Sylvia A. Pamboukian, Ph.D.
Director, University Honors Program (Honors Program)
University Professor of English (Arts & Humanities)
412-397-6450 phone (M)
412-397-6468 fax
Wheatley Center 234

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., English/ Victorian Studies, Indiana University, 2003
  • BSc Phm., Pharmacy, Univ. of Toronto, 1993
  • M.A. , English, Univ. of Western Ontario, 1996

Professional Background

  • 2012 Distinguished Achievement Award in Scholarship, RMU

Area of Expertise/Research

  • British Literature; Victorian Studies; Literature and Medicine; 19th Century Novel; Gothic Literature;


  • Agatha Christie and the Guilty Pleasure of Poison
    Palgrave Macmillan, 2022

    Agatha Christie and the Guilty Pleasure of Poison examines Christie's female poisoners in the context of Christie's own experience in pharmacy and of detective fiction. In doing so, it uncovers an overlooked dynamic in which female poisoners deliver well-deserved comeuppance for gendered and classed wrongdoing ordinarily accepted in everyday life. While critics have long recognized male outlaws, like Robin Hood, who use crime to oppose a corrupt system, this book contends that female outlaws - witches and poisoners - offer a similar heritage of empowered femininity. Far from cozy and formulaic, Agatha Christie's outlaw poisoners offer readers the surprising pleasures of comeuppance, and they set the stage for contemporary detective fiction writers, more recent films depicting poisoning as empowering, and even poison gardens, which are tourist destinations that offer visitors the guilty pleasure of poison.

    Runner-up for the International Crime Fiction Association's Book Aware 2022

  • Doctoring the Novel: Medicine and Quackery from Shelley to Doyle
    Ohio University Press, 2012.

    This project examines medical quackery and orthodoxy in nineteenth-century novels such as Charles Dickens's Bleak House and Little Dorrit, Charlotte Bronte's Villette, Wilkie Collins's Armadale and Arthur Conan Doyle's Stark Munro Letters. Rather than treating orthodoxy and quackery as pre-existing categories, this study examines the ways in which cultural documents such as novels construct quackery and orthodoxy by manipulating the boundaries of authenticity. The study concludes that even supposedly medico-scientific concepts evolve not in elite laboratories but in the rough-and-tumble of the public sphere. [Book]

  • “Entertaining and Profitable: Nursing in Persuasion” in Teaching Jane Austen’s Persuasion ed. John Wiltshire and Marcia McClintock Folsom. Modern Language Association’s Approaches to Teaching Series. Fall 2020. 
  • “Denotation and Connotation in the Health Humanities” in Methods in Health Humanities. Ed. Erin Lamb. Oxford University Press. 2019. 
  • “Vampires and the Tuberculous Family” Hektoen International: A Journal of the Medical Humanities, Online, Fall 2019. [Honorable Mention – Grand Prix Essay Contest]

  • "Old Holmes: Sherlock, Testosterone and 'The Creeping Man'" Clues: A Journal of Detection 35.1 (2017) [Article]

  • "Fun and Games: The Joy of Poisoning in Children's Literature" Poison and Poisoning in Science, Fiction, and Cinema: Precarious Identities. Ed. Heike Klipple, Bettina Wahrig, Anke Zechner. Palgrave Studies in Science and Popular Culture, 2017. [Chapter]

  • "Sugar and Spice: Cooking with the Girl Poisoner" Food, Feminisms and Rhetoric. Ed. Melissa Goldthwaite. Southern Illinois University Press, 2017 [Chapter]

  • "In the Apothecaries' Garden with Agatha Christie" Clues: A Journal of Detection. 34.1 (2016) [Article]

  • "Medical Disaster: Why Ken Mattingley Can't Have Measles in Apollo 13" Journal of the Medical Humanities Mar. 2015 [Article]

  • "That Wretched Italian Quack: Braddon's Critique of Medicine in 'Good Lady Ducayne'" Victorian Literature and Culture 43.3 (2015) [Article]

  • "Taboo: Names and Naming in the Harry Potter Series" Topic: the Washington and Jefferson Review 57 (Winter 2011) [Article]

  • "What the Traveler Saw: Evolution and Epistemology in Late Victorian Romance." H.G. Wells: Interdisciplinary Essays, Ed. Steven McClean. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009. [Article]


  • 2022 - ?The Uncanny in Agatha Christie? Health Humanities Consortium, Lehigh University, March25-27, 2022 (virtual)
  • 2021 - ?Rethinking Delivery: From Classical Canon to Modern Audiences? Northeast Modern Language Association conference, Philadelphia, March 12-14, 2021
  • 2021 - ?Epidemics in James Herriot? Health Humanities Consortium International Conference, Pennsylvania State Medical School, Hershey, PA, March 22-24, 2021
  • 2019 - ?Not Just a Ghost Story: Neo-Victorianism in Crimson Peak? North American Victorian Studies Association conference, Columbus, OH
  • 2018 - ?The Outlaw Poisoner in Arthur Conan Doyle?s `The Leather Funnel?? North American Victorian Studies Association conference, St. Petersburg, FL
  • 2018 - From The Speckled Band to the Poison Garden: American Osler Society, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2018 - We are all Miss Havisham: Victorianism and the Bride, Northeast Modern Language Association, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2016 - Admitting Privilege: Patient Class and Autonomy in All Creatures Great and Small. ASBH, Washington DC
  • 2016 - A Dog's Life, or Why I Want to be Treated by James Herriot. Emerging Diversities in Health Humanities Summer Seminar, Hiram College
  • 2015 - The Poisonous Medicine Cabinet of Agatha Christie, Northeast Modern Language Association, Hartford, CT, 2015