Ian Duncan

Professor and Florence Green Bixby Chair in English

Ian Duncan studied at King's College, Cambridge (BA, 1977) and Yale University (PhD, 1989), and taught in the Yale English department before being appointed Barbara and Carlisle Moore Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Oregon in 1995. He came to Berkeley in 2001, and was appointed to the Florence Green Bixby Chair in English in 2011. He is a recipient (2017) of the university's Distinguished Teaching Award. Duncan is the author of Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel (Cambridge, 1992), Scott's Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh (Princeton, 2007), and Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution (Princeton, 2019). He is currently writing a book on Scotland and Romanticism, and editing The Cambridge History of Scottish Literature. Fields of research and teaching include the theory and history of the novel, British literature and culture of the long nineteenth century, Scottish literature, literature and the natural sciences, and literature in relation to other storytelling media (opera; film). Duncan is a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Scottish Literature, a member of the editorial board of Representations, a General Editor of the Collected Works of James Hogg, and co-editor of a book series, Edinburgh Critical Studies in Romanticism. He has held visiting positions at the Universities of British Columbia and Konstanz, Boğaziçi University, LMU Munich, Princeton University,  Aix-Marseille University, and Paul Valery University–Montpellier 3.

Current Research: 

My last book Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution was published in 2019.  A major rethinking of the history of the novel as well as the cultural impact of evolutionary science before Darwin, Human Forms is the first book-length critical study of the interaction of European fiction with natural history and philosophical anthropology from the late Enlightenment through the mid-Victorian era, when the ascendancy of realist fiction coincided with the rise of evolutionary theory. Novelists claimed human nature as the scientific basis of their art at the same time that the human species became the subject of the new natural history and an organic transmutation of forms and kinds. A supposed aesthetic disability, lack of form, now equipped the novel to model the modern scientific conception of a developmental – mutable rather than fixed – human nature. The principle of development, invoked at first as a uniquely human property, subverted the exception it was meant to save once evolutionary science applied it to the whole of nature. The novel became the major experimental instrument for managing the new set of divisions – between nature and history, individual and species, Bildung and biological life – that replaced the ancient schism between animal body and immortal soul.

Chapters consider the rise of Enlightenment philosophical anthropology; the new Romantic genres of the Bildungsroman and the historical novel; the investment of historical romance with Lamarckian evolutionism; Dickens’s transformist aesthetic and its challenge to the anthropomorphic techniques of Victorian realism; high realism, “species consciousness,” and the science-fiction turn in major novels by George Eliot.

You can listen to a conversation about Human Forms with Kevin Padian (Professor of Integrative Biology here at Berkeley) at the Townsend Humanities Center website.

My current work in progress is a short book, Scotland and Romanticism, for Cambridge University Press. It offers a critical overview of Scotland's long Romantic century, from Macpherson's Ossianic poetry through Fergusson and Burns to Scott's historical romances and Carlyle's French Revolution. The book is organized around a series of topics: the urban imagination; tourism and settlement in the Highlands; colonial pastoral; the progress of poetry; lost and secret nations; popular festivity; politics and the passions. I am also currently editing The Cambridge History of Scottish Literature and The Cambridge Companion to Walter Scott.  I've also been writing a series of essays on Scott and historical fiction, and on human natural history (from Darwin to the present surge of popular science books).

Full CV: 


Robert Louis Stevenson; Ian Duncan
Critical edition, 2014
Ian Duncan; Douglas S. Mack
Edited volume, 2012
James Hogg; Ian Duncan
Critical edition, 2010

Selected Publications


Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel: The Gothic, Scott, Dickens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992; paperback, 2005

Scott’s Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007; paperback, 2016
(Saltire Society / National Library of Scotland Research Book of the Year Award, 2008)

Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019

Edited collections

"Scott, Scotland and Romantic Nationalism": special issue of Studies in Romanticism (40:1, Spring 2001). Co-edited with Ann Rowland and Charles Snodgrass.

Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism. Co-edited with Leith Davis and Janet Sorensen. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Approaches to Teaching Scott’s Waverley Novels. Co-edited with Evan Gottlieb. Modern Language Association, 2009

The Edinburgh Companion to James Hogg. Co-edited with Douglas Mack. Edinburgh University Press, 2012

The British Aristocracy in Popular Culture. Co-edited with Stefania Michelucci and Luisa Villa. McFarland, 2020

The Cambridge Companion to Walter Scott. In preparation for Cambridge University Press.

The Cambridge History of Scottish Literature. In preparation for Cambridge University Press.


Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World. Oxford University Press, 1995, 1998.

