Rae X. Yan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of British Literature, 1830-1900
University of Florida
I am currently at work on a book project tentatively titled Correspondences of the Human Frame and considering two future projects on long nineteenth-century Sino-British relations.
Primary Research Interests
Victorian literature and culture, nineteenth-century literature and science studies, history of science and medicine
Secondary Research Interests
modern Chinese literature, Golden Age children's literature, digital humanities, video games studies
Image from Robert Knox's Man, His Structure and Physiology (1857)
Project | 01
Correspondences of the Human Frame: Anatomy, Literature, and Form in the Victorian Era
In my current monograph project, tentatively titled Correspondences of the Human Frame: Anatomy, Literature, and Form in the Victorian Era, I explore what Victorians understood to be the work of anatomizing. Studying scientific treatises by Robert Knox, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Xavier Bichat alongside literary texts by authors including Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and George Eliot, I show how Victorian writers of anatomies saw themselves engaging in important epistemological work: finding universal forms and ideal structures common to all organisms in nature through comparative practices. Anatomists of many different walks of life represented anatomizing as more than just dissecting bodies; instead, they thought about their practice as a creative expansion and reimagining of human frames that aligned scientists, artists, and philosophers in the same line of ethical work. By tracing out a history of anatomy literature, I show how the forgotten ideals of nineteenth-century anatomy profoundly shapes our modern representational and interpretive practices.
Project | 02
“The Paper Tiger: Sino-British Fictions of a Modern, Western Science”
My paper, “Sickening Narratives of Lu Xun’s ‘Diary of a Madman’,” for which I won a graduate student paper prize from the South East Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, is the impetus for a future project on the pedagogy of dissection and attempts to resist the racialization of scientific knowledge. Beginning with a study of how the father of modern Chinese literature, Lu Xun, interprets and critiques the scientific writing of the Victorian scientific thinker T.H. Huxley, I lay the foundations of a project about a Sino-British exchange of ideas about the shared hermeneutic practices of literature and science, grounded in an ethics of anti-racism.
Project | 03
"An Obsession with China: Forms of Chinese Thought in the Victorian Imagination
I am interested in pursuing a study of nineteenth-century Sino-British relations without turning to depictions of China and Chinese people and culture in Orientalizing terms of weakness, where Chinese things and Chinese bodies are always configured as commodity for Western consumption and exploitation. Emphasizing that what makes China truly unique in British imagination is its position as a contemporaneous civilizational Other, this project reads the works of Carlyle, J. S. Mill, Darwin, T. H. Huxley, Bulwer-Lytton, Trollope, and Wilde to explore the presentation of Chinese forms of thought and writing as an ideological as much as an economic threat to the progressivist, Eurocentric models of world history. Taking my title from C. T. Hsia's critical exploration of "an obsession with China" from A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, 1917-1957, this project brings together my interest in modern Chinese and Victorian literary studies.