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Adam Miller


My current project explores the phenomenology of science, focusing principally on the scientific practices of long eighteenth-century Britons. I argue that the feeling or experience of science practice can tell scholars a great deal about the ontology or being of science itself. I am especially interested in the ideological role utility plays in structuring these experiences. My research explores a range of literary genres including pastoral and didactic poetry, the sentimental novel, and the gothic romance in addition to scientific and technical media such as letters patent and the papers of the Royal Society and Board of Longitude.

My dissertation applies the phenomenological insights of Martin Heidegger to the history of long eighteenth-century British science and technology in order to produce new readings of that period's fiction and poetry. I argue that diverse authors of the period responded to the ideological implications of the Scientific and Early Industrial Revolutions; namely, the advocacy of utility as the "moral" end of scientific research and technological innovation. I develop readings of literary and historical texts that reveal this utilitarian logic at work in a range of eighteenth-century practices, including patent law reform, textile manufacturing, slavery, and colonialism. Some of the major authors considered include Francis Bacon, John Locke, Daniel Defoe, Olaudah Equiano, Maria Edgeworth, and Ann Radcliffe. I argue that the Enlightenment's notion of progress is a misnomer, and that these practices--and the technologies and discourses that helped secure them--were motivated by tandem logics of prophylaxis and repair. I conclude, therefore, that the progressive, positivist narrative with which the Enlightenment typically presents itself is at odds with its actual workings.


Robert Manson Myers Dissertation Award, Vanderbilt University. 2014.

Martha Ingram Fellowship, Vanderbilt University. 2013 – 2014.

Drake Fellowship, Vanderbilt University. 2012.

Summer Research Award, Vanderbilt University. 2012.

Dissertation Enhancement Grant, Vanderbilt University. 2012.

School of Criticism and Theory Representative, Vanderbilt University. 2010.

Graduate Fellowship, Vanderbilt University. 2009 – 2013.



“The Cosmic Feeling: A Phenomenology of the Orrery.” American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies. Pittsburg. March 2016.

“Comparting Form and Function in the Quest for Longitude.” American Comparative Literature Association. Seattle. March 2015.

“Useful Arrangements (II): Smith, Equiano, and Representations of British Empire.” American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies. Williamsburg. March 2014.

“Useful Arrangements (I): The Crossings and Dwellings of London Bridge.” Southeastern American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies. Knoxville. February 2014.

“Pocket-Watches and Chronometers: Rethinking the Utilitarian Motives behind Technological Innovation in Eighteenth-Century England.” Queen Mary, University of London Eighteenth-Century Studies Postgraduate Conference. June 2013.

“The Supernatural Explained: Radcliffe, Realism, and the Ends of Science.” University of Virginia English Graduate Student Conference. March 2013.

“The Gothic Things: A Heideggerian Reading of Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest.” Vanderbilt University & Queen Mary, University of London Eighteenth-Century Studies Postgraduate Conference. June 2012.

“The Container and the Gothic: Reading the Abbey in Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest.” South Central Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. February 2012.