Walter Scott, Ivanhoe. Oxford University Press, 1996.

Walter Scott, Rob Roy. Oxford University Press, 1998.

James Hogg, Winter Evening Tales: Collected among the Cottagers in the South of Scotland. Edinburgh University Press, 2002; 2004.  

Travel Writing 1700-1830: An Anthology. Co-edited with Elizabeth Bohls. Oxford University Press, 2005.

James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped. Oxford University Press, 2014

Selected recent essays

History and the Novel after Lukács." Novel: A Forum on Fiction, 50: 3 (2017), 388-96.

“The Bildungsroman, the Romantic Nation, and the Marriage Plot,” Replotting Marriage in Nineteenth-Century Literature, ed. Jill Galvan and Elsie Michie (Ohio State University Press, 2018), 15-34

"Natural Histories of Form: Charles Darwin's Aesthetic Science." Representations 151 (summer 2020), 51-73.

“Scott's Anachronisms.” Walter Scott at 250, ed. Caroline McCracken-Flesher and Matthew Wickman. (Edinburgh University Press, 2021), 46-64

"The Surfaces of History: Scott's Turn, 1820." The 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion, ed. Jon Mee and Matthew Sangster (Edinburgh University Press, 2023), 39-57

“Weak Sovereignty in Scott’s Novels of the 1820s.” The Literary 1820s, ed. Sara Lodge (Cambridge University Press, under review)

“Scott’s Ghost-Seeing.” Special issue, “Scottish Gothic,” ed. Monica Germanà: Gothic Studies 24:1 (2022), 44-56

“Darwin's Human History.” After Darwin, ed. Devin Griffiths and Deanna Kreisel (Cambridge University Press, 2022), 137-50

“Imps of the Perverse: Romantic Fiction and Antinomian Denial.” Boundaries, Limits, Taboos: Romanticism and Transgression, ed. Norbert Lennartz et al (WV Trier, 2021), 91-102

“Beyond the Human: A Response to Thomas Pavel.” Narrative 29:1 (2021), 122-28

"Realism's Forms." Victorian Literature and Culture 49: 2 (2021), 377-88

“Extreme Pastoral: James Hogg and Other Animals.” Studies in Hogg and his World 29-30 (2021-22), 3-24

Selected recent and forthcoming talks and lectures

France-Berkeley Colloquium in Victorian Studies: Form across the Disciplines, Co-organizer with Nathalie Vanfasse, Aix-Marseille University, 2017-22

"The Biological Exception: Dickens's Teratology." Victorian Studies Workshop: Société des Anglicistes de l'Enseignement Supérieur Annual Congress, L'Exception. Aix-Marseille University, June 2019

Keynote lecture, “Imps of the Perverse: Antinomian Aesthetics in Romantic Fiction.” GER/International Byron Studies Conference, Transgressive Romanticism, University of Vechta, September 2019

Human Forms: Berkeley Book Chat (with Kevin Padian), Townsend Center for the Humanities, May 2020

Romantic Studies in 2020: Perspectives on the Field. Roundtable: British Association for Romantic Studies, Nov. 2020

"Dickens's Science of Monsters: The Natural History of Bleak House." Distinguished Lecture series, Yonsei University, Feb. 2021  

"Scott's Ghost-Seeing." Annual SWINC lecture (Scottish Writing in the Nineteenth Century), University of Edinburgh, May 2021

"The Fiction-Making Animal: Revisiting Literary Anthropology." Wolfgang Iser Lecture, University of Konstanz, June 2021.

"Weak Sovereignty in The Fortunes of Nigel." International Scott Conference, University of Edinburgh, July 2021.

"After Darwin" (panel), SLSA Conference, Univ. Michigan, October 2021

Peter Boxall, The Prosthetic Imagination: Books at the Center (Discussant), Center for the Study of the Novel, Stanford Univ., October 2021

"Prehistories of the Present: Unsettling National History in Scott's Novels." 250 Anos de Sir Walter Scott, Laboratory for the Study of the Novel: University of Sao Paulo, November 2021 

"Darwin's Human History." Alison Winter Memorial Lecture, Nicholson Centre for British Studies, University of Chicago, April 2022

“Charles Darwin: Aesthetics, Morals, and Human History.” EMMA seminar, Paul Valéry University-3, Montpellier, October 2022; Aix-Marseille University, November 2022

“Endless Forms: Aesthetic Evolution and Imperial History in The Descent of Man.” Keynote panel, Northeast Victorian Studies Association: Variants, Barnard College, April 2023


456 Wheeler

Office Hours

Fall 2023: Tues. 2-5:00 pm