Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation argues that a number of Victorian writers, including F. Max Müller (1823-1900), Augustus F. Lindley (1840-1873), George Eliot (1819-1880), and Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), used their experiences as translators to imagine new visions of pluralism, within or beyond empire, in their art and scholarship. Although we no longer characterize the Victorian period as a time of increasing religious doubt, our reconsideration of its complicated structures of belief does not fully account for the mixing of languages and faiths that occurred both domestically and across the empire throughout the century. I interrogate this limitation and argue that many writers—clergymen and laypeople alike—were priming Britain for alternatives to Christianity just as Britain seemed primed to convert the world. Drawing on a diverse archive, I show how a fractured nation of believers imagined its empire as a space for competing visions of pluralism and universalism, in turn describing a shift in the empire’s secularity. I also demonstrate that scholars and translators used literary techniques in their work just as novelists dramatized translation as a process through which believers of one faith can come to understand another—and more than understand, but to appreciate as equal sharers in a capacious human history.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

William R. McKelvy

Committee Members

Abram Van Engen, Guinn Batten, Miriam Bailin, Phyllis Weliver,

Available for download on Tuesday, August 19, 2031