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S. Pearl Brilmyer

Assistant Professor
Comparative Literature
Phone: 541-346-3935
Office: 273 PLC
Office Hours: On leave until AY 16-17


My work lies at the intersection of the history of philosophy, science, and literature. I focus on the question of what brings characters—literary and natural historical, human and nonhuman—into existence. 
My current book project, "Character Density: Late Victorian Realism and the Science of Description," examines the philosophical implications of the disarticulation of character from plot at the turn of the twentieth century. Focused on series of little-studied, late-career works by George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Olive Schreiner, and Walter Pater, the project argues for a theory of literature as a descriptive science that documents the circumstances, experiences, and practices through which character materializes. 
In addition to problems of description and characterization in the nineteenth-century English novel, my research interests include: German theories of will and drive (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Wundt), questions of materiality and temporality in feminist and queer theory, and the history of the physical and natural sciences.
I have recently published in PMLA and Representations and am currently completing an experimental, excerpted edition of the South African writer Olive Schreiner's 1926 novel, From Man to Man; or Perhaps Only (with design by Minna Sakaria). 


Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Plasticity, Form, and the Matter of Character in Middlemarch.” Representations 130 (2015): 60-83. Republished in the online colloquy, “The Nature of Literary Being.” Arcade: Literature, the Humanities, and the World. Stanford University, Nov. 2015. Web.
  • “‘The Natural History of My Inward Self’: Sensing Character in George Eliot’s Impressions of Theophrastus Such.” PMLA 129.1 (2014): 35-51.
  • “Schopenhauer and the British Literary Sphere.” The Palgrave Schopenhauer Handbook. Ed. Sandra L. Shapshay. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Forthcoming. 
  • “Darwinian Feminism.” Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbook: Gender. Vol. 6. Matter. Ed. Stacy Alaimo. Series Ed. Renée C. Hoogland. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Forthcoming.
  • “Impassioned Objectivity: Nietzsche, Hardy, and the Science of Fiction.” boundary2 review. Forthcoming. 


  • “Philosophy through the Macroscope.” A digital humanities project analyzing trends in modern philosophy. Translation of German and French titles into English from Benjamin Rand’s 1905 Bibliography of Philosophy, Psychology, and Cognate Subjects. 2013.
  • “Schopenhauer’s World.” A semi-permanent exhibition for visitors to the Schopenhauer Archive. Translation from German into English. Frankfurt am Main. 2011.
  • “Nietzsche was a DJ.” An audio piece by Avital Ronell. Transcription and translation of German and French into English. Currents in Electronic Literacy. Special Issue, “Writing with Sound,” April 2010.

Book Reviews 

  • “The Bonds of Choice.” Review of The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy by David L. Eng. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 18:1 (2011): 199-202.
  • Flashback review of The History of Sexuality Vols. I-III by Michel Foucault. E3W Review of Books 8 (2009). 


  • ENG 650: George Eliot and the Science of Description
  • ENG 199: Queer Literature
  • ENG 322: The English Novel from Scott to Hardy
  • ENG 469/569: What is Nature?