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 with Selena Couture (University of Alberta), has published an 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 former Fellow of the University Sustainability Initiative.
Areas of Specialization:
- Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Literatures
- Scottish Literatures
- Environmental Humanities
- Science and Technology Studies
I am currently at work on 3 projects:
Imagining the Hebrides: Coastal Poetics in Eighteenth-Century Scotland
Through the long eighteenth century, tourists, scientists, journalists, and poets visited the archipelagoes of Na h-Eileanan a-staigh and Inness Gall, known to us today as the Hebrides. They found there a harsh but majestic coastal ecology and a thriving, independent, fractious, and rebellious people with a vibrant history, language, and culture. Armed with colonialist pre-conceptions about the “sublimity” of coastal landscapes and the “savagery” of their people, the travellers sought to transform the Hebrides into a regional base for two crucial maritime resources: fish and naval seamen. Imagining the Hebrides tells the story of that transformation through closely contextualized readings of eighteenth-century Gaelic and Anglo-Scottish literature. While the book uses examples of Anglo-Scottish travel writing and poetry to chart the assimilation of the Hebridean landscape and Gaelic cultures into the national self-image of Enlightenment Scotland and Romantic Britain, it also examines contemporary Gaelic song and lyric to document the liveliness and resilience of the Hebridean people. The coastal settings and subjects of these two literary traditions and the sometimes-fraught intersections between them together illustrate the region’s unique and dynamic coastal poetics.
Narrative Speculations: Mathematics, the Novel, and Eighteenth-Century Spacetime
For this project, I am examining the influence of Post-Newtonian Geometry and Calculus on eighteenth-century women writers: Margaret Cavendish, Charlotte Lennox, 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.
“Highlandism in British Columbia: A Coastal Studies Approach”
This project examines the media archive behind the “Super, Natural British Columbia” Since the 1980s, the BC tourism industry has used the expression “Super, Natural” to promote the province as a healthy, clean, resource-rich, environmentally-conscious place. But the history of this image is part of a long and complex story of colonization, immigration, industrialization, and assimilation that links the ‘improvement’ and Clearance of the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s through to the settler-colonial expansion of British populations around the Pacific Rim.
- American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
- North American Society for the Study of Romanticism
- International Association for the Study of Scottish Literature
- 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:
- “Highland Emigration and the Poetics of Whiteness” forthcoming in Questione Romantica (2022)
- “Bliadhna nan Caorach/The Year of the Sheep: Reading Highland Protest in the 1790s” Studies in Scottish Literature 46 (2020): 25-33.
- “Blackwood’s Pastoralism and the Highland Clearances” in Romantic Periodicals in the Twenty-First Century: Eleven Case Studies from Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Ed. Tom Mole and Nicholas Mason, Edinburgh University Press, 2020. 137-158.
- “Objects Taken for Wonders in Equiano’s Interesting Narrative” in Romanticism and Speculative Realism. Ed. Anne McCarthy and Chris Washington, Bloosmbury Academic, 2019. 237-256.
- “‘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.