My name is Leila (lee-EYE-la) Walker, and I successfully defended my dissertation, “Touching Time: Forms of Romantic Temporality,” at the City University of New York Graduate Center on December 5, 2014. This dissertation explores the relationship between tactility, affect, and temporality in British Romantic literature.
I argue 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 privileges the politics of social implication. While the field of vision is experienced linearly as we attach narrative structure to the organization of visible objects within that field, the sense of touch resists such linearity. Rather, the touch exists in the fleeting moment that opens up the possibility of both past and future for a totality beyond the human capacity for narrative. My project thus reveals a literary alternative to the “dark time” of catastrophe identified by scholars such as Rei Terada, Mary Favret, and Jacques Khalip.
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). I am currently Managing Editor for the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, an open, innovative journal that seeks to broaden our understanding of what constitutes academic scholarship. Last year, Stephen Klein and I co-edited and introduced Issue 4 of the journal. 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.