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Department of English Language and Literature


Jeanne M. Britton

Title: Affiliate Faculty
Curator, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections; Core Faculty, Comparative Literature
Department: English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-9145
Office: 128 Hollings Library
Resources: English Language and Literature


BA University of South Carolina (English)
PhD University of Chicago (Comparative Literature)


   Eighteenth-Century Literature
    History of the Novel
    Book History
   History of Science


CPLT 415 / ARTH 390 / ENGL 439   Giovanni Battista Piranesi and 19c European Literature, Architecture, and Cartography
CPLT 703   The Printed Text in Deconstruction, Book History, and Digital Humanities
ENG 288   British Literature Survey
ENG 419   Reorienting Plot: Maps and Fiction
ENG 724   Reading, Thinking, and Feeling in the Romantic Period
SCHC 281 The Art of Information: Culture and History through Diagrams, Graphs, and Maps
SCHC 457  Frankenstein: Sources, Revisions, Influence
SCHC 457  Piranesi and Romanticism: Architecture and the Literary Imagination


My teaching and research focus on British and French literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Broadly speaking, I study Romanticism, the Enlightenment, the novel, the history of science, and book history. More specifically, I am interested in fiction’s engagement with visual experience (especially novelistic perspective), historical conceptions of sympathy, and graphic representations of knowledge. My recent teaching and research have focused on interdisciplinary approaches to the works of Giambattista Piranesi in print and digital media.

My book, Vicarious Narratives: A Literary History of Sympathy, 1750-1850 (Oxford University Press, 2019), describes fiction’s formal engagement with theories of feeling against the backdrop of abolitionism and imperialism. It argues that Romantic-era fiction responds to Enlightenment theories of shared feeling with a novelistic model of sympathy that struggles to overcome human difference through the active engagement with narrative—through hearing, re-telling, and transcribing the stories of others. Central topics include moral philosophy, historical conceptions of race, sentimentalism and abolition, the French Revolution, fraternity and kinship, and narrative form.

Current Research Projects

I have recently published articles on John Keats and the history of medicine and Jane Austen and cognitive science. Other recent and current work discusses marginalia by a friend of William Wordsworth’s in USC’s copy of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, encyclopedic maps by Giambattista Piranesi and cartographic metaphors in Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, and Romantic poetry, botany, and book history. My interest in print culture includes the graphic representation of knowledge in maps, charts, and diagrams. An article on the abolitionist diagram, “Description of the Brooks Slave Ship,” and extracts from Laurence Sterne’s fiction unites these interests with my earlier work on narrative form and perspective.

Ongoing research projects take advantage of my position as a curator in USC’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and my background in Comparative Literature. I am the lead PI (with co-PI Mike Gavin, English) on a developing digital humanities project that uses new technologies to make the works of Giovanni Piranesi (1720-1778) accessible and legible ( This project has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and, at USC, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Humanities Collaborative, the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, and the Magellan Scholar Program.

My curatorial work in Rare Books has included organizing events and staging exhibits. With NEH postdoctoral fellow Zoe Langer, I co-curated a full gallery exhibit in 2021 on Giovanni Piranesi. The exhibit, “Piranesi’s Worlds: Mapping the Architectural Imagination,”  showcased USC’s extremely rare 29-volume set of his complete works, and announced the launch of The Digital Piranesi. It has been supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation; a digital version of the exhibition is here. In Fall 2018, I curated an exhibit to commemorate Frankenstein’s 200th anniversary that shared two extraordinary books in our collections: the first edition (1818) and Shelley’s revised edition (1831) of the novel.


   “Perspectives on Slavery: The Description of the Brooks Slave Ship and Laurence Sterne in the Romantic-era Anthology,” Romanticism on the Net (forthcoming)
   “‘Life and Food for Future Years’: Revisiting ‘Tintern Abbey,’” Wordsworth Circle (Spring 2022): 1-24.
   “Graphic Constructions of Knowledge in Piranesi’s Maps and Diderot’s Encyclopédie,” Eighteenth-Century Studies (Summer 2021): 957-978
   Vicarious Narratives: A Literary History of Sympathy, 1750-1850 (Oxford University Press, 2019)
   • “‘Irritable Reaching’ and the Conditions of Romantic Mediation,” in Keats’s Negative Capability: New Origins and Afterlives, ed. Brian Rejack and Michael Theune (Liverpool UP, 2019): 108-121
   • “‘To Know What You Are All Thinking’: Riddles and Minds in Jane Austen’s Emma” Poetics Today (Winter 2018): 651-678
   • “Fictional Footnotes, Novelistic Mediation, and Romantic Orientalism: Elizabeth Hamilton’s Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah” European Romantic Review  (Dec 2015): 773-787
   • “Theorizing Character in Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda” Nineteenth-Century Literature (March 2013): 433-456
   • “Written on the Brow: Character, Narrative, and the Face in Byron and Austen” Nineteenth-Century Contexts (Dec 2012): 1-15
   • “Translating Sympathy by the Letter: Henry Mackenzie, Sophie de Condorcet, and Adam Smith” Eighteenth-Century Fiction (Fall 2009): 71-98
   • “Novelistic Sympathy in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” Studies in Romanticism (Spring 2009): 3-22, reprinted in Frankenstein: Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations (2013)

Recent Conference Presentations

   “Erasmus Darwin’s ‘Loves of the Plants’: Verse, Note, Image, and Index” British Association of Romantic Studies (Aug 2021)
   “Visualizing Historical Knowledge: Giovanni Piranesi’s Layered Images of Roman Aqueducts” International Assn. of Word & Image Studies (July 2021)
   “From Page to Screen: A New Look at Piranesi’s Annotated Images” Piranesi@300 International Conference (May 2021)
   “Giovanni Piranesi and the Digital Eighteenth Centuries” American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (April 2021)
   “Mapping Knowledge and Mapping Rome in Piranesi” Modern Language Association (Jan 2020)
   “The Elements and Metaphysics of Typography” North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (Aug 2019)
   • “Image, Index, and Interface in Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Views and Maps of Rome” American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (Mar. 2019)
 • “Piranesi’s System between Enlightenment and Romanticism” International Conference on Romanticism (Oct. 2018)
 • “Piranesi’s Views of Rome: Cartographic Measure and Referential Excess” Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference (June 2018)

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.