Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



George Eliot once wrote that books provide the "raw material of moral sentiment" that readers use to improve themselves in their daily lives. While Victorians held reading in high regard, many people also felt a corresponding apprehension about the supposed deleterious effects on the morals, minds, and bodies of individual readers, effects consolidated by rising literacy rates and the establishment of free public libraries and similar institutions. My dissertation identifies the concerns about the possible dangers of reading expressed in mid-to-late nineteenth century British fiction and periodicals, and addresses two oppositional forms of reading that provoked debate: mechanical and immersive. Nineteenth-century anxieties about books and reading might seem foreign to us now, but these concerns have twenty-first century parallels that provide a new context. My research reveals how Victorian beliefs about mechanical and immersive reading have been transposed to other forms of media in the twenty-first century, including video games, films, and virtual reality. I argue that our contemporary considerations are unrecognized extensions of an older tradition of media consumption deliberations that help us to recontextualize both present debates and Victorian literary concerns.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

William R. McKelvy


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