How to write (and how not to write) a scholarly book review

I’m sure I speak for all of us at the Floating Academy when I say how grateful I am to those academics who commit their time and energy to the various volunteer roles of editors, advisory board members, and manuscript readers, and thereby help create the forums where we can read the work of other scholars and publish our own research. In recent conversations with friends and colleagues in editorial roles, however, I have detected a pattern that concerns me and it relates to all the ways that we scholars, the very ones who benefit from this volunteer labor, make an editor’s role more challenging than it needs to be. Whether through missing deadlines, not responding to queries in a timely way, or not being as careful as we might be in our writing and documentation, many of us add untold hours and stress to our colleagues working in editorial roles. Continue reading “How to write (and how not to write) a scholarly book review”

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 “April Conference Report: Methodologies in Victorian Studies”

Young Adult Readers and Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Part Two

About two years ago, we had a conversation on this blog about how some publishers were attempting to capitalize on the popularity of books like Twilight in order to market nineteenth-century fiction to young adult readers. Various publishers were re-packaging books by, for instance, the Brontës’, with covers they thought might be more appealing to young adult readers.

See, for example, the cover of Penguin’s Illustrated Jane Eyre by Goth artist Dame Darcy:

Continue reading “Young Adult Readers and Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Part Two”

Victorian “Text Message Poetry” at the British Library’s site

"Emblematic Poetry" (British Library's English Timeline)

The British Library’s Interactive English Timeline presents fascinating glimpses of important moments in the evolution of the English language. I think this could be a really interesting teaching tool for a Victorian literature course and I would especially want to point my students to what the BL has called “Nineteenth-century Text Message Poetry” from 1867: Continue reading “Victorian “Text Message Poetry” at the British Library’s site”

Links Round-up: Digital Platforms, Open Access and the Future of Scholarly Publishing

In the last few weeks, I have read some thought-provoking articles/essays/posts on scholarly publishing. My ideas are still percolating but I invite you to check out these links and contribute your thoughts in the comments about some of the questions raised by these writers:

If, as the MLA has repeatedly recommended, we should be moving away from the proto-book model of graduate dissertations, what should we be moving towards?

How do we, as scholars, ensure equitable and open access to our published research?

Has it been your experience, like Aimee Morrison’s (below), that “the more you write, the more you write”? (That is, that writing that doesn’t “count” because it isn’t peer reviewed, for instance, can facilitate increased writing output in the kinds of writing that do “count”? )

How have you successfully integrated blogging (and twitter?) into your research and teaching?

How have you been addressing these various issues of access and digital publishing  in your own publishing practices? Continue reading “Links Round-up: Digital Platforms, Open Access and the Future of Scholarly Publishing”

The Challenge of Writing About George Eliot’s Writing

As Tedra Osell has noted at Crooked Timber, Ta-Nehisi Coates has been posting sporadically about his experience reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch for the first time. (Osell also helpfully provides links to Coates’s posts on Middlemarch).

I have enjoyed reading Coates’s attempts to wrestle with what it is about Eliot’s prose that makes it so, well, wonderful, I suppose. For instance, in his post “Greedy of Clutch,” Coates explains that he believes it is his lack of grammatical knowledge that renders him only able to appreciate “the beauty of this sort of writing on a rather unspeakable emotional and spiritual level.” Continue reading “The Challenge of Writing About George Eliot’s Writing”

The Value of Victorian Studies: Papers from BAVS online

The Journal of Victorian Culture Online site recently published four papers given at the 2011 BAVS conference on “The Value of Victorian Studies.” I recommend the whole series of papers, by Shearer West, Linda Bree, Sarah Parker and Regenia Gagnier, on various aspects of the question of the value and impact of our field. While the papers engage quite closely with the particular situation of British academia, the issues involved – from rising tuition fees, the value of a University education, the imperative to demonstrate the “impact” of humanities research, or the bleak job market for graduate students – will certainly be familiar and of interest to a North American Victorian Studies audience.

