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Claudia Nelson

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Ph.D., Indiana University, 1989

A.B., Bryn Mawr College, 1980

Research Interests

Dr. Nelson’s Scholars@TAMU Profile

  • Victorian literature and culture with an emphasis on gender, family, and childhood
  • American texts, particularly those of the nineteenth century

Honors and Awards

  • Claudius M. Easley, Jr., Fellow in Liberal Arts, TAMU (2015-2019)
  • Editor, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly (2014-2019)
  • President, Children’s Literature Association (2012-13)
  • Senior Fellow, Alexander Hamilton Institute, Clinton, NY (2011-  )
  • Women’s Progress Award, TAMU (2010)
  • Cornerstone Faculty Fellow, College of Liberal Arts, TAMU (2008-12)
  • Member, editorial boards of Victorian Review (2007-12) and Adoption & Culture (2008-  )
  • Series editor, Studies in Childhood 1700-Present
  • Winner, Children’s Literature Association book award, 2004; honorable mention, 1992 and 2013
  • Winner, Children’s Literature Association article award, 2002; honorable mention, 1990 and 1995


TopologiesoftheClassicalWorld - NelsonNelson, Claudia, and Anne Morey. Topologies of the Classical World in Children’s Fiction: Palimpsests, Maps, and FractalOxford University Press, 2019

Beginning with Rudyard Kipling and Edith Nesbit and concluding with best-selling series still ongoing at the time of writing, this volume examines works of twentieth- and twenty-first-century children’s literature that incorporate character types, settings, and narratives derived from the Greco-Roman past. Drawing on a cognitive poetics approach to reception studies, it argues that authors typically employ a limited and powerful set of spatial metaphors – palimpsest, map, and fractal – to organize the classical past for preteen and adolescent readers. Palimpsest texts see the past as a collection of strata in which each new era forms a layer superimposed upon a foundation laid earlier; map texts use the metaphor of the mappable journey to represent a protagonist’s process of maturing while gaining knowledge of the self and/or the world; fractal texts, in which small parts of the narrative are thematically identical to the whole, present the past in a way that implies that history is infinitely repeatable. While a given text may embrace multiple metaphors in presenting the past, associations between dominant metaphors, genre, and outlook emerge from the case studies examined in each chapter, revealing remarkable thematic continuities in how the past is represented and how agency is attributed to protagonists: each model, it is suggested, uses the classical past to urge and thus perhaps to develop a particular approach to life.

Family-Ties-in-Victorian-England - NelsonNelson, Claudia. Family Ties in Victorian England.  Praeger, 2007

The Victorians were passionate about family. While Queen Victoria’s supporters argued that her intense commitment to her private life made her the more fit to mother her people, her critics charged that it distracted her from her public responsibilities. Here, Nelson focuses particularly on the conflicting and powerful images of family life that Victorians produced in their fiction and nonfiction—that is, on how the Victorians themselves conceived of family, which continues both to influence and to help explain visions of family today.



Little-Stranges - NelsonNelson, Claudia. Little Strangers: Portrayals of Adoption and Foster Care in America, 1850-1929.  Indiana University Press, 2003

When Massachusetts passed America’s first comprehensive adoption law in 1851, the usual motive for taking in an unrelated child was presumed to be the need for cheap labor. But by 1929—the first year that every state had an adoption law—the adoptee’s main function was seen as emotional. Little Strangers examines the representations of adoption and foster care produced over the intervening years. Claudia Nelson argues that adoption texts reflect changing attitudes toward many
important social issues, including immigration and poverty, heredity and environment, individuality and citizenship, gender, and the family.

Invisible-Men - NelsonNelson, Claudia.  Invisible Men: Fatherhood in Victorian Periodicals, 1850-1910University of Georgia Press, 1995

Focuses on the growth of periodical literature from 1850 to 1910 to illustrate how Victorian and Edwardian thought and culture problematised fatherhood within the family. This study shows how positive images of fatherhood disappeared from literature as motherhood claimed an exalted position.




Boys-will-be-Girls - NelsonNelson, Claudia. Boys Will Be Girls:  The Feminine Ethic and British Children’s Fiction 1857-1917. Rutgers University Press, 1991

Feminist criticism of nineteenth-century literature has traditionally repudiated the “angel in the house,” a domestic figure who was kept in her place, isolated from the world of power and patriarchy and any influence over it except through her children. Claudia Nelson, in looking at children’s fiction of l857-l917, finds that the figure of the angel appeared as an ideal not just in literature intended for young women, but also in books for boys.

