Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Marty Gould, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laura L. Runge, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Mooney, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brook Sadler, Ph.D.


shock,, dissociation, memory, nineteenth-century, trauma


Trauma as an official diagnosis first entered the DSM in 1980 and literary theorists began employing the term to discuss literature not too long after. Since the 1990s, theorists have largely focused on twentieth-century trauma literature with Holocaust and Modernist texts garnering much of the critical interest. Yet, Victorian life was also marked by trauma-causing events. From railway catastrophes, to industrial accidents, to premature deaths, and infectious diseases, Victorians reckoned with wounds to the mind through their lived experience. Trauma scholars who do work with nineteenth-century texts, with few exceptions, consider trauma in terms of its modern theories. While the work of Cathy Caruth, Shoshanna Felman, Ann Whitehead, E. Anne Kaplan, Dominick LaCapra, and Judith Herman has stimulated important discussions about trauma literature, their development of the concept of trauma rarely reaches further back than Freud. Victorian configurations of the mind and its response to psychical wounding have much to offer to the current discussion of literary trauma. This dissertation presents a study of Victorian literary texts through current theories of trauma juxtaposed with nineteenth-century formulations of the concept. The analysis offers three main points: one, to identify instances of trauma in nineteenth century texts that would otherwise go unnoticed; two, to situate texts within the cultural and historic milieu of their publication and to consider how literary conventions and forms indicative of the nineteenth-century serve to represent the effects and symptoms of trauma, and three, as a result of seeing trauma in the texts, to challenge common readings of Victorian literary characters, images, and forms.