Zachary Samalin

Zach Samalin
Assistant Professor
Walker 515


My research and teaching are anchored in the literature and culture of the Victorian period, with a particular focus on the unique blend of social criticism, high art and mass entertainment that characterizes the Victorian novel. I am also fascinated by the ways in which major theoretical innovations of the 19th century, such as Marxism and psychoanalysis, have outlived their own historical moment and continue to influence critical discourse in the present, providing the contours for ongoing debates in literary, aesthetic and cultural theory.


Currently, I am writing a book entitled The Masses Are Revolting: Victorian Culture and the Aesthetics of Disgust, which explores the functions the emotion of disgust came to perform in the emerging Victorian public sphere. One of the central endeavors of this project is to show how a variety of Victorian political, scientific and legal discourses—among them sanitary reform, gastric physiology, evolutionary theory, and obscenity law—relied on and shared a conception of disgust which derived in large part from Enlightenment aesthetic theory.

I have also pursued many strands of this project beyond the Victorian period and into the more general terrain of literary criticism and affect theory, and am especially interested in thinking about the different values that have been ascribed to affect, emotion and the passions in unexpected areas of 20th century critical thought. In this context, I am writing on Theodor Adorno’s contempt, and am beginning to write about Paul de Man’s notion of “epistemic mood” as well. Other interests include the history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis; science studies and evolutionary theory; and relations between peninsular Spain and Great Britain throughout the 19th century.


Graduate Courses: 

  • Slumming and Spectatorship: Urban Voyeurism & 19th Century Literature
  • The Age of Obscenity: Victorian Law, Literature and Censorship

Undergraduate Courses: 

  • Notes from Underground: Sanitation, Sewers, and the 19th Century Literary Imagination
  • Thomas Hardy: The Novels and Poetry
  • Media Aesthetics (Image, Text)
Subject Area: British Literature