Dr Rebecca N. Mitchell has been awarded a British Academy research grant, for her project, ‘Victorian Biography and the Assessment of Genius.’
Focusing on Sir Francis Galton’s 1869 study Hereditary Genius, Dr Mitchell will explore the development of Victorian representations of genius and their influence on today’s theories. The research aims to show that the Victorian judgement of exceptionalism was, from the beginning, largely influenced by biographies, which in turn were influenced by shifting tastes and fashions.
Modern-day approaches to genius are shaped by Victorian conventions; this new research is important in reorienting popular notions of genius, demonstrating how they are in fact culturally prescribed.
Having started in December 2015 and running until June 2016, this award will enable Dr Mitchell to conduct archival research at University College London and at the Stanford University Special Collections in California, and will contribute to her larger project, ‘The Victorian Romantic Genius’.