Skip to content

College of Arts and Humanities

David Coombs

David Coombs

Associate Professor

Department of English
Office: 813 Strode

Ph.D. English, Cornell University; M.A. English, Cornell University; B.A. English, Indiana University - Bloomington

Curriculum Vitae


David Coombs’ research and teaching interests include nineteenth-century literature, the realist novel, and the history of science and intellectual history. His first book, Reading with the Senses, traces the intellectual history of a scientific consensus, emerging in the nineteenth century, that divided sensory perception into three basic parts: stimulus (the force acting on the nerves); sensation (the feeling arising from the nerves’ response to the stimulus); and perception (the cognitive apprehension of the object causing the sensations). Arguing that perception should be understood as the interpretation of sensations, scientists compared it to the act of reading, creating new uncertainty about how reading a description of the world differs from experiencing it firsthand. Examining the ways the new science of sense perception was taken up in literature, science, and philosophy, the book argues that it ultimately transformed the understanding of how we read and what kind of knowledge about the world reading affords.


Selected Professional Works

Books (Published)

Reading with the Senses in Victorian Literature and Science (University of Virginia Press, 2019).

Journal Articles & Book Chapters (Published)

“Description.” Victorian Literature and Culture 46.3/4, Fall/Winter 2018.

“The Sense and Reference of Sound; or, Walter Pater’s Kinky Literalism.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 72.4, March 2018.

“Does Grandcourt Exist?: Description and Fictional Characters.” Victorian Studies 59.3, Spring 2017.

“Dickens’ Resonance.” the b2o review. 4 October 2016.

“Descriptive Turns in the Victorian 21st Century.” V21: Victorian Studies for the 21st Century. 13 July 2015.

“An Untrained Eye: The Tachistoscope and Photographic Vision in Early Experimental Psychology.” History and Technology 28.1, Spring 2012.

“Reading in the Dark: Sensory Perception and Agency in The Return of the Native.” ELH 78.4, Winter 2011.

“Entwining Tongues: Postcolonial Theory, Post-Soviet Literatures, and Bilingualism in Chingiz Aitmatov’s I dol’she veka dlitsia den’.” The Journal of Modern Literature 34.3, Spring 2011.

Journal Articles & Book Chapters (Accepted or Submitted)

“Romola and Presentism,” in The Oxford Handbook of George Eliot, ed. by Juliette Atkinson and Elisha Cohn, expected 2023.

College of Arts and Humanities
College of Arts and Humanities | 108 Strode Tower, Clemson, SC 29634