Amanda Shubert


Research Interests: 

19th- and Early 20th-Century British Literature; Visual Culture; History of the Novel; Media and Technology Studies; Cinema; Psychoanalysis

Dissertation Title: 

“Victorian Optical Fictions, 1832-1896.” Committee: Elaine Hadley, Tom Gunning and Zach Samalin.


18th- and 19th-Century Atlantic Cultures Workshop, English Department; Mass Cultures Workshop, Cinema and Media Studies Department


  • "'A Bright Continuous Flow': Phantasmagorical History in A Tale of Two Cities." (Under review)
  • “The Ghost of Pauline Kael,” in Wayne Stengel, ed. Talking About Pauline Kael (Scarecrow Press, 2015).


I am a PhD Candidate in English Literature at the University of Chicago. My teaching and research interests include 19th- and early 20th-century British literature and visual culture; film history and aesthetics; the history of the novel; media and technology studies; and psychoanalysis.

My current research project, “Victorian Optical Fictions, 1832-1896,” argues that the sense of realism in Victorian fiction is shaped by optical media technologies and their visual effects. Optical inventions fueled the scientific and technological revolution in Victorian Britain. They also dominated the culture industry through the rise of scientific galleries and optical theaters that boasted sophisticated magic lantern shows and innovated new, illusionistic stage spectacles; and the manufacture of handheld optical devices such as the stereoscope, the zoetrope and polyorama panoptique. Through readings of novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, I show how realist techniques of representing space, time and character are informed by optical spectatorship and the virtual basis of optical images. My project is supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council (2016) and the Nicholson Center for British Studies (2016-2017) which have enabled me to pursue object-oriented archival research into Victorian optical media in the UK.

I have taught and assistant taught undergraduate English courses at the University of Chicago on realism, literary modernism, and the history of drama, and I have a background teaching visual art to college students in a museum setting. I am also a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Chicago Center for Teaching (bio here), where I offer workshops and programs to graduate and post-doc instructors on the fundamentals of teaching and inclusive pedagogies. In 2017-2018, I am a co-coordinator of the University of Chicago’s Race and Pedagogy Working Group, where I teach workshops and organize programs and events designed to promote racial justice in higher education.

Teaching Experience: 

As Instructor of Record:

Realism, or, Illusions of the Real
Winter 2018
Department of English, University of Chicago

As Course Assistant:

Virginia Woolf, Winter 2017
Department of English, University of Chicago

Introduction to Fiction, Fall 2016
Department of English, University of Chicago

History and Theory of Drama, Fall 2015
Department of English, University of Chicago

Introduction to the Advanced Study of English, Winter 2010
Department of English, Oberlin College

As workshop leader:

Fundamentals of Teaching Literature (4 week workshop for graduate instructors)
Fall 2016, Winter 2017, and Fall 2017
Chicago Center for Teaching, University of Chicago

Conferences and Presentations:

“Persistence of Character: Optical Toys and the Temporalities of Character.” “Out of Time,” Society for Literature, Science and the Arts. Tempe, Arizona, November 9-12, 2017.

“Conjuring Cranford: Apparitions, Natural Magic and Narration.” Dissertation chapter presented to the 18th/19th Centuries Atlantic Cultures Workshop. University of Chicago, October 4, 2017.

“Brewster’s Letters on Natural Magic and the Taste for Optical Illusions.” “Victorian Taste,” Midwest Victorian Studies Association. Oberlin, Ohio, April 28-30, 2017.

“Magic Lantern Projection and the Victorian Affective Spectator.” Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Chicago, March 22-26, 2017.

“’A bright continuous flow’: Magic Lantern Phantasmagoria in A Tale of Two Cities.” Article presented to the 18th/19th Centuries Atlantic Cultures Workshop and the Mass Cultures Workshop. University of Chicago, February 8, 2016.

“Dematerializing History: Phantasmagoria in A Tale of Two Cities.” “Material Cultures, Material Worlds,” Nineteenth Century Study Association. Boston, March 26-28, 2015.

"Image and After-Image: JMW Whistler and Photography." Smith College Museum of Art. May 25 - September 30, 2012.

"Shared Inspiration: The Muriel K. and David R. Pokross Collection." Smith College Museum of Art, March 2 - July 29, 2012. With Aprile Gallant, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Smith College Museum of Art.

"Mapping the City: New York City Printmaking and Photography, 1900-1935." Smith College Museum of Art, July 26 - September 25, 2011.