I welcome your thoughts about these papers and their divergent claims and recommendations including:

  • West’s call for academics in the Humanities to contribute more to “policy making and public services”
  • Bree’s desire, as an editor, to see Victorian Studies books on subjects that are “more ambitious, bigger, and broader”
  • Parker’s description of the various economic and ethical worries of graduate students
  • Gagnier’s celebration not only of “the good society” but also her more specific appreciation for collaboration and her claim that “as we develop large interdisciplinary projects, often with teams of researchers and digital technicians, the expectation is for collaboration, and the generation of young Victorianists will find that it is becoming the norm”

CFP of Interest: ACCUTE/NAVSA Joint Session: Victorian Technologies and the Technologies of Victorian Studies

From railways to telegraphy, typewriters to telephones, Victorians were engaged with new, and developing, technologies of connection and communication. Innovations in technology over the course of the Victorian period influenced wider cultural ideas of connection, of scale and of human capacity. Like the Victorians, researchers in Victorian Studies are using new technologies of reading, writing, research and social connection that are changing the nature of our work and its dissemination.

This call is for papers that critically address Victorian Technologies and/or the technologies of Victorian Studies. Whether you are interested in the Blackberry or the trans-Atlantic cable, you are invited to submit a proposal for a 20 minute paper to be presented at the ACCUTE/NAVSA joint panel at the 2012 Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Waterloo, Ontario. Continue reading “CFP of Interest: ACCUTE/NAVSA Joint Session: Victorian Technologies and the Technologies of Victorian Studies”

“Foundress of Nothing?”: Report from the annual Victorian Studies Association of Ontario Conference

Rubens, Teresa of Avila's Vision of the Dove, c.1614

Many of us from The Floating Academy attended the annual Victorian Studies Association of Ontario conference this weekend. The conference’s theme — “Manipulation: Victorian Variations on Hands, Handling, and Underhanded Behaviour” — was taken up in various illuminating ways by the day’s speakers (including our own Gregory Brophy) but one key thread that emerged through all the papers was a critical identification of hands with agency. In addressing this concept of agency, or, in some cases, control (as in the case of Thackeray’s puppetmaster, which Peter Capuano discussed in his interesting analysis of the relationship between text and image in Vanity Fair), the day’s speakers often highlighted the ambiguity inherent in the concept of agency.

I found James Eli Adams’s talk, “The Dead Hand: George Eliot and the Uses of Inheritance” particularly compelling in this regard because he added a new layer to my understanding of the image of Dorothea Brooke as a “foundress of nothing” in Middlemarch:

“Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering on some long-recognizable deed” (4). Continue reading ““Foundress of Nothing?”: Report from the annual Victorian Studies Association of Ontario Conference”

For Your Weekend Amusement: Museum Links Roundup

The Frothingham's tobogganing on photographer William Notman's set (1869-70). Image property of the Musée McCord

In keeping with the levity that Alan introduced in his first post yesterday, I’d like to point you to some fun Victorian-related features at various museum and gallery websites.

First, at the Musée McCord’s website, there is a “Victorian Period” online game that tests your knowledge about social customs and dress. I reached a level that the game called being a “picture of politeness.” How about you? Will you be ejected from the ball for inappropriate dress? Continue reading “For Your Weekend Amusement: Museum Links Roundup”

Honk if you love Darwin: The Problem of the Human (Researcher)

An interesting discussion recently took place at the “On the Human” forum, hosted by the National Humanities Center, in response to Gillian Beer’s essay “Late Darwin and the Problem of the Human.” The “On the Human” forum is, I think, a really wonderful example of the ways that web technology can allow for thoughtful, engaged, and open scholarly conversations and I encourage you to take a look at it if you haven’t already. Continue reading “Honk if you love Darwin: The Problem of the Human (Researcher)”

Special issue of the Victorian Review on “Victorian Disability”

I recently had the privilege of guest co-editing, with Christopher Keep, a special issue of the Victorian Review on the topic of “Victorian Disability.” I am so pleased with how the issue turned out and how it brought together some of the superb scholars working in this burgeoning field. The issue is now available and I encourage you to check it out! (As you’ll see from the table of contents below, there are some wonderful contributions from some of my fellow Floating Academy members!) Continue reading “Special issue of the Victorian Review on “Victorian Disability””

