Forms of Empire: The Poetics of Victorian Sovereignty
My book, Forms of Empire: The Poetics of Victorian Sovereignty (Oxford UP, Nov. 2016 [UK]; Jan. 2017 [US]), explores how Victorian writers expanded the capacities of literary form to account for the ongoing violence of liberal modernity. (No single year of Victoria's reign, 1837-1901, was without at least one imperial war.) Taking the permanent war of the Pax Britannica as a starting point, this study argues that coming to terms with the seeming paradoxes of liberal violence spurred Victorian writers to generate new modes of literary representation, formal innovations able to account for the fact that their modern liberal society had the threat of death coiled at its heart.
More information about the book is available at the OUP site, here. Articles relating to this line of work have appeared in Victorian Studies and Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and are available as PDFs via links at right.
A corollary to this project appeared in e-flux journal as "Drone Form: Word and Image at the End of Empire."
A short essay that extends some of the book's main questions into twentieth century American history -- and into my hometown-- appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books as "Our Ghosts: On Internment in Fresno."
Reviews of Forms of Empire have appeared in Review 19 and, as a three-review forum, at V21's Collations site.
"A masterful and beautifully written book of commanding scope..."
"Stunningly smart and erudite, Forms of Empire convincingly argues that violence necessarily constitutes the other face of liberal modernity. Not only does Nathan Hensley probe the very logic of empire, but, in so doing, he also proffers an incisive meditation on contemporary habits and assumptions of literary criticism. That the book pulls these different threads together with rigor as well as elegance is but one example of its brilliance. Forms of Empire is a spectacular achievement."
"A gripping, at times formidable, study that consistently and inventively gauges the depth to which in Victorian Britain the liberal state (of mind, of nationhood) was infused by its reprobated and ostensibly superseded opposite: the infliction of brutal violence on subjected bodies around the imperial globe...This book is going to get noticed."