Ph.D., Harvard University
INTERESTS: Nineteenth-century studies; the novel; Shakespeare, Joyce; history of ideas; law and literature; ethics and literature; social and literary history; comparative studies in the novel and drama; Freud studies; moral philosophy.
Alexander Welsh teaches mainly prose fiction, from various historical perspectives. From 1975 to 1981 he edited Nineteenth-Century Fiction, the journal devoted to British and American fiction. The Hero of the Waverley Novels (1963, 1968, and 1992 with additional essays on Scott) relates Scott’s achievement to 18th- and 19th-century ideas of property. Thackeray: A Collection of Critical Essays (1968) is a volume in the Twentieth-Century Views series. The City of Dickens (1971, 1986) and George Eliot and Blackmail (1985) interpret the work of these two novelists against the background of Victorian social history. Two subsequent books on Dickens, From Copyright to Copperfield (1987) and Dickens Redressed: The Art of “Bleak House” and “Hard Times” (2000), take off from biographical criticism. Reflections on the Hero as Quixote (1981) is an excursion in comparative literature and the theme of justice. Strong Representations: Narrative and Circumstantial Evidence in England (1992) concerns narrative in several disciplines from 1750 to 1900, but especially criminal prosecution and the novel. Freud’s Wishful Dream Book (1994) is a close reading of Freud’s famous book of 1900. Hamlet in His Modern Guises (2001) reads Shakespeare’s play in the light of other revenge tragedies and then shows how it was recast in novels by Goethe, Scott, Dickens, Melville, and Joyce. What is Honor? (2008) traces a genealogy of honor that operates as a moral imperative and still very much matters to us today. Chapters on Aristotle, Cicero, and Shakespeare introduce this concept of honor as it replays in the drama and fiction of the Enlightenment, and especially the writings of Mandeville and Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, and Adam Smith.
Mr. Welsh, who taught at Pittsburgh and UCLA before rejoining the Yale faculty in 1991, has been the recipient of Guggenheim, N.E.H., Rockefeller Foundation, and National Humanities Center fellowships. He was a Harvard National Scholar and served with the U.S. Army in Germany.