Edited Works

Representing-Children - NelsonNelson, Claudia, co-edited with Rebecca Morris.  Representing Children in Chinese and U.S. Children’s Literature.  Ashgate, 2014

Bringing together children’s literature scholars from China and the United States, this collection provides an introduction to the scope and goals of a field characterized by active but also distinctive scholarship in two countries with very different rhetorical traditions. The volume’s five sections highlight the differences between and overlapping concerns of Chinese and American scholars, as they examine children’s literature with respect to cultural metaphors and motifs, historical movements, authorship, didacticism, important themes, and the current status of and future directions for literature and criticism.


The-Story-of-the-Treasure-Seekers - NelsonNelson, Claudia.  The Story of the Treasure Seekers and The Wouldbegoods, critical edition. Palgrave, 2013

The first critical edition of the beloved classics that established Edith Nesbit as a major children’s writer provides extensive guidance to help today’s reader navigate the enchanting world of the Bastable family. Nelson situates Nesbit’s groundbreaking stories in the context of British popular culture at the dawn of the twentieth century.




Growing-Up - NelsonNelson, Claudia, ed. Growing Up, vol. 1 of British Family Life, 1780-1914. Routledge, 2012

The five volumes of this collection focus on various aspects of family life. Drawing on rare printed sources and archival material, this collection provides a balanced, contextualized picture of family life, during a period of intense social change. It will appeal to scholars of social history, gender studies and the long nineteenth century.




Nelson, Claudia. Precocious Children and Childish Adults: Age Inversion in Victorian Literature. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.

Especially evident in Victorian-era writings is a rhetorical tendency to liken adults to children and children to adults. Claudia Nelson examines this literary phenomenon and explores the ways in which writers discussed the child-adult relationship during this period. Though far from ubiquitous, the terms “child-woman,” “child-man,” and “old-fashioned child” appear often enough in Victorian writings to prompt critical questions about the motivations and meanings of such generational border-crossings. Nelson carefully considers the use of these terms and connects invocations of age inversion to developments in post-Darwinian scientific thinking and attitudes about gender roles, social class, sexuality, power, and economic mobility. She brilliantly analyzes canonical works of Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, William Makepeace Thackeray, Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson alongside lesser known writings to demonstrate the diversity of literary age inversion and its profound influence on Victorian culture. By considering the full context of Victorian age inversion, Precocious Children and Childish Adults illuminates the complicated pattern of anxiety and desire that creates such ambiguity in the writings of the time. Scholars of Victorian literature and culture, as well as readers interested in children’s literature, childhood studies, and gender studies, will welcome this excellent study from a major figure in the field.

Sexual-Pedagogies - NelsonNelson, Claudia, co-edited with Michelle H. Martin. Sexual Pedagogies. Palgrave, 2004

Understandings of sexuality and sex education have changed dramatically, and in this collection, the authors explore the various texts that were used to teach, to entertain, to sanction and to form a sexual standard for a nation. According to Nelson and Martin, these include puberty education, sermons on abstinence, medical writings promoting sexual fulfillment, Hollywood comedies about sexual coming of age and picture books validating homosexuality.




Maternal-Instincts - NelsonNelson, Claudia, co-edited with Ann Sumner Holmes.  Maternal Instincts: Visions of Motherhood and Sexuality in Britain, 1875-1925.  Palgrave, 1997

Maternal Instincts brings together seven essays exploring conflicting visions of motherhood and sexuality in a period during which both terms were undergoing radical change. Representations of both concepts mutated to accommodate different cultural contexts and individual ideologies. Drawing upon sources including literature, film, medical handbooks, popular science, and legal records, the articles collected here construct a vision of motherhood as alternately idealized, discredited, and fragmented by virtue of its connection with sexualities licit and illicit.


The-Girls-Own-1 - NelsonNelson, Claudia, co-edited with Lynne Vallone. The Girl’s Own: Cultural Histories of  the Anglo-American Girl, 1830-1915.  University of Georgia Press, 1994

The eleven contributors to The Girl s Own explore British and American Victorian representations of the adolescent girl by drawing on such contemporary sources as conduct books, housekeeping manuals, periodicals, biographies, photographs, paintings, and educational treatises. The institutions, practices, and literatures discussed reveal the ways in which the Girl expressed her independence, as well as the ways in which she was presented and controlled. As the contributors note, nineteenth-century visions of girlhood were extremely ambiguous.