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Conferences & lectures

Character: As Much an External Thing As a Tree or Rock

Date & time
Monday, November 14, 2022
12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Registration is closed


This event is free


J.W. McConnell Building
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

Wheel chair accessible


What can character in fiction tell us about character in reality?

This talk will discuss how Victorian novelists engaged materialist science and philosophy to transform the notion of "character" from the inner truth of an individual to an observable, material formation produced through shifts in the boundaries between a figure's interior and exterior.

Speaker Pearl Brilmyer will pay special attention to the formal and philosophical interventions of women and feminist realists between 1870 and 1920. Brilmyer will show how writers such as George Eliot and Olive Schreiner worked to claim a fundamental stratum of ontology for literature at a time when knowledge of "reality" was increasingly thought to be the province of the sciences.

How can you participate? Join us in person or online by registering for the Zoom Meeting or watching live on YouTube. 

Have questions? Send them to  



S. Pearl Brilmyer

Brilmyer is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is also core faculty in the Programs for Comparative Literature and Women’s & Gender Studies. She is the author of The Science of Character: Human Objecthood and the Ends of Victorian Realism(Chicago, 2022) along with various essays on nineteenth-century literature, philosophy, and science. She is also the co-editor of two special issues, one in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies on “The Ontology of the Couple,” and another in the journal Psychoanalysis & History on Lou Andreas-Salomé’s 1916 essay, “‘Anal’ and ‘Sexual,’” featuring the first English translation of that essay.

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