My current book project, adapted from my dissertation work, is titled Devilish Curiosity in Eighteenth-Century British Literature. It investigates why British writers link devils to knowledge that is forbidden, secret, or threatening but also perversely appealing. I argue that literary texts use devils to articulate a particular form of curiosity that is driven by pleasurable and/or perverse objects and seeks unproductive ends. During a period of secularization and scientific advancement, the figure of the devil—seemingly obsolescent to some—managed ambivalence to an emerging modernity. Many eighteenth-century British writers rejected the historical veracity of the Bible and the reality of heaven and hell due to scientific discoveries, contact with Eastern cultures, and advancements in religious thought. At the same time, the emerging print marketplace made not only the Bible and religious-themed chapbooks but also leisure reading more easily accessible to wider audiences. Within this discursive context, depictions of the devil and devilry helped readers and writers navigate tensions between competing sources for authority and legitimacy: spiritual and secular, old and new, Western and Eastern. “Enlightenment Devilry,” tracing devils across the long eighteenth century, includes readings of a variety of genres, from parodic conduct books to religious and historiographical treatises, and texts, from Milton’s Paradise Lost to gothic fiction.
If you would like to learn more about my research on devils, take a look at “The Devil on Holiday in Eighteenth-Century England,” a short video conversation between me and Andy Kesson about devils, voyeurism, and knowledge, available now on A Bit Lit.
“Stage Devilry: Knowledge, Pleasure, and Antitheatricality on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, forthcoming.
“Observation, Sympathy, and Education in Charlotte Smith’s Conversations Introducing Poetry.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 3, 2020, pp. 244-60.
“Charlotte Smith’s Ugly Feelings.” SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol. 59, no. 3, 2019, pp. 605-24.
“The Virgin and the Spy: Authority, Legacy, and the Reading Public in Eliza Haywood’s The Invisible Spy.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 30, no. 4, 2018, pp. 473-93.
“Satirical Conservatism in Catherine Ann Dorset’s Papillonades.” Children’s Literature, special issue of Women’s Writing, vol. 25, no. 1, 2018, pp. 35-50. (Republished in Children’s Literature in the Long 19th Century, edited by Ann Alston and Catherine Butler, Routledge, 2019.)
Refereed Digital Publications
“The Asmodeus Flight: Voyeurism, Forbidden Knowledge, and Satire.” The 18th-Century Common, 19 September 2020.
Editor, The Works of Catherine Upton: The Siege of Gibraltar and Miscellaneous Pieces. Electronic edition with scholarly apparatus. Romantic Circles, June 2017.