My name is Leila (lee-EYE-la) Walker, and I am a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center. My dissertation, “Touching Time: Forms of Romantic Temporality,” explores the relationship between tactility, affect, and temporality in British Romantic literature.
The sense of touch has largely been neglected in the study of Romantic literature, perhaps because of the perception, expressed succinctly by Constance Classen, that by the nineteenth century “the notion that ‘high’ culture requires the suppression of the ‘lower’ senses was formalized. Touch was typed by the scholars of the day as a crude and uncivilized mode of perception,” especially when compared to the more elevated sense of sight. However, Touching Time argues that British Romantic literature develops a new approach to tactility, a way of engaging with the world physically in the present in order to introduce new possibilities for the future. We are accustomed to thinking of Romantic literature as representing a new way of seeing, and it does. But by focusing on touch rather than sight, I am able to emphasize the more social and interactive aspects of this literature. What emerges is a Romanticism that critiques the politics of witness and instead privileges the politics of social implication.
My publications include “Percy Bysshe Shelley and the Ekphrasis of Hair” (European Romantic Review, April 2013), “The Child of the City and the ‘Palimpsest’ at Sea: De Quincey’s Chronological Constraints” (Literature Compass, October 2012), and “Ghosts in the House: Margaret Oliphant’s Uncanny Response to Feminist Success” (in Antifeminism and the Victorian Novel, ed. Tamara Wagner, Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2009). With Stephen Klein, I co-edited and introduced Issue 4 of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. I am also working on the final two volumes of Shelley and His Circle as a research associate in the Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle at the New York Public Library. My side projects include experimenting with digital pedagogy, cooking vegan food, climbing rocks, and running far.