Alison Booth

Alison Booth

Brown-Forman Chair in English, Professor, Director - Scholars' Lab, University of Virginia Library

436 Bryan Hall

Office Hours: Wednesdays 11-12 and 1-2 in 308F, Main Library (Alderman) or by pre-arrangement on Zoom or 436 Bryan Hall. Additional appointments available.
Class Schedule: T&R 12:30-1:45

19th C British, Biography, Digital Humanities, Narrative Theory, Textual Studies, Women's Studies


Ph.D. Princeton, 1986
M.A. Princeton, 1983
M.F.A. Cornell, 1979
B.A. Bennington, 1976
I enjoy teaching courses in Victorian fiction, women writers, Gothic, narrative theory, auto/biography, travel, and other topics, uniting my research interests and willingness to adapt technology in the classroom with my insistence on critical and writing skills.  In research, I have expanded my feminist and narratological studies of cultural and literary history in Britain and North America since 1830 into digital humanities and bibliography.  A continuing theme in my books and articles has been the reception history of authors and the construction of collective biographical histories, or prosopographies; this theme informed my first book, on historical concepts of a common life and a female literary tradition in George Eliot and Virginia Woolf and it continues in my explorations of public representations of imagined community such as Mount Rushmore and of cultural tourism, museums, and biography. I have persistently worked across the boundaries of period (nineteenth to twentieth centuries), nationality (particularly transatlantic Anglophone), media and audience (word-image, novel and film, celebrity and popular culture).  My work in narrative theory has focused on life writing and the prevalent form of collections of short biographies (prosopographies), concentrated in my bibliography of collective biographies of women and the related book, How to Make It as a Woman (2004).  The annotated bibliography has been developed as an online site sponsored by the University of Virginia Library, and now forms part of the peer-reviewed NINES digital consortium.  In 2010, with collaborators in Scholars' Lab, we launched a new version of "CBW."  In 2010-2012, as Resident Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, we developed a schema (Biographical Elements and Structure Schema) for comparative analysis of versions of one person's life or short biographies in various types of collection, along with a database of the 8,000 women in the 12,000+ collections in the project. I have completed a book that further explores reception history and collective biographical representation, "Homes and Haunts: Touring Writers’ Shrines and Countries," forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2016.  This is a transatlantic study of writers’ house museums and narratives of pilgrimage in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Digital Projects

Collective Biographies of Women. A relational database of 1270 collective biographies of women and the more than 8000 persons and 13,000 short narratives collected in these books.  The project collaborates with SNAC.  We study narrative structure using a stand-aside XML schema to trace patterns across the networks created by printed prosopography.  


Collective Biographies of Women: An Annotated Bibliography. Based on bibliography of 930 collections in How to Make It as a Woman. Accepted NINES consortium, 2007.  Images, links to other databases and digitized books, and other functions and features added 2008, 2010. Tables of contents and annotations added, 2011-2012.  Continuing project.


Edited Works

Awards and Grants

  • NEH Level II Start-up Grant, Office of Digital Humanities: Cohorts of Women in Biographical Collections.  Daniel Pitti and Worthy Martin, Co-PIs. 2015-2016.
  • ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship and Sesquicentennial Fellowship: Jan.-Dec. 2014.  Sabbatical salary and project costs.
  • Resident Fellow, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, 2010-2012
  • Barbara Penny Kanner Award for Bibliomethodology, Western Association of Women Historians, for How to Make It as a Woman.
  • Fellow, Virginia Center for the Humanities, 1993.

