Berkeley English Faculty

Ian Duncan

Ian Duncan

Florence Green Bixby Chair in English
English Department Chair, 2021-22

456 Wheeler
Office hours: By appointment [email me]

Professional Statement

Ian Duncan studied at King's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1977) and Yale University (Ph.D., 1989), and taught for several years 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 a new book, Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution (Princeton, 2019). He is currently writing a short 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 and other storytelling media (opera, film). Duncan is a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a member of the editorial board of Representations, a General Editor of the Collected Works of James Hogg, and co-editor of a new 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, and Aix-Marseille University.

Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution
Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution

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 ant....(read more)


Set in the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion, Kidnapped transforms the Romantic historical novel into the modern thriller. Its heartstopping scenes of cross-country pursuit, distilled to a pure intensity in Stevenson’s prose, have become a staple of a....(read more)

The Edinburgh Companion to James Hogg
The Edinburgh Companion to James Hogg

James Hogg (1770-1835) is increasingly recognised as a major Scottish author and one of the most original figures in European Romanticism. 16 essays written by international experts on Hogg draw on recent breakthroughs in research to illuminate the ....(read more)

Selected Publications and Papers Delivered


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 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

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

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

“Scott’s Ghost-Seeing.” Special issue of Gothic Studies: “Scottish Gothic,” ed. Monica Germanà (forthcoming)

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

“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.


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, 2017-19

Roundtable: 1819 in 2019, Byron Society of North America. MLA, Chicago, Jan. 2019

“The Romantic Novel and the Natural History of Man: Goethe, Staël, Scott.” London-Paris Romanticism Seminar, Queen Mary University of London, Jan. 2019

"Charles Dickens, Transformist: Popular Science and the Victorian Novel." Seminar: English Department, University of Hong Kong, March 2019

Keynote lecture, "Out of Time: History—Anachronism—Fiction." The 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion. University of Glasgow, April 2019

"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, Spring 2022


Current Research

My new book Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution was published last fall (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 will offer a critical overview of Scotland's long Romantic century, from Enlightenment projects of the human sciences and revivals of indigenous poetry to Scott's late novels and Carlyle's French Revolution. Part I explores the genres and institutions of Scottish Enlightenment and Romantic-period writing, focusing on the succession of ancient native epic (Ossian), popular satire and lyric (Burns), and historical fiction (Scott). Part II examines a series of case studies according to representative topoi: the lost nation, popular festivity, world literature, the fanatic. I am also editing The Cambridge History of Scottish Literature, and working towards a short critical study of Charles Darwin and his literary contexts.

English Department Classes
spring, 2021


Literature in English: Late-17th through Mid-19th Centuries

45B/101 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

45B/102 -- discussion section

James, John Patrick

45B/103 -- discussion section

Warren, Noah

45B/104 -- discussion section

Warren, Noah

45B/105 -- discussion section

Gamedze, Londiwe

45B/106 -- discussion section

Gamedze, Londiwe


Graduate Readings: Realism

fall, 2020


Literature and the Arts: Opera and Literary Form

spring, 2020


Special Topics: Enlightenment & Romance: Scotland in the 18th Century



spring, 2019


Literature in English: Late-17th Through Mid-19th Centuries

45B/101 -- discussion section

Ritland, Laura

45B/102 -- discussion section

Ding, Katherine

45B/103 -- discussion section

Ritland, Laura

45B/104 -- discussion section

Ding, Katherine

45B/105 -- discussion section

O'Brien, Garreth

45B/106 -- discussion section

O'Brien, Garreth


Special Topics: Gothic