My last post called for a return to the study of some of the major authors in Victorian literature, so I didn’t think it would be appropriate to follow up with a post on the details of my current research in Victorian medical and popular discourses about stuttering and stammering. My stuttering project addresses far too many archival materials and has virtually no discussion of any of the major figures in Victorian literature, give or take a few anecdotal observations here and there. So how about Tennyson, then, for this post? He’s a big deal, and deserves a little love in the Floating Academy. Continue reading
We’ve been talking recently about the Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada’s 2013 conference in Vancouver a few weeks back, so I thought I would add a few of my own thoughts. The conference was a truly fantastic and welcoming weekend of Victorian studies on the topic of Victorian humanity and its others. I learned a lot, and had a great time connecting with some good friends and colleagues.
From a personal perspective, though, one paper in particular really made me think about what it is that we do in Victorian studies, and why our field has embraced wholeheartedly a cultural and print studies turn in literary criticism. At the risk of sounding kind of self-promotional, that paper was by my wife, Allison Fieldberg, who read some new work on silence and the ethics of the novel genre in the Brontes. Strangely, despite the fact that we’re both Victorianists and spend probably far too much of our time together talking about Victorian literature and literary and cultural criticism, we don’t often get a chance to share our ideas with each other, especially as they appear in our formal writing. Continue reading
Victorian Review seeks proposals for articles for a special issue on “Victorians and Risk,” to be published in Fall 2014 and guest edited by Dr. Daniel Martin.
Since the publication of Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society (1992), sociologists and historians have interrogated the frequency of risks of all kinds in modern life: railway accidents, colliery explosions, natural and industrial catastrophes, spills, fires, and collisions, among countless others. However, the emergence of risk as a sociological and economic reality of everyday life in the nineteenth century still lacks significant scholarly theorizing in the humanities. Current scholarship about Victorian contributions to a modern “risk society” requires a sustained dialogue about how the Victorians conceived of accidents, disasters, catastrophes, and risks of all kinds beyond the limited scope of the local. For this issue, we seek papers that address such a dialogue through analysis of Victorian culture’s fascinations with and anxieties about risky activities, behaviors, industries, legalities, philosophies, and forms of expression. Continue reading
On July 5th, 2012, my wife and I welcomed our son into the world. He has completely changed the way we live our lives, but some old habits die hard. In particular, I’ve found myself scrutinizing his every movement, expression, and utterance for signs of stuttering. I’ve been reading and writing about Victorian narratives of stuttering for a few years now, and I’m continually fascinated by how many of the Victorian’s ideas about language development persist in our culture today, and in ways not always welcome in my own thinking about stuttering. Continue reading
The following call for papers seems ideal for all of us here at the Floating Academy, and to many of our readers as well. I hope to see you all there next April.
CFP: VSAWC Conference, “Victorian Media,” (Victoria, British Columbia, April 2012)
The Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada invites proposals for a conference on Victorian Media. The conference, hosted by the University of Victoria, will be held from 26-28 April 2012 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
We seek proposals for papers that focus on the theme of media in relation to Victorian culture and knowledge: that is, the relation of Victorian media to the culture of the period and the relation of new media to the study, dissemination, and archiving of Victorian materials. In particular, we invite proposals on topics related to three main threads: Continue reading
My thoughts on accidental phenomena in Victorian material culture have been a long time coming, so I apologize for my inability to sit my butt down and write. Having done so, finally, I want to focus on a peculiar, but actually quite commonsense, aspect of Victorian social theories of accidents and catastrophes, namely the period’s realization that new forms or types of accidents could have significant future payoffs with regard to accident prevention. Our own “risk society” is so preoccupied with the travesties of large-scale industrial or environmental disasters that it sometimes seems, especially if we compare ourselves to the Victorians, that we have lost any sense of forward thinking. Perhaps, rightfully so, because it’s a hard sell suggesting that major catastrophes and disasters can teach us something about how to prepare for future accidents, or even teach us something about living in a industrial-capitalist economy. We’d rather believe, perhaps naively, that there won’t be any future industrial catastrophes, that it can’t happen here, whatever “it” is. Continue reading
For the next month or so, the Floating Academy has decided to focus our collective blogging efforts on the topic of the Accident in Victorian visual and material culture. I’ve volunteered to write the opening rationale for our upcoming explorations of this topic because I’ve been thinking and writing about Victorian narratives of accidental phenomena for a few years now, and it has always occurred to me that the topic deserves more attention in literary, historical, and cultural criticism. One of the realizations that comes from any sustained interrogation of all things accidental is how truly uncomfortable we (post)moderns are with the very idea of accidental events and phenomena. In response to large-scale technological and economic disasters, we find it difficult to accept the accidentality of living with technology because the industrialization of everyday life since the nineteenth century has trained us to look for causes and place blame when technologies don’t do what they’re supposed to do. The very idea of something accidental tends to go against everything we like to believe about order, design, meaning, and justice in the universe. Someone or something must be at fault when industrial catastrophes happen, something or Someone must be the true cause of such economic, environmental, or industrial catastrophe. Continue reading
May is Steampunk and Neo-Victorian Month here at the Floating Academy. We’ve been a little behind in our posts, but we are all collectively interested in putting together some ideas about the phenomenon, which seems to be gathering steam – pun intended, of course! – in academic circles of late. Continue reading
These are exciting times for Victorian scholars with interests in the Illustrated London News. Check out this new database by Gale. Nothing satisfies my inner nerd more than these kinds of searchable archives.
