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

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

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

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

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

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 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”