Current research

Tentatively called Music and the Liberal Vision, my new monograph project explores how 19th-century British philosophical debates about knowing (certainty versus probability) underpinned nested discussions of faith, musical and literary aesthetics, and liberal ideals of hope. It studies the unpublished life writings and published treatises of a network of elite university, political and clerical families for whom musical passion was rooted in both highly competent musical training and in idealist conceptions. Recovering this neglected context supports my close readings of poetry, fiction, musical composition and painting in order to reveal how the representation of these interactive ideals served as an encoding for liberal beliefs and practices. The discovery of this elusive code has profound consequences for how we understand the arts of the period, political liberalism, idealist philosophy, and social work.

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Also engaged in the field of digital humanities, I am co-directing the Sounding Victorian consortium with Sophie Fuller, leading the  Sounding Tennyson project, and collaborating with Ewan Jones on the Tennyson collection hosted by the Cambridge Digital Library. Together, the Tennyson projects are part of The Tennysons Archive, the first digital archival grouping of Tennyson items. The aspects of this digital work focused on presenting sound are internationally innovative, thanks to our collaboration with the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Center for Digital Humanities at Saint Louis UniversitySounding Tennyson is the first project worldwide to use sound with IIIF and is providing the origin for multiple fixtures in the A/V group. 


Detail of  "Harmony: or, The Prince of Wales's Royal Minstrels," Punch LXXXII (11 March 1882): 110. Image courtesy of Pius XII Memorial Library, Saint Louis University. 

Queen Victoria's piano, rented to make the recordings for Sounding Tennyson in the Tennysons' restored home on the Isle of Wight. Keyboard with music rack and front board removed to expose the internal action. 1858 Broadwood square, Finchcocks Musical Museum. Photos by Phyllis Weliver, Dec. 2015.

Detail of Tennyson doodle, age 9, flyleaf of his copy of Virgil. Used as Sounding Tennyson logo. Reproduced by permission of the Lincolnshire County Council, UK.