Susan David Bernstein

Professor of English and Director of Graduate Studies (English); Faculty affiliate, Gender and Women's Studies
7127 Helen C. White Hall
E-mail Susan David Bernstein
Victorian literary studies, gender studies, print culture, the history of the book, and digital humanities

Degrees and Institutions

PhD, Brandeis University, 1990

Selected Publications


Selected Articles

  • "In Treatment with George Eliot." Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 63 (April 2013). Special issue on "Television for Victorianists," guest-edited by Caroline Levine. 
  • "Reading Numbers by Numbers: Digital Studies and the Victorian Serial Novel," with Catherine DeRose. Victorian Review 38.2 (Fall 2012): 43-68. Special issue on "Victorian Media."
  • “Reading Room Geographies of Late-Victorian London: The British Museum, London and the People’s Palace, Mile End.” 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 13 (2011). Special issue on “Revisiting the Victorian East End,” edited by Emma Francis and Nadia Valman.
  • “Transatlantic Sympathies and Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing,” The Cambridge History of American Women’s Writing. Ed. Dale M. Bauer.  Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 256-72.
  • “Amy Levy’s Recycling Poetics,” Nineteenth-Century Studies 24 (2010): 101-22.
  • “Sensation and Science.”  The Blackwell Companion to Sensation.  Ed. Pamela Gilbert. Oxford: Blackwell, 2011. 466-80.     
  • “'Mongrel Words’: Amy Levy and Jewish Vulgarity,” Amy Levy: Critical Essays. Eds. Nadia Valman and Naomi Hetherington. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010. 135-56.
  • “Transparent.” Trans. Special Issue of Women’s Studies Quarterly. 36.3-4 (Fall/Winter 2008). 271-78.
  • “Radical Readers at the British Museum: Eleanor Marx, Clementina Black, Amy Levy.” Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. 3.2 (Summer 2007).



During the past decade my interests have ranged from Victorian literature and culture, literature and science, gender studies, Jewish studies, “posthuman” studies (animals, things, environment), history of the book and print culture, and, most recently, digital humanities. My most recent book is Roomscape: Women Readers at the British Museum from George Eliot to Virginia Woolf (just reprinted in paperback in Oct. 2014) about the significance of London’s national library and its reading room as a networking space for women seeking careers as writers and readers.  Other recent work focuses on seriality both as a print form and as a theoretical concept, one I associate with George Eliot's realism in "In Treatment with George Eliot."

I have collaborated on a study of Victorian novels through a digital analysis of data organized by serial installments. The project is designed to visualize seriality, and its relationship to other spatial components of novels including chapters and volumes.  

I have been Director of Graduate Studies since June 2011. For the spring semester 2015, I will be the Resident Director of UW's London Program, and will return to Madison and resume as DGS for 2015-16.  I am book review editor for Nineteenth- Century Gender Studies, and co-organizer of the North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA) Conference, held in Madison in September 2012.

Recent Courses


Transatlantic Networks

Victorian Things and Theories

Middle Modern London

Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, and Culture (co-taught with Prof. Lynn Nyhart, Department of the History of Science)

George Eliot

Victorian Marriage Plots

Recent Books

  • Book Cover for "Roomscape"

    Roomscape: Women Writers in the British Museum from George Eliot to Virginia Woolf

    Susan David Bernstein

    Edinburgh University Press


    Susan David Bernstein argues not only that the British Museum Reading Room facilitated various practices of women's literary traditions, she also questions the overdetermined value of privacy and autonomy in constructions of female authorship, a principle generated from Woolf's feminist manifesto. Rather than viewing reading and writing as solitary, individual events, Roomscape considers the meaning of exteriority and the public and social and gendered dimensions of literary production.

  • Book Cover for "Victorian Vulgarity"

    Victorian Vulgarity: Taste in Verbal and Visual Culture

    Susan David Bernstein & Elsie B. Michie, Eds.



    Originally describing language use and class position, vulgarity became, over the course of the nineteenth century, a word with wider social implications. Variously associated with behavior, the possession of wealth, different races, sexuality and gender, the objects displayed in homes, and ways of thinking and feeling, vulgarity suggested matters of style, taste, and comportment.

  • Book Cover for "Romance of a Shop"

    The Romance of a Shop, by Amy Levy

    Susan David Bernstein, Ed.

    Broadview Press


    The Romance of a Shop is an early "New Woman" novel about four sisters, who decide to establish their own photography business and their own home in central London after their father's death and their loss of financial security. In this novel, Amy Levy examines both the opportunities and dangers of urban experience for women in the late nineteenth century who pursue independent work rather than follow the established paths of domestic service.

  • Book Cover for "Reuben Sachs"

    Reuben Sachs, by Amy Levy

    Susan David Bernstein, Ed.

    Broadview Press


    Reuben Sachs, the story of an extended Anglo-Jewish family in London, focuses on the relationship between two cousins, Reuben Sachs and Judith Quixano, and the tensions between their Jewish identities and English society. The novel’s complex and sometimes satirical portrait of Anglo-Jewish life, which was in part a reaction to George Eliot’s romanticized view of Victorian Jews in Daniel Deronda, caused controversy on its first publication. 

  • Book Cover for "Confessional Subjects"

    Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture

    Susan David Bernstein

    University of North Carolina Press


    Susan Bernstein examines the gendered power relationships embedded in confessional literature of the Victorian period. Exploring this dynamic in Charlotte Bronta's Villette, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, George Eliot'sDaniel Deronda, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, she argues that although women's disclosures to male confessors repeatedly depict wrongdoing committed against them, they themselves are viewed as the transgressors.