Amanda Shubert


Research Interests: 

19th- and Early 20th-Century British Literature; Media Archaeology; Visual Culture; Cinema; Technology Studies; Psychoanalysis

Dissertation Title: 

“Virtual Realism: Victorian Fiction as Optical Technology.” 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." Forthcoming, Victorian Literature and Culture.
  • “The Ghost of Pauline Kael.” Book chapter in Talking About Pauline Kael, ed. Wayne Stengel (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2015).


I am a PhD Candidate in English Literature at the University of Chicago, where I research and teach Victorian fiction and visual culture. I received my BA with highest honors from Oberlin College in 2010, and my MA from the University of Chicago in 2014.

My research explores the relationship between realist fiction and pre-cinematic optical technologies in Victorian Britain. In my dissertation, “Virtual Realism: Victorian Fiction as Optical Technology,” I argue that realist fictional aesthetics are embedded in the visual culture of nineteenth century optical technologies like magic lanterns, animation toys and stereoscopes. What interests me about these technologies is the way they create what I call virtual images: images that exist only through the interface of the viewer’s perception and the apparatus. I explore how realist writers such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins and Thomas Hardy are informed by optical technology to conceive of literary works not as a precise replica of the world but as a virtual scene modeled on visual illusions of light, motion and depth. By blending literary analysis with archival methods of media history, my research contributes to our understanding of the rise of virtual reality in modern culture. Realist novels were not only engaged in creating virtual experiences, but in conceptualizing a virtual modernity that they characterize and express through optical technologies.

My dissertation is supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Nicholson Center for British Studies at the University of Chicago, and the Midwest Victorian Studies Association, which awarded me the 2017 Walter L. Arnstein Prize for Dissertation Research in Victorian Studies. In 2018-2019, I am a Fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities at the University of Chicago.

I have taught undergraduate English courses at the University of Chicago on realism, literary modernism, and the history of drama. From 2016-2018 I was a Teaching Fellow at the Chicago Center for Teaching, where I led workshops on the fundamentals of teaching and inclusive pedagogies for graduate and post-doc instructors, and I am a past coordinator of the University of Chicago’s Race and Pedagogy Working Group. In 2018, my teaching was recognized by the University of Chicago’s highest honor for graduate instructors, the Wayne Booth Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Teaching Experience: 

As Instructor of Record:

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

As Course Assistant:

Virginia Woolf (Undergraduate, Winter 2017); Introduction to Fiction: Narrative, Violence, Justice (Undergraduate, Fall 2016); History and Theory of Drama I (Undergraduate and Graduate, Fall 2015).

As Workshop Leader:

Fundamentals of Teaching Literature (Graduate, Fall 2016, Winter 2017 and Fall 2017), Chicago Center for Teaching, University of Chicago
Department of English, University of Chicago

Other Workshops or Teaching:

Anti-Racist Pedagogy, Here and Now (organizer and moderator, November 7, 2017); Inclusive Teaching in STEM (organizer and facilitator, February 5, 2018).

Conferences and Presentations:

“Stereoscopic Toys and Victorian Virtual Reality.” “Out of Mind,” Society for Literature, Science and the Arts. Toronto, Ontario, November 15-18, 2018.

“Mountains of Light: The Koh-i-Noor Diamond as Optical Medium at the Great Exhibition of 1851.” “Looking Outward,” North American Victorian Studies Association. St. Petersburg, Florida, October 11-14, 2018.

“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.