On not reading Victorian novels

Last week I met Fiona at Manic Coffee, where I learned many fascinating things from her about Victorian photography and the evolution of trust in reproduced images. (She had been giving me some really knowledgeable and generous feedback on one of my book chapters — I recommend we all besiege her with similar requests, all at once…) One of the things she mentioned was Thomas Hardy’s lesser-known novel A Laodicean (1881), which apparently contains textual hijinks such as the touching-up of photographs, the faking of telegrams, and conflations of different Shakespeare plays in the same performance as a ploy to cover sexual transgression. (!!!) Encouraged by all this absurdly useful material for my book chapter, we set off to check a couple of used bookstores down College Street, but couldn’t find a copy. (Though I did find a copy of Tesla’s autobiography, which should be good for some even stranger posts down the road. Btw, I mean this Tesla, not that one, though neither really got the credit they deserved…). Anyway, this afternoon I looked at some early editions of A Laodicean in the U of T’s Fisher Rare Book Library, including a triple-decker published in London in 1881, the year of the novel’s publication, and a single-volume illustrated American edition from the same year. I suspected the American edition might have been one of the many piracies of British novels that would happen nearly simultaneously across the Atlantic, especially with well-known novelists like Hardy. Being a lazy non-Victorianist book historian — who leaves actual reading to his smarter literary friends, and then mooches research ideas off them — I flipped through the volumes looking for illustrations as my entry-points into the text, and as potential material to discuss in my book chapter. The London triple-decker contained no illustrations, but the American single volume contained several, one of which you can see below. However, I really don’t know anything about Hardy’s publication history or the textual history of this particular novel, which I haven’t even read. Continue reading

NAVSA 2012

I’m a little intimidated to try and blog about this year’s NAVSA.  We’ve talked here about the pleasures of going to smaller conferences–two of my favourites are the CUNY Annual Victorian Conference and NVSA.  Posting about those is never too bad, because usually you’ve seen most of the panels, so you have some small claim to authority.  But NAVSA is huge!  This year I think there were around 500 participants and up to twelve consecutive panels over ten sessions, not to mention networking lunches and workshops!  So, my post here is a small snippet, feel free to chime in in the comments as it’s entirely likely that people experienced entirely different NAVSAs.

First of all, this year’s NAVSA was probably held in the most beautiful conference center I’ve ever been to, Monona Terrace, a Frank Lloyd Wright building overlooking Lake Monona.  And the late September weather was perfect in Madison–complete with an autumnal farmer’s market on Saturday morning.  There were a number of ways (as always) that people could take the networking theme.  I liked hearing about technological networks (the telegraph, the postal service), and how their forms might relate to literary forms, and was particularly drawn to work being done on kinship and publishing networks. Continue reading