Selected Articles Since 1995

  • “Character Studies,” Response to James Phelan, Style 52: 1-2 (2018): 118-23.
  • “Mid-Range Reading: Not a Manifesto,” Forum on Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading.  PMLA 132.2 (2017), 620-27.
  • Researched blog post: “The Clerk and the Spanish Dancer: Walt Whitman’s Jack Engle and Lola Montez,” Collective Biographies of Women Forum, 14 August 2017,
  • “The Detective Annex: Where is 221B Baker Street?” Forum on Museums.  Victorian Review 43: 1 (Spring 2017), 1-6.
  • “Helen A. Clarke and Charlotte Endymion Porter: Literary Criticism in Author Country a Century Ago,” in Transatlantic Literature and Author Love in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Ann Rowland and Paul Westover (Palgrave, 2016), 203-36.
  • "The Lives of Houses: Woolf and Biography," Companion to Virginia Woolf, ed. Jessica Berman (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), 14-26.
  • "Prosopography and Crowded Attention in Old and New Media," On Life-Writing, ed. Zachary Leader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 72-98.
  • Screenshots in the Longue Durée: Feminist Narratology, Digital Humanities, and Collective Biographies of Women. Narrative Theory Unbound: Queer and Feminist Approaches, ed. Susan Lanser and Robyn Warhol (Narrative Series, Ohio State University Press, 2015). 169-93.
  • "Virtual Victorians: Networks, Connections, Technologies," ed. Veronica Alfano and Andrew Stauffer. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.  83-106.  Digital Annex
  • “Feminist George Eliot Comes from United States,” Blackwell Companion to George Eliot, ed. Amanda Anderson and Harry Shaw.  Oxford: Blackwell, 2014. 247-61.
  • “Houses and Things: Literary Memorial House Museums as Collective Biography,” for Museums and Biographies, ed. Kate Hill.  Heritage Matters Series.  Boydell & Brewer, 2011. 231-46.
  • “Recovery 2.0: Beginning the Collective Biographies of Women Project.”  Innovations series.  Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 28:1 (Spring 2009): 15-35.
  • “Life Writing,” The Cambridge Companion to British Literature 1837-1914, ed. Joanne Shattock, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 50-70.
  • “Dickensian Time Travel,” in Literary Tourism and Nineteenth-Century Culture, ed. Nicola J. Watson. London: Palgrave, 2009), 150-63.    
  • “Author Country: Longfellow, the Brontës, and Anglophone Homes and Haunts,” Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, Special Issue: Victorian Internationalisms, ed. Lauren Goodlad and Julia M. Wright, 48 (November 2007). 
  • “Revisiting the Homes and Haunts of Mary Russell Mitford,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 30:1 (2008): 39-65.
  • “Fighting for Lives in the ODNB, or Taking Prosopography Personally,” Journal of Victorian Culture 10:2 (2005): 267-79.
  • “Men and Women of the Time: Victorian Prosopographies,” in Life Writing and Victorian Culture, ed. David Amigoni.  London: Ashgate, 2005.  41-66. 
  • “The Changing Faces of Mount Rushmore: Collective Portraiture and Participatory National Heritage,” in A Companion to Narrative Theory, ed. James Phelan and Peter Rabinowitz.  Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.  337-55. 
  • “The Real Right Place of Henry James: Homes and Haunts,” The Henry James Review 25 (2004): 216-27.
  • “Neo-Victorian Self-Help, or Cider House Rules,” American Literary History 14 (2002): 284-310.
  • “The Lessons of the Medusa: Anna Jameson and Collective Biographies of Women,” Victorian Studies 42:2 (Winter 1999/2000): 257-88.
  • “The Scent of a Narrative: Rank Discourse in Flush and Written on the Body," Narrative 8 (January 2000): 3-22.
  • “The Mother of All Cultures: Camille Paglia and Feminist Mythologies,” The Kenyon Review 21 (1999): 27-45.
  • "Illustrious Company: Victoria Among Other Women in Anglo-American Role Model Anthologies," in Remaking Queen Victoria, ed. Margaret Homans and Adrienne Munich.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.  59-78.
  • "From Miranda to Prospero: The Works of Fanny Kemble," Victorian Studies (Winter, 1995): 227-54.


  • “Cloud Gate,” in “Monday’s Poem,” Guest Blogger Lisa Spaar, The Chronicle of Higher Education Online, December 18, 2011. 4 May 2012.
  • Cited: The 312, Chicago Magazine Staff Blog, Chicago Magazine, Feb. 20, 2012.  4 May 2012.

