Shannon Chamberlain


Professional Statement

My dissertation work attempts to answer the question: How did novels influence Adam Smith? Although studies of the ways that Adam Smith’s concepts of sympathy were deployed in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century novels for nation-building purposes are by this point legion, less has been done to answer the question in the other direction. I argue that the novel was the one genre that fulfilled both ends of the Smithian bargain, teaching us not just to feel more for others, but also to feel less for ourselves. This makes it the truly modern literary genre in Smith’s view, for he cautions potential writers and seekers of sympathy to have low expectations of others and to learn these low expectations through abstracting the hurried and inattentive way that they read novels particularly. I examine Clarissa, Gulliver’s Travels, and The Man of Feeling for the ways in which they show up in Smith’s writing, and use the novel in general (as well as recent studies of how novelistic characters work) to talk about Smith’s strange and difficult to understand formulation of “the character of the author.” A final chapter examines how Jane Austen’s characters embody Smith’s conflicted attitude towards modernity, giving readers a coherent place to stand in a modernity that seems to require both knowledge and self-deception. 


Selected Publications and Papers Delivered

"John Willoughby, Luxury Good: Sense and Sensibility's Economic Curriculum." Persuasions Vol. 35, Summer 2013.

"On Hating the Novel." American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2013.

"The Hume Problem: Skepticism and Method in the Fragments of Ancient Poetry." Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society Annual Conference, Aberdeen, 11 July 2011.

Recent English Courses Taught

Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
R1B/9 Reading and Composition: Writing About Television Reading and Composition

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