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Sebastian Lecourt

Assistant Professor

Sebastian Lecourt’s work situates Victorian literature amid questions of secularization, colonialism, and world literature. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University’s Department of English and has published essays in PMLA, Victorian Studies, and Victorian Literature and Culture. His first book, Cultivating Belief: Victorian Anthropology, Liberal Aesthetics, and the Secular Imagination (Oxford UP, 2018), traces how Victorian liberal writers such as George Eliot and Walter Pater rejected a classical liberal secularism that identified religion with private belief and instead took up non-voluntaristic constructions of religion as racial or cultural identity. He has also commenced work on a second book project entitled The Genres of Comparative Religion, 1783-1947, which explores how Victorian writers used literary form to establish terms for comparing different religious traditions – how volumes such as Paul Carus’s The Gospel of Buddha (1894) gave a Bildungsroman-like arc to the lives of various religious founders, while poets like Romesh Chunder Dutt used the Romantic rubric of the national epic to frame their versions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. By treating Victorian comparative religion as a case of genre-construction, the book argues, we can develop a more complex sense of how both literary and scholarly categories globalize.

Professor Lecourt has taught a range of courses on subjects including the literature of the British Empire, nineteenth-century science fiction, children’s literature, and literary theory. His research has been supported by grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

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Research Interests

British and Anglophone literature of the long nineteenth century; religion and secularism; world literature and transnational literary studies; literary theory and the history of literary studies.

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  • Ph.D., English, Yale University
  • M.Phil. and M.A., Yale University
  • B.A, English, Macalester College

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Selected Publications

  • Prophets Genuine and Spurious: The Victorian Jesus Novel and the Ends of Comparativism." Representations 142 (Spring 2018; forthcoming) 

  • Cultivating Belief: Victorian Anthropology, Liberal Aesthetics, and the Secular Imagination (Oxford UP, 2018)
  • “Idylls of the Buddh’: Buddhist Modernism and Victorian Poetics in Colonial Ceylon.” PMLA 131.3 (May 2016): 668-85.
  • “That Untravell’d World: The Difficulties of Thinking Globally in Victorian Studies.” Literature Compass 13.2 (2016): 108-17.
  • “The Mormons, the Victorians, and the Idea of Greater Britain.” Victorian Studies 56.1 (Autumn 2013): 85-111.
  • “‘To surrender himself, in perfectly liberal inquiry’: Walter Pater, Many-Sidedness, and the Conversion Novel.” Victorian Studies 53.2 (Winter 2011): 231-53.
  • “Matthew Arnold and Religion’s Cosmopolitan Histories.” Victorian Literature and Culture 38.2 (September 2010): 467-87. 

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  • 3316 – Literature of the Victorian Age