Wharton, Joanna

I am currently revising my first monograph, Material Enlightenment: Women Writers and the Science of Mind, 1770-1830, which is contracted for publication in 2018. Based on my doctoral and post-doctoral research at the University of York, the book addresses women’s engagement with the Enlightenment ‘Science of Man’ in Romantic-era Britain and Ireland. It incorporates interdisciplinary approaches from history and philosophy of science, material culture studies and anthropology to reassess the contributions of writers such as Anna Letitia Barbauld, Hannah More, Elizabeth Hamilton and Maria Edgeworth to psychological discourse, educational practice and social reform.

The project I will be starting at Lichtenberg-Kolleg, ‘Lines of Exchange: Literature, Friendship and Lunar Empire’, follows on from my research on the Anglo-Irish writer, Maria Edgeworth. It focuses on the Birmingham Lunar Society (active c.1766–c.1809), of which Maria Edgeworth’s father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, was a member, alongside prominent early industrialists such as Matthew Boulton, James Watt and Josiah Wedgewood, the botanist and poet Erasmus Darwin, and the chemist, metaphysician, and dissenting theologian Joseph Priestley. The project aims to shed new light on cultures of exchange in literary-scientific circles (particularly regarding the relations between space, gender, and perceptions of formality) and to understand the affective role of the exchange of knowledge objects in shifting perceptions of community, nation and empire.

Selected publications

  • Material Enlightenment: Women Writers and the Science of Mind, 1770-1830.Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, forthcoming 2018.
  • with Darren Wagner, ‘Literature and Science in Eighteeth-Century Studies: Mountain Gloom or Mountain Glory?’, Journal of Literature & Science, Summer 2017, 15-20.
  • ‘The Things Themselves: Sensible Images in Lessons for Children and Hymns in Prose’, in Anna Letitia Barbauld: New Perspectives, ed. William McCarthy and Olivia Murphy. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2013, 107-26.
  • ‘Inscribing on the Mind: Anna Letitia Barbauld’s “Sensible Objects”’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies December 2012, 535-50.