Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

John Lamb

Committee Co-Chair

Dennis Allen

Committee Member

Ryan Claycomb

Committee Member

Marilyn Francus

Committee Member

Donald Hall


This study argues that the museum wielded enough cultural capital to shape not only the content of literature (which picked up themes like collection, hoarding, display, and organization) but also the formal arrangement of such literature into catalogues, taxonomies, and the dense material-based descriptions for which the Victorian novel is often criticized. The museum, it is shown, is far more central to Victorian thought than has been recognized, and its presence in literature has been misread or overlooked in contemporary criticism. This study also provides a narrative of the Victorian preoccupation with the museual, especially as regards the natural history movement and the natural history museum. While there have been studies of the nineteenth-century museum and its appearance in literary texts, there has until now been no sustained account of the reach of its influence, nor has there been an attempt to represent Victorian views on the museual and its reach into everyday life. This study draws on the criticism of museum scholars such as Sharon Macdonald and Tony Bennett to examine the influence of the museum on key works of Victorian literature such as Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop and Our Mutual Friend, Henry Mayhew's 1851 and London Labour and the London Poor, and Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White..