MA Carmen Brack

Biographical Note

Carmen Brack is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program in English and American Literary Studies and working on her PhD thesis under Prof. Dr. Barbara Straumann. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature and Popular Culture Studies, as well as an MA in English Literature and General and Comparative Literature from the University of Zurich. Her MA thesis cross-mapped two fin-de-siècles by comparing utopian impulses in the scientific Romance of the Nineteenth century to the alternative history in Steampunk novels.

PhD Project: “A Vision that is Diseased”: Madness, Masculinity and Imagination in Victorian Literature

The phenomenon of madness has been represented in literature in a number of ways, ranging from the repulsive and animalistic to the romantic and misunderstood. Whether reviled or revered, madmen and madwomen have enthralled the imaginations of readers for centuries. This PhD project, aims to explore representations of madness in English literature of the Victorian period with a focus on how these representations interact with conceptions of gender roles and with the imagination. Imagination here refers to a particular imaginative capacity exhibited by characters who become mad or teeter on the brink of madness, a type of vision that differs from that of the other characters in the text. It is their imagination which lets these characters escape their often oppressive situations by conjuring fantasies, but which can also lead to their exclusion as Other, to accusations of lunacy and eventual confinement in an attic or asylum. By focusing on this altered sense of perception, I aim to embed the question of madness in more general discourses of modes of reading and writing, of the often thin line between madness and sanity, and of the question posed by critics such as Foucault, Derrida and Felman whether it is possible to speak madness without merely perpetuating the discourse about madness.

Research Interests

Literature of the Nineteenth century (especially Victorian literature and the fin-de-siècle), depictions of death and madness, the Gothic, gender issues and women writers, print culture, serialization