Jonathan Farina is Associate Professor of English Literature and founding director of Humanities and the Public Sphere, an initiative through which the Department of English fosters cross-disciplinary scholarship and engagement with pressing public issues. He teaches courses on nineteenth-century British literature, the novel, and critical theory, as well as the Honors Colloquium on the Early-Modern World.
Farina studies the history of fiction as a genre, as a category of knowledge, and as a repository of everyday epistemic assumptions. His first book, Everyday Words and the Character of Prose in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge University Press 2017), analyzes how these three interests converge in the Victorian concept of “character.” Attending to set of colloquial tics—“a turn,” “as if,” “but,” “something,” “particular” and “general”—the book shows how writers extended the texture and values of fictional people to impersonal, inanimate and/or abstract objects such as institutions, natural laws, the market, and “all the world.” Farina thus discloses a historically specific mode of description—“characterization”—that aimed not to reproduce or imitate facts but to deviate from them; he reveals how characterization in the novels of Austen, the Brontës, Dickens, Gaskell, Eliot, Thackeray, and Trollope plays with a grammar of everyday language that underwrites what counted as knowledge for Victorians from Charles Lyell to Charles Darwin.
Farina is writing a second book, tentatively titled Aformalism: Undisciplined Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Britain. This book recasts Victorian literary criticism as a repository of alternative, as-yet not institutionalized forms of thinking and knowledge production rather as a mere genealogy of new criticism. To this end, Farina is working on an article on the role of awkwardness as the aesthetic and epistemic object that enabled the reformation of literary criticism into a discipline. He has presented dozens of conference papers at MLA, NVSA, NAVSA, NASSR, Dickens Universe, and elsewhere, as well as invited talks at the New York Public Library, The Grad Center at CUNY, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Rutgers University, and the University of Toronto (WINCS).
Farina is Executive Secretary of the Faculty Senate, representative (LLC Victorian and Early-20th-Century English) on the Delegate Assembly of the Modern Language Association of America, and regular member of the conference committee of the Northeast Victorian Studies Association.
- Ph.D., New York University
- M.A., New York University
- B.S., Boston College
- Everyday Words and the Character of Prose in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Journal Articles and Book Chapters
“‘As a Matter of Course’: Trollope’s Ordinary Realism” in The Routledge Research Companion to Anthony Trollope, eds. Margaret Markwick, Deborah Morse, and Mark Turner. New York: Routledge, 2016. 142-53
“On the Genealogy of ‘Deportment’: Being ‘Present’ in Bleak House,” Special Issue on the V21 Symposium. boundary 2 online, October 4, 2016.
“Literary Histories of Natural Historical Books,” Victorian Literature and Culture 44.2 (June 2016): 411-21
“Allusive Tactics: R. H. Horne, Induction, and ‘Desultory Criticism,” Nineteenth-Century Prose 43.1-2 (Spring 2016): 115-34
- "Mad Libs and Stupid Critics." Dickens Studies Annual: Essays on Victorian Fiction, 46 (1), 325-338, August 2015.
"Whoever Explains a "But": Tact and Friction in Trollope's Reparative Fiction." Victorians: A Journal of Culture and Literature, no. 128, 139-61, September 2015.
- "Literary Criticism." Blackwell Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature, eds. Dino Franco Felluga, Pamela K. Gilbert, and Linda K. Hughes. Wiley-Blackwell, July 2015.
"The Excursion and the Surfaces of Things." The Wordsworth Circle 45.2, Special Issue on the Bicentennial of The Excursion guest-edited by Tom Duggett and Jacob Risinger, 99-105, April 2014.
- "David Masson’s British Novelists and their Styles (1859) and the Establishment of Novels as an Object of Academic Study."
BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, June 2012.
"Dickens’s ‘As If’: Analogy and Victorian Virtual Reality." Victorian Studies 53.3, 427-36, February 2011.
"'A Certain Shadow': Personified Abstractions and the Form of Household Words." Victorian Periodicals Review, 42(4), 392- 415, December 2010.
"Flash Reading: Tom and Jerry and the Last Subordinations of Plot to Character." The Wordsworth Circle, 41(2), May 2010.
- "The New Science of Literary Mensuration: Accounting for Readers, Then and Now."
Victorians Institute Journal Digital Annex 38, n.p., January 2010.
- "Middlemarch and 'That Sort of Thing.'" RaVoN: Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 53, February 2009.
- Associate Fellow, 2010-11, Seminar "The Ordinary and the Everyday," Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University