Susan Hroncek successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, entitled Strange Compositions: Chemistry and its Occult History in Victorian Speculative Fiction, on August 9, 2016.
In this dissertation, Susan Hroncek examines how depictions of chemistry in Victorian literature are influenced by concerns regarding the history of chemistry and its relationship to the occult. She argues that representations of chemistry from the period, particularly those found in popular texts, responded to societal concerns about the origins of chemistry with speculative narratives that depict a collision between chemical innovations and elements of chemistry’s occult or Eastern past. The frequency of negative depictions of chemistry during the Victorian period indicates how, despite discoveries that revolutionized industry and medicine, the British public regarded the science and its practitioners with suspicion. During a period as fascinated with origins as with progress, these texts expand upon the uncertainties of a society struggling with the tumultuous relationship between chemistry’s past, present, and future.
The supervisory committee consisted of supervisor Dr. Lynn Shakinovsky, Dr. Maria DiCenzo, and Dr. Markus Poetzsch, and the external examiner was Dr. Martin Danahay of the Department of English Language and Literature at Brock University.
Susan Hroncek is currently pursuing the publication of her research, including a forthcoming article in Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, and remains involved in Dr. DiCenzo’s project on Women’s Print Media in Interwar Britain (1918-1939), which includes both an Edinburgh Companion and an Omeka online archive. She is planning a new project on Victorian representations of the chemical industry and the chemistry of photography with Laurier colleague Maggie Clark.