Nancy Armstrong is the Gilbert, Louis, and Edward Lehrman Professor of English. She teaches courses in the novel, eighteenth and nineteenth-century literatures and cultures in English, and critical theory, and she serves as editor of the journal Novel: A Forum on Fiction, a position she has held since 1996.
Armstrong has devoted her career to explaining how novels imagine a world that can be inhabited (or not) in specific ways by historically and culturally variable readerships. Her first book, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (Oxford University Press, 1987) argued that domestic fiction written by, for, or about women first imagined the forms of courtship, marriage, and household that serve as the conceptual units of the modern liberal state. Co-authored with Leonard Tennenhouse, The Imaginary Puritan: Literature, Intellectual Labor, and the Origins of Personal Life (University of California Press, 1992) focuses on the 17th and 18th centuries and the relationship between the emergence of the author and the transformation of England into a modern nation state; it is considered a pioneering study in the field of transatlantic literary relations. Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism (Harvard University Press, 1999), returns to the 19th century in order to rethink literary realism in relation to the new art of photography and the onset of mass visuality more generally. How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism 1719-1900 (Columbia University Press, 2006) defines the British novel as a cluster of formal strategies aimed at defending that individual and the household he or she occupies against excessive forms of individualism associated with alternative or sub-generic varieties of fiction, on the one hand, and forms of collectivity that would obliterate individual differences, on the other. Currently underway is a book on the literary continuities that define Darwin’s theory, sensation fiction, sentimentalism, and Hardy’s naturalism as a single, distinctively late Victorian reconception of the line between animal and human life.
Nineteenth Century Literature
Modern to Contemporary
Eighteenth Century Literature
How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism 1719-1900.
Columbia University Press,
Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism.
Harvard University Press,
(with Leonard Tennenhouse) The Imaginary Puritan: Literature, Intellectual Labor, and the Origins of Personal Life.
University of California Press,
Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel.