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Grant number like: FA-52966-07

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Maurice Sherwood Lee
Boston University (Boston, MA 02215-1300)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2008 – 9/30/2008

Chance, Skepticism, and Belief in American Literature, 1820-1870

This book project shows how changing conceptions of chance shape literary encounters with skepticism in the writings of Poe, Thoreau, Douglass, Melville, and Dickinson. By reading their texts in relation to mid-nineteenth-century scientific and popular constructions of chance, I hope to make four contributions to American literary and cultural studies: 1) recover chance as an epistemological and aesthetic subject for major literary figures; 2) extend recent scholarship that sees science as a generative context for nineteenth-century literature; 3) explore how “high” theories of chance penetrate cultural practices; and 4) show how mid-nineteenth-century writers anticipate modern discussions of chance.