Alexander Dick works and teaches in the fields of Eighteenth-Century and Romantic British Literatures, Critical Theory and Practice, especially post-humanism and speculative realism, and the environmental humanities. He is the author of more than twenty articles and chapters and of Romanticism and the Gold Standard: Money, Literature, and Economic Debate in Britain 1790-1830 (Palgrave 2013). He is also the co-editor of two collections of essays, Theory and Practice in the Eighteenth Century: Writing Between Philosophy and Literature (with Christina Lupton, Pickering, 2008) and Spheres of Action: Speech and Performance in Romantic Culture (with Angela Esterhammer, Toronto, 2009) and recently published with Selena Couture (University of Alberta), a new edition of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s last play, Pizarro (Broadview, 2018). In 2013-2014 he held Research Fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and the Centre for the History of the Book, both at the University of Edinburgh. At UBC he is a Faculty Affiliate in the Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies, an Associate of the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies, and a Fellow of the University Sustainability Initiative. He is also a member and the incoming chair of the Advisory Board for the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism.
- Pizarro by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Broadview Press, 2017. Edited with Selena Couture (University of Alberta).
- Romanticism and the Gold Standard: Money, Literature, and Economic Debate in Britain 1790-1830. Houndsmills: Palgrave, 2013.
- Spheres of Action: Speech and Performance in Romantic Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. 353 pages. Co-edited with Angela Esterhammer.
- Practice in the Eighteenth Century: Writing Between Philosophy and Literature. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2008. 313 pages. Co-edited with Christina Lupton.
Selected Recent Articles and Chapters
- “Objects Taken for Wonders in Equiano’s Interesting Narrative” in Romanticism and Speculative Realism Ed. Anne C. McCarthy and Chris Washington. Forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.
- “‘A good deal of Trash’: Reading Societies, Religious Controversy, and Networks of Improvement in Eighteenth-Century Scotland.” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 38 (2015): 585-598.
- “Frye, Derrida, and the University (to come)” in Educating the Imagination: A Centenary Edition in Honour of Northrop Frye Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015.
- “On Lecturing and Being Beautiful: Zadie Smith, Elaine Scarry, and the Liberal Aesthetic” (co-authored with Christina Lupton) English Studies in Canada 39 (2013): 115-137.
- “British Romanticism and Paper Money” Literature Compass 10 (2013): 696-704.
- “Scott and Political Economy” in The Edinburgh Companion to Walter Scott Fiona Robertson. Edinburgh UP, 2012. 118-129.
- “Walter Scott and the Financial Crash of 1825: Fiction, Speculation, and the Standard of Value” in Ian Haywood, ed. Romanticism, Forgery and the Credit Crunch. Romantic Circles Praxis Series, 2012.
I am currently working on 2 book-length projects:
Clearances: Improvement, Dispossession, and Race in Scottish Romanticism
Between 1760 and 1800, thousands of Gaelic-speaking families were dispossessed of their land in the north of Scotland to make way for industrial-scale sheep farming, an event that we now know as the Highland Clearances. Some of these families moved to Britain’s urban areas, while others worked in the coastal fishing and kelping industries, or joined the military and settled abroad. Many became champions of colonial expansion, helping to establish new nations and traditions and clearing continents of their own indigenous landscapes and communities even as they retained strong affinities for their lost home land. It was as a result of these changes that the Scottish Highlands became the Romantic landscape that we know today.
My argument in this study is that the literature that encoded this landscape with its Gothic mood and national character also documented and, in some instances, justified the social and economic changes that lay behind it. It did so by recasting the Highlands and its people as the traumatized embodiment of the Clearances’ most vexing conflicts: indigeneity and whiteness, mobility and nativity, nationalism and globality, politics and ecology. To what extent, I am asking, do these composite figures mask or even enshrine the more unnerving aspects of Britain’s imperial mandate, its exploitation of natural resources, its inherent racism? Drawing on recent work in critical race studies and the environmental humanities, Clearances finds in the archive of poetry, fiction, and journalism related to the Clearances in both English and Gaelic, and especially in the works of James Macpherson, Robert Burns, Anne Grant, Jane Porter, Christine Isobel Johnstone, Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, John Galt, John Wilson, and James Hogg, a compelling, at times troubling record of the dispossessions that haunt modernity.
Narrative Speculations: Mathematics, the Novel, and Eighteenth-Century Spacetime
For this project, I am examining the influence of Post-Newtonian Geometry and Calculus on 6 eighteenth-century novelists: Margaret Cavendish, Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley. I propose that far from being antagonistic to mathematical reason, these writers found in the debates and pressures eighteenth-century mathematicians were putting on the traditional Euclidean curriculum a platform on which to build a narrative style open to contingency, speculation, and possibility. The study also considers advances in eighteenth-century epistemology and aesthetics and correlates these with contemporary developments in the physical sciences, military technology, gothic architecture, gender politics, and population statistics. It also brings recent work in new materialist and speculative realist philosophy to bear on the field of eighteenth-century fiction.