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Indiana University Bloomington

Jesse Molesworth

Jesse Molesworth


Associate Professor

Ph.D, English, Stanford University, 2003
B.A., English, University of Maryland, 1997

My work explores the intersection between the European Enlightenment and the literary form most often claimed as its logical outgrowth, the novel. More specifically, in my first book Chance and the Eighteenth-Century Novel: Realism, Probability, Magic I argue for the novel as an agent of re-enchantment, seeking not so much to instantiate ascendant scientific principles but, rather more radically, attempting to heal the rift between the animistic and materialist worldviews. Such a thesis guides my readings of the rise of lottery addiction, the emergence of tarot cartomancy, and the "realism" of Defoe, Fielding, Sterne, and Sade, among others.

I am currently at work at two subsequent projects: the first investigating the historical construction of time within eighteenth-century literature and culture; and the second developing a poetics of graphic storytelling and representation.

Select Publications (click image for ordering information)


Chance and the Eighteenth-Century Novel: Realism, Probability, Magic Chance and the Eighteenth-Century Novel: Realism, Probability, Magic (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Awarded Honorable Mention in the Barbara Perkins and George Perkins Prize, honoring the year's best book on narrative.


"Gothic Time, Sacred Time," Modern Language Quarterly (forthcoming, 2014)

"Comics as Remediation: Gilbert Hernandez's Human Diastrophism," ImageText: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies 7.1 (2013).

Sterne Studies on the Eve of the Tercentenary," Literature Compass 9 (2012): 453-63.

"Syllepsis, Mimesis, Simulacrum: The Monk and the Grammar of Authenticity," Criticism 51 (2009): 401-23.

"'A Dreadful Course of Calamities': Roxana's Ending Reconsidered," ELH 74.2 (2007): 493-508.

"Equiano's 'Loud Voice': Witnessing the Performance of The Interesting Narrative," Texas Studies in Language and Literature 48.2 (2006): 123-44.

Recent Talks

“Time and the Cosmos: The Orrery in the Eighteenth-Century Imagination,” Eighteenth-Century Seminar, The Newberry Library, Chicago (2013)

“Of Plagues, Cannibals, and Zombies: Daniel Defoe and the Origins of the Zombie Plot,” Zombies vs. Professors conference, Louisville (2012)

“A Reply to the Question: ‘Can Narratives Enlighten?’” ASECS annual meeting, San Antonio (2012)

“The Hour of the Uncanny: Walpole, Lewis, Radcliffe,” ASECS annual meeting, Vancouver (2011)

“Gambling in Narrative, Gambling as Narrative,” Narrative conference, Cleveland (2010)

"The Gambler's Plot: Modern Culture and the Problem of Randomness,” New Directions in Eighteenth-Century Studies workshop, Indiana University, 2008.

"Narrative Re-Enchantment: Sterne, Hume, Freud.” Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, 2008

"Can the Novel Enlighten?”, Harvard University, Columbia University, Concordia University, 2007

"Humean Realism: Fielding's Amelia and the Problem of Induction," ASECS annual meeting, Montreal, 2006

"Natural Preternaturalism: The Gothic Novel and the Rise of Tarot Cartomancy,” SUNY-Binghamton, University of Western Ontario, University of Southern California, Clark University, 2004-6

Selected Honors

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities, Johns Hopkins University, 2006-8

Mabelle McLeod Lewis Dissertation Fellowship, Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, Stanford University, 2001-3

Key Scholar, College of Arts and Humanities Senior Scholar, Joyce Tayloe Horrell
Scholarship for Academic Promise in English Literature, University of Maryland, 1992-7