Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

English and American Literature


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Miriam Bailin


This dissertation explores the tensions between an empirical epistemology and an intuitive method of knowing the world as depicted in popular Victorian novels. These narratives attempt to assimilate alternate modes of understanding; however, the uneasiness of the relationship between empiricism and intuition speaks to larger cultural tensions about the possibility of reconciling fact and feeling in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. I argue that intuitive and imaginative modes of cognition are continually privileged in novels that explicitly claim to adhere to empirical forms of knowledge. As I examine the work of Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Wilkie Collins, and George Eliot, my project traces what I suggest is a particularly Victorian desire to empirically account for the material facts of the world and a simultaneous reluctance to abandon a sense of moral certainty that can be maintained only within the realm of instinct and intuition.


Permanent URL: