Virginia Jackson

picture of Virginia  Jackson

UCI Endowed Chair in Rhetoric, Departments of English and Comparative Literature, Critical Theory
School of Humanities

Ph.D., Princeton University, Comparative Literature


University of California, Irvine
Department of English
400 Humanities Instructional Building
Mail Code 2650
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Lyric Theory; The History of Black Poetics; Nineteenth-, Twentieth-, and Twenty-First-Century American Poetry; Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture; the History of Literary Criticism; Contemporary American Poetics
Academic Distinctions
Bain-Swiggett VisitingProfessor in Poetry and Poetics, Princeton, 2021
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2011-2012
Christian Gauss Award 2006
MLA First Book Prize 2006
Research Abstract
Virginia Jackson is UCI Endowed Chair of Rhetoric and Critical Theory in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature at UC Irvine. She is the author of Dickinson’s Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading (Princeton UP, 2005), which won the Christian Gauss Prize and the MLA Prize for a First Book. She is the editor of On Periodization: Selected Essays from the English Institute (ACLS E-Book, 2010; Meredith McGill, series editor) and, with Yopie Prins, the co-editor of The Lyric Theory Reader: A Critical Anthology (Johns Hopkins UP, 2014). Her next book, Before Modernism: Inventing American Poetry in the Nineteenth Century is forthcoming from Princeton UP. Her essays in historical poetics have appeared in PMLA, New Literary History, MLQ, Victorian Poetry, Studies in Romanticism, Nineteenth-Century Literature, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She is one of the founding members of the Historical Poetics working group
Short Biography
In my first book, Dickinson’s Misery, I tried to think about Dickinson’s C19 verse practices in relation to the C20 theories of lyric that determined her reception and circulation. The subtitle of that book is “A Theory of Lyric Reading,” and by “lyric reading” I meant that Dickinson’s multi-media, multi-generic poems were, over the course of a century and more, remade in order to fit a monolithic, idealized genre of poetry associated with lyric—or really, with an idealized notion of lyric that came to define all poetry—so much so that poetry became another name for it. This is the process I have called “lyricization,” and in that book I just meant that Dickinson became the poster child for the way many different forms of verse address (ballads and elegies and odes and hymns and drinking songs and valentines and epistles, etc) were eventually folded into a theory of lyric address that was universal, transhistorical, and imaginary. For my second project, The Lyric Theory Reader, Yopie Prins and I wrote a short book inside a large critical anthology of lyric theory in order to explain that argument inductively, by showing and telling what modern lyric theory has been. When that book was published in 2014, John Keene asked an important question: Why it is the academic version of modern lyric theory represented by that anthology so White? My third project on lyric theory and second project on the relation between modern lyric theory and C19 American poetics is a response to that question. Before Modernism: Inventing American Lyric in the Nineteenth Century began as a book about the distance between C19 American poetics and modern lyric theory and has ended up becoming a book about the entwinement of modern lyric theory with, of all things, C19 American poetics. As it turns out, racialization and lyricization have worked together to produce the poetry now considered "modern." That idea should surprise no one, but it should also prompt us to reconsider the history and practice of American literary studies.


2005 Dickinson’s Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading (Princeton University Press)
Christian Gauss Award, Phi Beta Kappa
Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book

2010 On Periodization: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 2008 (ACLS Humanities E-Book)

2014 The Lyric Theory Reader (with Yopie Prins) (The Johns Hopkins University Press)

2022 Before Modernism: Inventing American Lyric in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press)

Journal Articles and Book Chapters (Selected)

2020 “Historical Poetics and the Dream of Interpretation: A Response to Paul Fry, Modern Language Quarterly, 81:3 (September 2020), 289-318.

2019 "Poe's Common Meter," in The Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. J.Gerald Kennedy and Scott Peeples (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 121-139.

2019 “The Cadence of Consent: Francis Barton Gummere, Lyric Rhythm, and White Poetics,” in Critical Rhythm: The Poetics of a Literary Life Form (New York:Fordham University Press, 2019), 87-106.

2018 “’Our Poets’: William Cullen Bryant and the White Romantic Lyric,” New Literary History, 49:4 (Autumn 2018), 521-551.

2016 “American Romanticism, Again,” Studies in Romanticism, 55 (Fall 2016), 319-346.

2016 “Specters of the Ballad,” Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 71, No. 2, 176-196.

2014 “Longfellow in His Time,” Chapter 11 of The Cambridge History of American Poetry, ed. Alfred Bendixon and Stephen Burt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 238-259.

2012 “The Poet as Poetess,” The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Poetry, ed. Kerry Larson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press),54-76.

2012 “Lyric,” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Fourth Edition, ed.Roland Greene, et. al. (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 826-834.

2010 “Periodization and its Discontents,” Introduction to On Periodization: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 2008

2008 “Thinking Dickinson Thinking Poetry,” in The Blackwell Companion to EmilyDickinson, ed. Mary Loeffelholz and Martha Nell Smith (Blackwell Publishing), 205-221.

2008 “Bryant; or, American Romanticism,” in The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange, ed. Meredith McGill (Rutgers
University Press, 2008), 185-204.

2008 “Who Reads Poetry?” PMLA, vol. 123, no. 2, January, 181-187.

2008 “The Story of Boon; or, Parables of the Poetess,” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance , vol. 54, nos. 1-4, December, 240-268.

2005. “American Victorian Poetry: The Transatlantic Poetic,” Victorian Poetry, 43:2, Summer (Virginia Jackson, Guest Editor), 157-164.

2005 “Dickinson Undone,” Raritan (Spring), Vol. XXIV, Number 4, 128-148.

2000 “Poetry and Experience,” Raritan (Fall), Vol. XX, Number 2., 126-135.

2000 “Poe, Longfellow, and the Institution of Poetry,” Poe Studies. Vol. 33, numbers 1
and 2, 23-28.

Reviews and Public Writing:

2021 “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?” The Georgia Review, Spring 2021

2021 “The Poetry of the Past” (with Meredith Martin), Avidly, Los Angeles Review of
Books, February 18

2021 “The Poetry of the Future” (with Meredith Martin), Avidly, Los Angeles Review of
Books, January

2015 “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,” Los Angeles Review of Books,
April 12

2011 "Please Don't Call It History"
National Endowment for the Humanities, 2011-2012
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