Lauren Wilwerding holds a PhD in English from Boston College, where she served as Assistant Director of Boston College’s humanities lecture series. While her focus is English, Lauren constantly incorporates women’s and gender studies into her work, because she sees the two as inherently related to each other: reading certain texts becomes even more important and pressing when one considers the deep gender ideologies that impact daily life.
While at Boston College she wrote and defended her dissertation “Singular Plots: Female Vocation and Radical Form in the Nineteenth-Century Novel.” Lauren noticed that female characters in nineteenth-century British novels needed to make decisions between home and work, which often paralleled challenges that women face today. “Singular Plots” argues that a vocational plot emerged as a response to the 1851 census which reported a large cohort of unmarried women. This plot provides an alternative to the marriage plot, where a woman pursues meaningful work instead of a marital prospect. In Lauren’s research, the single woman emerges as a figure with particular relations to gender, marriage, work, and the form of the novel itself.
While Lauren’s dissertation focuses on the single woman from 1750-1920, it has helped her frame literature in a way that is alive for students by addressing perennially relevant issues of gender, labor, and equity. As she develops “Singular Plots” into a book, she aims to ground its relevance in the present moment with all of its opportunities and challenges of feminism. She plans to develop the theoretical approach to plotlessness, non-linear reading, and the lifecycle of a plot, while also expanding her examples to include more works by non-canonical women writers and grounding the relevance of her project in the present. Ultimately, she hopes to contribute to strengthening the connection between WGSS and literary studies.