I was thinking about ways to improve the traffic on this thing we call the Floating Academy, and it struck me that I might write something about Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. Maybe we’ll get a little Johnny Depp action on here. If not Depp fans, then we might reasonably expect to pick up a few readers googling their favorite obscure Victorian villain. I would be absolutely amazed, and honestly quite impressed, if we were to acquire readers from that rare group of enthusiasts of Sweeney Todd, the relatively unknown Canadian band fronted by a 15-year-old Bryan Adams. Continue reading
I came across an interesting article in a volume of All the Year Round from 1888 that got me thinking about Victorian fascinations with the future. One particular passage about energy technologies in the year 1988 struck me as curious, especially considering our own green movement, so I thought I would post it here for your perusal:
It will require but little fanciful exaggeration to picture a very much changed England in A.d. 1988. Long before that date, in all probability, steam will have been superseded by electricity; the railways of to-day will be unknown; the lumbering, puffing locomotives, of which we are now so proud, will have been relegated to the region of the useless, even as the good old stage-coach has been, and noiseless hundredmile-an-hour electric engines will have taken their places. Possibly even these latter will be found too cumbersome for our progressive successors of a century hence. Who knows but that the pneumatic tube may be so improved upon that passengers, in days to come, may be shot along from station to station at a speed which, with our nineteenth century knowledge, we can but guess at?
After reading this passage, I couldn’t help asking myself, if the Victorians could predict the coming of electric vehicles and the Jetsons, why can’t we figure out what happened to the electric car?
Source: “England a Century Hence: A Speculative Forecast.” All the Year Round 43 (17 November 1888): 474.
I’ve been reading too much Wilkie Collins lately, and not even the good stuff such as The Woman in White and The Moonstone, but also the lesser-known works from the 1850s through to his last published novel in the late 1880s. I’ve now read, I think, every Collins novel, in addition to much of his shorter works of fiction and journalism. I’m exhausted and overloaded. Reading excessive amounts of popular Victorian fiction skews your sense of the world. Continue reading
Thomas Hardy likes graceful women, but none are as deliberately graceful as Cytherea Graye in his first published novel, Desperate Remedies (1871). In a scene rife with small-town prying eyes and the unconscious self-caricaturizing of town locals displaying their cultivation through the organization of a Shakespeare reading, the beautiful Cytherea enters a room – her appearance forming “an interesting subject of study for several neighbouring eyes.” Hardy highlights the “gracefulness of her movement, which was fascinating and delightful to an extreme degree,” before further describing the faultlessness of her figure in the following terms: Continue reading
This is just a short note to a link for the current Steampunk exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford. I’ve never really been sure what to make of Steampunk fiction, illustrations, and culture — the genre has always seemed marginal and lacking in scholarly rigor. Yet, I’m fascinated by Steampunk creations because they forge a link between the Victorian era and the present. Does the Steampunk exhibition at Oxford mark the genre’s triumphant arrival or its inevitable fad-like decline? Perhaps both at the same time, if we think in Hegelian terms? I’m really not sure. Thoughts?
I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been lost in Google Books. Okay, not literally. We don’t have the technology yet to physically enter into a virtual geography of Google Books, but I can say that I’ve been overwhelmed lately by the sheer volume of materials available to my eyes and fingers. Continue reading
Since the end of April, I’ve been houseless and thus not as productive as I was hoping I would be this summer. I won’t bore you with all of the details or complaints, but suffice it to say that my seemingly perpetual state of transition over the last few months (which has now come to a halt, thankfully, in Calgary) has been both incredibly annoying and somewhat insightful, at least regarding what I want to blog about today. Continue reading
I was very pleased when we first decided to call this blog “The Floating Academy” because I’ve been interested in the metaphorics of floating for a few years now. The Victorians were fascinated, as well as irritated, by floating things. Continue reading