent to which the projects of 19th-century British novels were bodied forth through identification, as well as the risks and opportunities of a reliance on identificatory strategies, which tend to emphasize similarity over difference.