Eleanor Dobson

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

My first monograph, Writing the Sphinx (Edinburgh University Press, 2020), examines the mutual influences of Egyptology and literary culture across the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the opening decades of the twentieth, in the wake of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. In this book I conceive of a culture that at once encompasses Egyptological writing, popular forms of fiction, as well as works of ‘high modernism’, from the writings of archaeologists such as Howard Carter, through to the fiction and poetry of figures as diverse as H. Rider Haggard, Marie Corelli, Oscar Wilde and H.D. It also brings into conversation the physical books published by authors and Egyptologists alike, establishing the complex relationships between these objects as products of Egyptological study and the objects of Egyptological study themselves: artefacts often housed in museums, and sometimes in the private collections of these very authors.

My next book, provisionally entitled Victorian Alchemy, focuses on science of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly when it is seen to intersect with contemporary ideas about the supernatural or occult. It integrates and builds on my previous work on the intersection between electromagnetic radiation and texts with ancient Egyptian subject matter, establishing the quasi-alchemical ways in which depictions of electrical phenomena and X-rays are presented as emblematic of magical lore of the ancients, and, simultaneously, the pinnacle of modern scientific understanding. I am currently researching other scientific areas in which these parallels can be traced: in psychology, and in the development of photographic technologies.

I have published widely on complementary subjects from the nineteenth century to the present: on supernatural fiction set in Egyptian hotels; ancient Egypt in Alan Moore's From Hell and as 'hieroglyphic' presence in London fictionsthe intersection between the fairy-tale genre and mummy fiction in the late nineteenth century, and ancicent Egypt and nineteenth-century consumer culture; Egyptology and cross-dressing; fictional representations of the ghost of Oscar Wildehysteria and the mummy at the fin de siècle and ancient Egyptian presences in the spiritualist séance; the imagery of jewels and precious materials in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and photographic technologies, spiritualism and psychical research in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Biography

I joined the University of Birmingham as Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature in September 2017, having previously been employed as a Visiting Lecturer and Teaching Associate (since 2013). I completed my PhD, MA, and BA at Birmingham. 

Qualifications

  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy
  • PhD (English; University of Birmingham)
  • MA by Research (English; University of Birmingham)
  • BA (Hons) (English; University of Birmingham)

Willingness to take PhD students

Yes

PhD projects

I welcome applications for doctoral projects on the reception of ancient Egypt from 1800 to the present day; on authors including Bram Stoker, H. Rider Haggard, Marie Corelli, and Oscar Wilde; and on nineteenth-century Gothic literature, in particular that which addresses intersections between science, magic, and antiquity.