Megan Quinn

B.A. (Duke University, 2005), M.Phil. in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies (University of Cambridge, UK, 2009)

My dissertation, Romantic Figures: Language and the Body in British Romanticism, discovers the central relationship between the bodily “figure” and verbal “figures” in British Romantic writing. Whereas critics who focus on the body tend to do so in terms of literary representations or signs of bodies, I argue that Romantic texts developed what I call “embodied language”—language that takes on the rhythm of physical motion, or that imparts the sensation of touch or sound to readers. Eighteenth-century language theory, beginning with John Locke, described signs as fundamentally separate from things. And although the period’s sentimental fiction made readers blush, sigh, and sob, it did so in scenes where heroines sighed and sobbed. In chapters on Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, and Mary Shelley I show how Romantic writers saw language not as mere representation but as a physical thing that acts on the body with impressive material force. This amounts to an alternative theory of language that looks forward to contemporary disability studies and discussions of hate speech, highlighting how language shapes and is shaped by our bodies.

My article, "The Sensation of Language in Persuasion," will appear in Eighteenth-Century Fiction 30.2 (2018). My research and teaching interests include: British Romantic literature, eighteenth-century literature, nineteenth-century literature, the history of the novel, poetics, literary and critical theory, gender studies, Jane Austen studies, fantasy literature, and sound studies.

In 2015 my teaching exercise, “Fill in the Blanks,” was published in Princeton University Press’s The Pocket Instructor: Literature. Based on Mad Libs, the exercise asks students to fill in teacher-prepared blanks in a passage from a distinctive stylist like William Faulkner, helping them to recognize the linguistic choices that define the writer's style.

At Princeton, I have taught as an Assistant Instructor for “Children’s Literature,” “Reading Literature: The Essay,” “Introduction to English Literature: 14th to 18th Century,” and “Jane Austen in Context.” From 2013-2015, I served as a co-organizer of the English Department’s Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies Colloquium.