Carolyn Williams is Distinguished Professor of English at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. There she teaches courses on Victorian literature and culture, with an abiding interest in genre.

Her first book, Transfigured World: Walter Pater’s Aesthetic Historicism (Cornell, 1989) describes the set of theoretical relations that make Pater’s version of aestheticism so powerful, considering aestheticism and historicism as intertwined epistemologies. In Pater studies, she has also co-edited (with Laurel Brake and Leslie Higgins) a book of essays, Walter Pater: Transparencies of Desire (2002) and an issue of the Pater Newsletter on Queer Pater Studies (2007).

She edited a special issue of Victorian Literature and Culture on “Victorian Studies and Cultural Studies” (1999), for which she commissioned a forum of diverse position papers — including “Lyrical Studies” by Virginia Jackson and Yopie Prins and “The Fix of Form” by Herbert Tucker. Her own contribution to that issue was “‘Genre’ and ‘Discourse’ in Victorian Cultural Studies”

Her second book, Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody (Columbia, 2011) argues for a theory of parody that would focus on the form of its temporal and historicizing dynamic, as well as on the particular advantages of genre parody. See especially “Parody” and “Genre Parody” from the introduction to that book.

Lately, she edited The Cambridge Companion to English Melodrama and continues to work on a book tentatively titled Melodramatic Form, which will again be a study of relations between genre and form, a historical study of the “poetics of melodrama,” with particular attention to the segmentation of the generic form both by intermittent music and by punctual moments of static pictorialization, the tableaux. Publications working toward that project have included: “Moving Pictures: George Eliot and Melodrama” (2000), the chapter on “Melodrama” in the New Cambridge History of English Literature (The Victorian Period), ed. Kate Flint (2014), the entry on “Melodrama” in the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature (2015), the entry on melodrama in the Keywords issue of Victorian Literature and Culture (2018), and several essays on melodramatic and novelistic realism.



  • “Parodies of the Pre-Raphaelite Ballad Refrain,” Nineteenth-Century Literature vol. 71 no. 2 (September 2016): 227-55.
  • “Textual Time Zones and Figures of Relief in Marius the Epicurean,” JPRS: Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 25 (Fall 2016): 53-72.
  • “Melodrama,” in The New Cambridge History of English Literature: The Victorian Period, ed. Kate Flint (Cambridge University Press, 2012): 193-219.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody (Columbia, 2011)
  • “The Gutter Effect in Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s A Dialogue on Love,” in Graphic Subjects, ed. Michael Chaney (Wisconsin, 2011): 195-99.
  • “Walter Pater, Film Theorist,” in Victorian Aesthetic Conditions: Pater Across the Arts, ed. Elicia Clements and Lesley J. Higgins (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010): 181-205.
  • “Parody and Poetic Tradition: Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, Victorian Poetry vol. 46 no.4 (Winter 2008): 375-403.
  • "Moving Pictures: George Eliot and Melodrama," in Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion, ed. Lauren Berlant (Routledge, 2004): 105-144.
  • “Pater’s Impressionism and the Form of Historical Revival,” in Knowing the Past: Victorian Literature and Culture ed. Suzy Anger (Cornell, 2001): 77-99.
  • "'Genre' and 'Discourse' in Victorian Cultural Studies," Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 27, no. 2 (1999): 517-520.
  • “Tableaux and Melodramatic Realism,” English Literature: Theories, Interpretations, Contexts, vol. 6 (December 2019), pp. 101-24.
  • “Keyword: Melodrama,” Victorian Literature and Culture 46.3/4 (Fall/Winter, 2018), 769-73.
  • “Melodrama,” in Dickens and the Arts, eds. Juliet John and Claire Wood (Edinburgh University Press, 8350 words, forthcoming 2021).
    1. The Cambridge Companion to English Melodrama (Cambridge UP, 2018), ed. and introduction (pp. 1-9).
  • “Melodrama and the Realist Novel,” in The Cambridge Companion to English Melodrama (Cambridge UP, 2018), pp. 209-23.