Megan Quinn

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

My dissertation—The Sensation of Language: Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Mary Shelley—explores moments within British Romantic writing when words impart sensations, from an elevated pulse to the feeling of cold. Criticism on language in the Romantic era typically centers on the role of words as arbitrary signifiers of material things, as established by John Locke or Ferdinand de Saussure. Turning from the emphasis on arbitrariness in eighteenth-century philosophy to its materialism, I argue that texts by Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, and Mary Shelley conceived language as an immediate source of sensory experience. In so doing, I re-evaluate the relationship between “Romanticism,” philosophy of language, sentimental literature, and sympathy. Ultimately, I show that these writers drew upon philosophical ideas of the origin of language in sensory experience and sentimental models of the exchange of feeling to define language as an agent of sensation.

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, philosophy of language, literary and critical theory, gender studies, and Jane Austen 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.