Invited Lectures and Conferences (selected) Since 2010

  • Keynote, “Biographical Networks, Gendered Types, and the Challenge of Mid-Range Reading,” Digital Cultures, Big Data, and Society, Conference Organizer Emilie Pine, University College Dublin, 15 February 2018.
  • “Character Studies,” Keynote, 6th International Conference on Narratology, Shanghai International Studies University, 21 October 2017.
  • “A Rhetorical Theory of Biography: Communal Voices and Types,” Shanghai University, 23 October 2017.
  • “Strategic Typologies and Particular Webs: Digital Studies of Women’s Lives,” CUNY Victorian Conference, Talia Schaffer, Co-organizer, CUNY Graduate Center, May 5, 2017.
  • Lecture, “The Detective Annex: Where Is 221B Baker Street?” University of Utah, March 2, 2017.
  • Plenary Speaker, Memorial Conference for Linda Peterson, Yale University, May, 2016.
  • Workshop and Planning Committee, Digital Diversity 2015: 20th Anniversary of Orlando, University of Alberta, May 7-9 2015.  “Inside Collective Biographies of Women: Mid-Range Reading” 1-day Workshop Presenter.
  • Organizer, Page Barbour Lecture Fund Symposium, “Moving People, Linking Lives,” with Jenny Strauss Clay (Classics), Amy Ogden (French), and Brandon Walsh.  20-21 March 2015. On DH, Narrative, Prosopography.    
  • Keynote: “Writers' Houses and Countries: Some Literary Women Circa 1910,” Constance Fenimore Woolson Society Biannual Conference, February 2015, Washington DC
  • Keynote: “Crowding Attention: Prosopography, Women, and Nationality,” Day Conference: The Data of Life Writing: Gender, Race, and the Digital, at Institute for the Humanities and Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan, January 30, 2015.
  • “Victorian Topographies: Literary Homes and Haunts, Calendars and Countries.”  Oxford University English Faculty, 20 October 2014.
  • Digital Dialogues, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities: “Documentary Social Networks, from the Book to the Database Or, Prosopography and Crowding Attention.”  30 September 2014.
  • “Author Country and Homes and Haunts,” Jackson Lecture, English Department, West Virginia University 21 February 2014. 
  • “Author Country and Homes and Haunts,” Nineteenth-Century Area Study Group, University of Minnesota, April 10, 2014.
  • “Digital ‘Reading’ of Narratives in Social Networks,” THATCamp Vanderbilt University, 1 November 2013.
  • “Persons in the Database: Collective Biography and Prosopography,” Workshop, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College, London, 11 June 2013.
  • “A Network of Trollopes, an Italy of Women: Collective Biography, Nationality, and Events.” Birkbeck Series in Nineteenth-Century Studies, Birkbeck College, U London, 10 June 2013.
  • “Italy in the Big Picture: Collective Biographies of Women.” Essay the topic of a Work-in-Progress Seminar, Chair Beverley Taylor,  The Global and the Local: NAVSA/BAVS/AVSA Conference, Venice    2-3:30 Thursday June 6, 2013
  • Plenary Speaker, “Social Networks in Old and New Media,”  “Life-Writing Conference,” The Huntington Library, 30 March 2012.
  • Plenary Speaker, “A Feminist Narratology in the Digital Age: Collective Biographies of Women,” Queer and Feminist Narrative Theories, Project Narrative Symposium, Ohio State University, 14 May 2011.
  • Invited panelist, “Using Technology for Research,” Biographers International Organization, Compleat Biographer Conference, National Press Club, Washington DC, 21 May 2011.
  • “Homes and Haunts: Authors’ Houses, Museums, and Biography,” Lecture and Class, Long Romanticism Study Group, Brigham Young University, 7 March 2011.
  • “Close-ups on the Biographical Web: Collective Biographies of Women Since 1830,” Lecture, Georgia Colloquium in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Literature, University of Georgia, 21 October 2010.
  • “Museums and/as Biographies,” Babcock Lecture at Hartwick College, April 2010.

Experience and Service Since 1995

  • Interim Chair, Department of English, Spring 2007
  • Director of Graduate Studies, Department of English, 2000-2003
  • Director of Graduate Admissions, Department of English, 1999
  • Associate Dean for Personnel and Planning in Arts and Sciences, 1995-1998: faculty recruitment, appointment, honors, fellowships, and leaves; affirmative action and sexual harassment; promotion and tenure; annual salary and post-tenure review.
  • Acting Chair, Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, 1997-1998
  • Editorial Boards: PMLA 2015-2016; University of Virginia Press, 2005-07; Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies; South Atlantic Review; Lifewriting Annual.
  • MLA: Executive Committee, Autobiography, Biography, and Life Writing 2006-2010; Radio Committee 2009-2011; Chair, 2009-2010; Member, Lowell Prize Committee, 2007; Chair, 2008; Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee, 1996-1998; Chair, Committee on Honors and Awards, 1997-1998.
  • President, Society for the Study of Narrative Literature, 2005.  Perkins Prize Committee for Best Book on Narrative, 2006-2007
  • Advisory Board, North American Victorian Studies Association (elected 2011)
  • Professor, Bread Loaf School of English, summer 2006, 2008
  • Project Coordinator, Center for the Liberal Arts, 2003-present (Short courses for high school English teachers in the area and state.)
  • Conference Co-organizer: 3rd Annual North American Victorian Studies Association Conference, University of Virginia, 30 September-2 October 2005