Janice Carlisle

Professor of English

Janice Carlisle, A.B. Mount Holyoke College, Ph.D. Cornell University, faculty member at Yale since 2004: Your scholarship and years of service in the classroom have brought Victorian Britain back to life for your students and colleagues by meditating on the relationship between politics and the life of the senses. Your 2004 book, Common Scents: Comparative Encounters in High-Victorian Fiction, shows how Victorian novels describe social inequality by making reference to the smell of the unfamiliar, richly displaying your attunement to the forces that condition what it means to live within a community. In asking not only “what” but also “who smells” in Victorian fiction, you demonstrate the perceptiveness and sympathy that mark your writing and teaching. More recent scholarly work also considers the sense of sight: both Picturing Reform in Victorian Britain and your current project, “Ford Madox Ford and the Politics of Work,” show how the past visualized politics, allowing us better to visualize and reform our present.

Your conception of, “a comparative encounter, a meeting between individuals differentiated by the cultural values associated with them,” helps us think harder about how to negotiate the world of the university, as well. Your many reminders to consider the full range of our students and colleagues when deciding matters of policy have helped make the English Department a less hierarchical institution, one that is more aware of the lines that we draw. In urging such consideration, you have, like David Copperfield, “always been thoroughly in earnest,” “in great aims and in small,” but, as with Dickens himself, such earnestness has never precluded good humor.

Your commitment to teaching beyond the walls of privilege appears in your many years of professional service to the Dickens Universe, a yearly symposium on a novel by Dickens that brings together scholars, students, high school teachers, and the general public, and in your service to the New Haven Teacher’s Institute. Here on campus, your vision for an expository writing program in the English Department (English 114) became a reality that now serves over 500 undergraduates each year. And your love of teaching and concern for those who are underserved by higher education led you to help envision the academic program for First-Year Scholars at Yale, a preparatory summer program for incoming students in need of additional academic support.

You are a model mentor, and your intellectual rigor, generosity, and care spread exponentially through the scores of young scholars who have flourished under your guidance. To quote one of your mentees (now an assistant professor), “Janice, you are the embodiment of everything that is right in this profession.”

Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans