Image from George Combe’s Elements of Phrenology (1834).

Welcome to Victorian Minds, an online anthology of writing by Queens College students in Professor Jason Tougaw’s course, English Novel 2: Psychology and Social Life in the Nineteenth-Century Novel (spring 2014).

Nineteenth-century British novelists  responded to some of the century’s most dramatic psychological phenomonena, especially hysteria, mesmerism, and phrenology. They experimented with psychological dimensions of aesthetics, including the sublime, forms of narration, and new kinds of  of imagery or “special effects.” They explored the impact of cultural developments–Darwin’s theory of evolution for understanding human minds, industrialization, railways, and debates about religion, gender, class, and sexuality–on the psyches of individuals.  The writing on this site represents careful research on a broad range of these topics, as they developed throughout the nineteenth century.

For example, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, and Lewis Carroll explored relationships between dreams, cognition, and identity; Wilkie Collins, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Arthur Conan Doyle dramatized the effects of drugs like opium, cocaine, ether, tobacco, alcohol, and coffee; Jane Austen and George Eliot crafted new types of narrators to demonstrate the psychological effects of gender and class relations; Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker explored embodiment and consciousness in their Vampire stories. On this site, you’ll find discussions of the nineteenth-century dialogue between psychology and literature–based in careful research on British culture during the era and contemporary theories of psychology and cognition that can help us understand Victorian minds.
















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