Department of English Language and Literature and the College
Zachary Samalin specializes in the literature and culture of the Victorian period, with a particular focus on the unique blend of social criticism, high art and mass entertainment that characterizes the Victorian novel. He is also fascinated by the ways in which major theoretical innovations of the 19th century, such as Marxism and psychoanalysis, have outlived their own historical moment and continue to influence critical discourse in the present, providing the contours for ongoing debates in literary, aesthetic and cultural theory.
Currently Samalin is writing a book entitled “The Masses Are Revolting: Victorian Culture and the Aesthetics of Disgust,” which explores the functions that the emotion of disgust came to perform in the emerging Victorian public sphere. One of the central endeavors of this project is to show how a variety of Victorian political, scientific, and legal discourses—among them sanitary reform, gastric physiology, evolutionary theory, and obscenity law—relied on and shared a conception of disgust that derived in large part from Enlightenment aesthetic theory.
Samalin received his PhD in English from the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where he was awarded his department’s 2013 Doctoral Faculty Prize for the Most Distinguished Dissertation, as well as a 2012–13 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship.
Samalin joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2014.