Jacob Harris

Humanities Teaching Fellow
Cohort Year: 2014
Research Interests: Modernism | the late 19th century novel in English and French global capitalism | material culture | urban studies


My research focuses on intellectual and cultural exchanges between India and Britain from the mid-19th century through the onset of WWII. More specifically, I attend to the discursive and cultural binds between two contemporary processes: the development and transnational circulation of the broad range of cultural and artistic tendencies known today as Aestheticism and Decadence; and the consolidation of British power in India under the Raj. My current monograph project asks how a broad set of ideas that energized the culture of the fin-de-siècle British Empire – ideas about art-for-art’s sake, of artful handicraft as a solution to the ills of industrialism, and of the notion of civilizational decline (“decadence”) – both shaped, and were shaped by, an intense contemporary debate on the distinct nature and socio-political functions of traditional Indian art and craft labor, broadly conceived. Reading across a transnational and transdisciplinary archive of texts from the fin-de-siècle through the 1920s – including works by Henry James, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Toru Dutt, the art educator William E.G. Solomon, and others –  I argue that a specific concept of Indian art framed a rich set of encounters between Indian, Anglo-Indian, and British writers – encounters that both drew upon and shaped the cultural and political legacies of Aestheticism and Decadence into the mid-20th century.  

Originally from Toronto, I earned my PhD in English from the University of Chicago in summer 2020. My research has been supported by fellowships from the Committee on Southern Asian Studies at UChicago, and by the New York Public Library. As an HTF, I teach courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences Core, and seminars in the English Department that focus on postcolonial, ethnic, and queer studies.