Literary Tourism

In her obituary for Dinah Mulock Craik, Margaret Oliphant wrote how pleased the author had been to learn that American tourists were flocking to Tewkesbury, a medieval market town in Gloucestershire, “not so much to see the town and abbey, as to identify the scenery of John Halifax”.*  As postcards commemorating the sites of the novel attest, this literary tourism continued well into the twentieth century.  As late as 1977, Dorothy Eagle pointed tourists to the haunts and homes of the Author of John Halifax in The Oxford Literary Guide to the British Isles.

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Insects & Undergrads: Neo-Victorian Novels in the Classroom

“There is something wonderful about naming a species. To bring a thing that is wild, and rare, and hitherto unobserved under the net of human observation and human language…” – William Adamson, “Morpho Eugenia”

still from Angels and Insects (dir. Philip Haas, 1995)

still from Angels and Insects (dir. Philip Haas, 1995)

In one of her first postings for the Floating Academy, Tara MacDonald discussed her experiences teaching Alasdair Gray’s neo-Victorian novel, Poor Things (1992), in an introductory-level literature class. This year I decided to teach Angels & Insects (published the same year as Gray’s) in an upper-year undergraduate class, bookending the term with Byatt’s pair of novellas. Our department’s program offers a couple of classes on the Victorian novel, and devotes another two to the study of poetry and prose from the period. In my experience, the latter courses require a much more careful hand in the selection and curation of materials. I felt Byatt’s novellas, composed as they are from fragments of Victorian texts and glimpses of historical perspectives, offered a creative example of the kind of collage we were undertaking as a class. Continue reading

Melancholia and the Digitization of Victorian Culture

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

April Conference Report: Methodologies in Victorian Studies

I attended two terrific conferences in April that have spurred me to think about methodological questions in the field of Victorian Studies. The first one, “The Victorianists Workshop: New Approaches to Archives, Methods and Pedagogy,” which took place at Western University, was the first conference I have attended where attendees were asked to think specifically about methods instead of presenting a conventional research paper. The CFP encouraged us to consider the “developments of new critical methodologies, archival resources and pedagogical practices [that have] radically transformed Victorian Studies” and then, at the conference itself, we presented short, 2-3 page papers on our own work as it intersected with these new developments. Continue reading