Dracula in Twilight and Goth Janes: Nineteenth-century Young Adult Fiction Today

Dame Darcy's cover for The Illustrated Jane Eyre

Over the past few years, I have come to learn a lot about children’s literature and the reading preferences of young urban children and youth. I am involved with a wonderful organization that provides books free to children in low-income neighborhoods. Books are donated to the organization, which then displays them in a beautiful location in a century home – complete with window seats and fireplaces – and then children browse the shelves and take home one free book every time they come for a visit. The organization serves hundreds of children a day and is a wonderful oasis in the middle of Toronto. Continue reading “Dracula in Twilight and Goth Janes: Nineteenth-century Young Adult Fiction Today”

The Hulks on the Victorian History blog: “‘hell upon earth'”

J.M.W. Turner's "The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up," 1838.

Bruce Rosen at Victorian History has a fascinating post about the Hulks, the old navy ships used as floating jails in nineteenth-century Britain.  (The hulks also inspired the name of our blog!). Rosen includes a great image of the interior of a hulk and links to Adventures of a Guardsmen, the memoir of Charles Cozen who was a military prisoner on one of the Hulks.

Additional links:

-There are more images of “Prison Ships on the River Thames” on the Port Cities London website.

– The Temeraire, depicted above by Turner, was used as a prison ship after serving in the Battle of Trafalgar

“Hulks” on Lee Jackson’s Victorian London site

NVSA 2010: What the h— happened to Darwin?

I’ve returned home from lovely Princeton and from a very rich and collegial conference experience at this year’s NVSA conference. As I mentioned in my first post about the conference, the topic this year was “Fighting Victorians,” which is a theme I’d like to respond to as I think back over the conference. I really enjoyed how the focused topic allowed all of the papers to build on each other another and thereby construct a larger, aggregate sense of what fighting meant to the Victorians (and the wide range of issues that they had to fight over). Continue reading “NVSA 2010: What the h— happened to Darwin?”

Victorian Studies e-books and the Future of Scholarly Publishing

Designer Kyle Bean's The Future of Books (c. Kyle Bean, 2009). http://www.kylebean.co.uk

The future of academic publishing is an important and complicated issue that concerns us all and I know that we’re all deeply interested in the ways that scholarly publishers are responding to the economic pressures they face. For most presses, digitality seems to be an attractive cost-saving measure.  The University of Michigan Press, for instance, announced last year that they would be switching their list primarily to digital formats (with a print on demand option) in future. Other presses seem to be experimenting with e-book text access in order to figure out business models that work: indeed, various presses, like the University of Chicago Press, are providing access to specific e-books on their list at no charge. Continue reading “Victorian Studies e-books and the Future of Scholarly Publishing”

On the Connexion of Lovelace and Somerville

Ada Lovelace

As part of  Ada Lovelace Day, “an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science,”  Rob MacDougall put up a great post about Lovelace’s mentor Mary Somerville, (much of which he borrows from Jay Clayton’s Charles Dickens in Cyberspace).

My favorite line of MacDougall’s — “Ada Lovelace is cool, don’t get me wrong. But it has become difficult to see her clearly through the steam and the punks and the hey hey hey. She comes presoaked in alternate history and wishful thinking.”

Where is the Text in Textual Materialism?

"It's a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!" Image from Harper's weekly serialization of Great Expectations. (Scanned by Philip V. Allingham).

As a scholar working in the field of Deaf Studies who thinks daily about the fraught triangulation of written language, signed language and spoken language, I was intrigued by Bill Brown’s recent call to “extend textual materialism beyond the manuscript and the book and to expand the ways of locating physical detail in a sign system, which is how we make matter mean” (25). Brown issues this call in an introduction to a series of articles on textual materialism in the January 2010 issue of PMLA in which he traces the complementary and contradictory ways that book history, “theory,” digitality, and thing theory/material culture studies combine. Continue reading “Where is the Text in Textual Materialism?”