Meditations upon the Dissertation Title

February 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm (Uncategorized)

So here’s the upshot of the matter: I want a new dissertation title, and I want it by tomorrow!  There’s nothing seriously wrong with my current title, “The Specter of the Author: Corporeality, Haunting, and the Construction of Authorship in Nineteenth-Century England.”  When I first arrived at that title, I recall being particularly pleased with the faint evocations of Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” (entirely appropriate to the kind of patterns I’m identifying), and I was also happy with the way that my title suggested the overlap between materialism and haunting (also very appropriate to my project).

I’m still talking about all those issues.

BUT, I’m also doing something more specific.  When I began this project, I anticipated that I’d mostly be talking about literary representations of authorship, with some periodical articles and maybe the odd scientific treatise thrown in (I’m talking about bodies, after all).  As it turns out, though, every single one of my chapters is fairly heavily invested in biography and memorialization; the Dickens chapter, for example, makes brief mention of the novels for purposes of illustration and clarification, but chiefly concentrates on Forster’s biography, Kean’s Charles Dickens as a Reader, and various and sundry periodical articles.

Oh, and then there’s necromancy.  If you’ve been following this blog, you might notice that the idea of raising the dead has come up several times (in a purely literary sense, of course!).  And that’s what’s really being making me bounce up and down with glee recently.

So where does that leave me?  A title’s a very symbolic act, sure, but it’s also, as my friend Dan mentioned the other day, a very useful way of setting limits on your dissertation, and mine keeps trying to take over the Victorian world. I want to get this right!

I like the phrase “Necromantic Acts of Biography.” In fact, I like it a lot. Although some of these biographical acts are either auto-biographical or literary.

I kind of like the phrase “Picturing the Dead,” too, but that’s not quite right; some of the authors were actually still living when these “necromantic” biographical works were written. Mostly not, but still.  And “Picturing the Author” just doesn’t have the right kind of a gothic feel. 🙂

Hmmmm. “Authoring Bodies: Necromatic Acts of Literary Biography in the Nineteenth-Century Press?”  Maybe.

If you’ve made it this far through my rambles, congratulations!!! And hey, thoughts are always more than welcome!


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