My work is about how stories shape the world. Specifically, I work on the interplay between literature, theology, and gender in Britain’s “long nineteenth century,” examining how narratives—and particularly the novel—shape theological ideas and religious practice. My current research, which was funded in part by a generous fellowship from the AAUW, centers on novelistic characterizations of Jesus in the Victorian period, explaining Jesus’ development from a religious figure to a literary character. Prior to my doctoral research, I lived in Hungary and Australia, teaching high school English and learning first hand how much our stories shape and reflect who we are. More recently, through mothering two small children, I’ve grown to appreciate the formative power of story all the more, observing how Cinderella can inspire a three-year old to help with chores, while Sleeping Beauty leads almost inevitably to a disturbing passivity. Knowing how subtle and powerful our stories are continually motivates my professional work; by understanding how stories shaped the past, we will better understand how stories might also shape our future.
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Jessica Ann Hughes