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CIE Researcher of Distinction, March 2018


Nicole Savage
Nicole Savage

Each month, the Center for Inclusive Education showcases the outstanding research being conducted by one of our talented scholars in our Research Café series. In addition, we recognize this scholar as a Researcher of Distinction and share the details of his/her journey to becoming an accomplished scholar. This month's Researcher of Distinction is Nicole Savage, PhD candidate in the Department of English. Nicole presented her work, ‘The Dual Brain and the Dissolution of Self in Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fiction on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.



Nicole Savage is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from Wittenberg University, and her Master of Arts in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Cincinnati, where she wrote her master's thesis on identity and uses of disguise in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. She is currently pursuing her PhD here at Stony Brook. Her presentation is based on her dissertation, which focuses on nineteenth-century Gothic literature from both the British and American literary traditions and the intersections of these tales with developing understandings of the mind and brain. Nicole is a Turner Fellow in the Center for Inclusive Education.

NICOLE's Current Research

Describe the work you presented for your Research Café.

Nineteenth-century Gothic narratives employ figures of the double to challenge the idea of a stable, unified self. I focus on characters whose doubles arise from within their own minds. I analyze these characters using a nineteenth-century scientific concept called dual brain theory, which suggests that the two symmetrical hemispheres of the brain can function separately, and can produce two entirely separate personalities. Gothic literature and scientists studying the mind and brain shared an interest in transgressing boundaries. The gothic plays on readers’ fears and could exploit the anxieties that nineteenth-century medical and scientific developments raised. I contend that recognizing the presence of dual brain theory in these texts grounds gothic literature in reality and intensifies its effects.

How did you become interested in research?

I have always loved to read, especially historical fiction. Reading these novels made me want to find out more about the people and time periods that I encountered in the stories, so I would go out and find other books to read so I could learn more. From there, I suppose it just kind of became a habit!

What was the deciding factor for you to come to Stony Brook for your graduate studies?

My particular area of research interest is nineteenth-century literature, and when I visited Stony Brook, I found that there were a number of other students in the English department who work on the same literature. This kind of community of other students in my own department whose interests were similar to mine was not something I had in my master's program, and it really appealed to me.

Are there any other projects, beyond your Research Café work, that you are currently working on? 

I just presented a paper at the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies conference in San Francisco.

What are your future goals?

Since I'm a graduate student, whenever someone asks me this question, they usually follow it up with, "Are you going to teach?" An academic career is definitely one path I'm considering, and I've gotten valuable teaching experience here at Stony Brook that would help me if that's the direction I choose. However, thanks to my advisor Adrienne Munich, I've also gotten to work as an editorial assistant on an academic journal called Victorian Literature and Culture, and I think that experience also gives me the option to go the non-academic route by opening up possible opportunities in the editorial and publishing fields.

What do you enjoy most about research?

This is such a clichéd answer, but I really enjoy learning things I hadn't known before. That might mean finding the answer to a specific question I'm asking, or uncovering information that I wasn't even actively looking for.