“And please, what’s Hulks?” said I.
“That’s the way with this boy!” exclaimed my sister… “Answer him one question, and he’ll ask you a dozen directly. Hulks are prison-ships, right ‘cross th’ meshes.” …
“I wonder who’s put into prison-ships, and why they’re put there?” said I, in a general way, and with quiet desperation.
It was too much for Mrs. Joe, who immediately rose… “People are put in the Hulks because they murder, and because they rob, and forge, and do all sorts of bad; and they always begin by asking questions.”
–Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
“The Floating Academy” was nineteenth-century criminal slang for the notorious Hulks – merchant and naval ships that the British converted into prisons to ease overcrowded gaols in the late eighteenth century. The solution was supposed to be temporary, but lasted over a hundred years. Many convicts awaited transportation to Australia and New Zealand on the Hulks; others never left the Thames.
Like Pip, we begin our adventures by asking questions, hoping to navigate our way through the waters of nineteenth-century studies. We are a kind of floating collective of ten scholars of Victorian literature and culture at different stages in our careers. While our current research projects are diverse, we share a common interest in the affinities between nineteenth- and twenty-first-century culture, technology, and aesthetics. We are interested in Victorian books (the things themselves), novels and poetry, printed materials such as newspapers, periodicals, and visual images, representations of masculinity and femininity (whether fixed or floating), constructions of disability, the culture of Empire and its management, and technologies of mobility and communication and their transformations or continuations in our own age of digitization and globalization. Fundamentally, we hope to provide an interactive forum for discussions of current research in Victorian literature and culture, and we hope you enjoy drifting with us.