I’m just back from the NAVSA/BAVS/AVSA Conference in Venice, where I did see the William Morris painting that Eddy discusses in his post below (will add a comment this week, Eddy!). It was a really wonderful conference, with a wide range of papers. As a conference running over four days, with seven panels at any one time, it’s impossible to sum up just one or two specific threads that ran through the talks. What I can say, though, is that the joining of these three different Victorian Studies Associations – from North America, the UK (and the rest of Europe, if you include people like me), Australia, and Asia made for a very exciting, diverse group. It was a real pleasure to meet colleagues from Australia, many of whom remarked how isolated they felt from other Victorianists and what a treat it was to join forces in Venice. Continue reading
I’m currently organizing a conference at the University of Amsterdam with a colleague and I hope it will be of interest to writers and readers of the Floating Academy.
Neo-Victorian Networks: Epistemologies, Aesthetics and Ethics
University of Amsterdam
June 13-15, 2012 Continue reading
Back in May, I went to see the exhibit, “Life, Legend, Landscape: Victorian Drawings and Watercolours” at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Many were works apparently shown for the first time. There were some beautiful Turner watercolours depicting Swiss scenes, such as “The Fall of the Rhone at Schffhausen” and “Brunnen, Lake Lucerne.”
I was most struck, though, by the female portraits, like William Etty’s chalk drawing “Female Nude with a Cast of the Venus De Medici” from 1835-7. An exploration of the real and the ideal, the illustration shows a nude model standing next to, and embracing, the cast of Venus. Oddly, though, the female forms are almost entirely identical, so that the painting doesn’t seem to reveal the shock of the real woman in contrast to the idealized sculpture. Continue reading
I’ll be teaching a new MA course on Sensation and Gothic fiction at the University of Amsterdam next year, and I would love to hear suggestions about what Victorian novels I should include. I am also hoping the course will help me answer some of the questions I have about the differences between these two genres. A key difference seems to be setting, as sensation novels typically take place in England, with Gothic fiction more often adopting a foreign setting; yet the urban gothic novels of the late-nineteenth century (novels like Dracula, for instance) seem to blur these lines. Is it the element of the supernatural or fantastic that defines a novel as gothic vs. sensationalist?
In April, I attended a seminar on Neo-Victorian Literature at King’s College London. The event allowed for a lively, informative discussion regarding the current state of neo-Victorian writing and scholarship. One of the main questions asked was, is there something distinct about neo-Victorian literature, as opposed to historical fiction more generally? I’m inclined to consider neo-Victorian fiction as a sub-category of historical fiction. That said, I think there are perhaps two categories of neo-Victorian fiction Continue reading
As Karen’s post on Alice in Wonderland demonstrates, there is no shortage of Victorians in film these days. I haven’t had a chance to see Burton’s new film yet, but I did see Sherlock Holmes, which was entertaining despite being more like a combination Holmes-tribute, action film and Dan Brown novel than an actual Conan Doyle story. I stumbled across an even stranger example of twenty-first-century revisions of nineteenth century works today. Many of you will have heard of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Quirk Books, 2009), which imagines the Bennet sisters battling the undead. Continue reading
A current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York showcases a little-known, playful, and funny form of Victorian art. Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage features a collection of photocollages created by Victorian women (and a few men), in which they integrated photos of family members and friends with watercolour paintings, sketches, and writing to create strange new worlds. I wish I could see them in person! Roberta Smith gives the show a positive review in the New York Times, contextualizing the work within the history of photography. Continue reading
As our George Eliot month comes to a close, I thought I would post a link to an interview with Prof. Rohan Maitzen, in which she discusses Eliot’s Middlemarch. It is Eliot’s masterpiece (I don’t think that is up for debate, is it?), and Prof. Maitzen is full of wonderful insights about the novel.
As English lecturers, we often have to remind our students to move from emotional to critical readings of texts. I once had a student who had trouble discussing Dickens’s Great Expectations in our tutorials because she hated Pip so much. Despite working to develop a critical voice over the years, I certainly have emotional reading experiences and am pleased that after reading countless Victorian novels, they still make me laugh out loud or cry. The moment in Adam Bede that I find most affective is when Dinah comes to see Hetty in her prison cell and Hetty, after showing no emotion or real awareness of her circumstances, breaks down and embraces Dinah: Continue reading
I am reading Eliot’s Adam Bede for the first time since I read it in graduate school, in a class that focused on Victorian representations of masculinity and the male body. And it certainly is a novel that seems to revel in describing the body of its hero, Adam. Eliot’s narrator begins the novel in the Bede brothers’ workplace, recording the sonorous voice of one of the workmen: Continue reading
Two years before his death, in 1868, Charles Dickens famously toured the United States, giving public readings of his work. Mark Twain was in the audience in New York and admitted to being “a great deal disappointed” at Dickens’s performance. He records, “what a bright, intelligent audience he had! He ought to have made them laugh, or cry, or shout, at his own good will or pleasure — but he did not. They were very much tamer than they should have been.” Continue reading
I’m putting together a syllabus for a general course on the Victorian novel, and am finding it difficult to decide what 5 or 6 novels to include. This syllabus is for a job application, so it is a course that I’d like to teach someday, rather than one that I will actually be teaching soon. I need to keep it general, but have decided to include a broad focus on representations of the family, especially alternative families (surrogate parents, siblings living with in-laws, adults living with parents, etc). Continue reading
I recently moved to London, England. For a Victorian scholar, living in England’s capital certainly has its perks, including the fact that I get to visit wonderful exhibitions, like the Wellcome Collection’s “Exquisite Bodies.” The Wellcome collection brings together the artefacts of entrepreneur and traveller Henry Wellcome, showcasing his interests in medicine, health, and sexuality. Continue reading
In her last post, Jennifer raised a number of possible connections between contemporary blogging and nineteenth-century serial writing. After reading a recent article by Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge in Victorian Studies, “The Plot Thickens: Toward a Narratological Analysis of Illustrated Serial Fiction in the 1860s,” I think one of the ways that Victorian serial fiction may differ from contemporary blogging is in the complex and reciprocal relationship between serial writing and illustration. Continue reading
I recently taught Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things (1992) in an introductory-level English class. It is both a neo-Victorian novel and a postmodern rewriting of Frankenstein. There are many narrative strands, some of which refute one another, and it is a great example of what Linda Hutcheon calls “historiographic metafiction.” One of the narratives tells the story of Bella Baxter, a woman who is created by a love-deprived doctor named Godwin Baxter. Baxter finds a pregnant woman’s body after she has committed suicide by drowning and replaces her brain with that of her unborn fetus. She is now (creepily) the Victorian man’s dream: the body of a woman with the brain of a child. Continue reading
Two weeks ago, along with Floating Academy members Eddy Kent and Emily Simmons, I attended a roundtable on academic blogging at ACCUTE hosted by Rohan Maitzen, Victorian professor at Dalhousie University and academic blogger. I had the good fortune to take one of Prof. Maitzen’s classes as an undergraduate, so it was a real pleasure to see her again and hear her thoughts on this burgeoning forum for literary critics. Continue reading
In an 1860 article, Victorian critic F.T. Palgrave likens Victorian novels to social conversation. He explains that contemporary readers “go to books for something almost similar to what they find in social conversation. Reading tends to become only another kind of gossip” (488). He writes with a certain degree of nostalgia for the past, when readers from a century earlier looked for “amusement of a kind higher and more amusing than could be expected from living gossip” (488). Continue reading