I’m Still Here – Just busy getting my PhD!

Hello kind readers,

I just wanted to give you an update. My PhD is now complete and I will receive me degree at convocation later this month. That’s good news for me.

I’m telling you this because the good news for this page is that I will return with regular updates very soon. I will be attending the annual conference of the North American Victorian Studies Association next month and I will be bringing my readers updates on the latest in Victorian and Edwardian research and scholarship. This will include new websites and blog links.

I will also be looking at some of the exciting digital archives of Victorian and Edwardian materials that give both scholarly and fan readers of nineteenth-century literature free access to increasingly higher quality editions of some lost favourites.

I will also be using the site to bring attention to journal articles and books that I think deserve wider attention. As I stated when I began this blog, the Victorians are for everyone and I think that includes Victorianist scholarship.

Victorians and Edwardians were actually avid readers of scholarly journals in the arts and sciences. I think an emulation of such practices would enrich our daily lives and I encourage you to do so.

Thanks for checking in – even lately when I haven’t checked in. I promise to reward your interest very soon.

Vicky and Eddie’s Resource page.

George Gissing’s New Grub Street (1891)

 

George_Gissing_c1890sI have to admit that I was not looking forward to reading George Gissing’s New Grub Street. I enjoyed The Odd Women but also found it very dark and, frankly, depressing. Being in the final stages of dissertation writing, I tend to go for books that seem fun or at least pleasantly entertaining. With Gissing, it seems that everyone starves to death and experiences nothing but misery along the way.

I cannot say that New Grub Street is very different. However, as a student of book and publishing history of the nineteenth century, I found it an incredibly satisfying read. My Penguin Classics edition (edited in 1968) claims that Edwin Reardon is the central figure of the novel but I disagree. Women take centre stage in Gissing’s portrayal of the effects of the novel industry, not as writers but as the spouses and daughters of mediocre and unsuccessful novelists without any power to change the circumstances of their lives.

Gissing portrays strong, if put upon women who defy the “Angel of the House” trope that Dickens relies so much on. Instead, Gissing’s women, express their opinions and argue with their husbands and fathers.

Marion Yule, Amy Reardon, and, my personal favourites, Dora and Maud Milvain, are subtly well-developed characters. They are not heroic or martyrs to the plot but disappointed, hardened, and familiar. They are wonderful examples of Gissing’s naturalist style.

The men in the book who seem to go out of their way to make these women miserable seem to forget that in their search for artistic recognition and creative freedom, they have wives and children to support – dependents who were promised one way of life and are disappointed in the reality that they face. Amy Reardon is particularly portrayed as a terrible person because she thought she was marrying a soon-to-be successful author. However, when Edwin Reardon continues to makes sarcastic jokes about the workhouse and gives up writing entirely to take a clerk position that pays only 25 shillings a week, well, it was not what Amy signed up for. She has a son (who Edwin clearly admits he does not care anything about) to feed and educate and Edwin’s lack of sympathy, makes for an interesting and complex dynamic.

Amy’s attitudes towards the limited divorce laws of the late-Victorian age are also informative and help to shed light on the realities and risks of marriage.

So, while a sad novel, it is not tragic. Instead, New Grub Street is cynical, ironic, angry, and topical. If you have any interest in the Victorian publishing industry, I highly recommend the novel. If you like your fiction “real” – whatever that means – then, this is also a novel for you.

Happy reading!

The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852)

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The first Victorian novel that seduced me onto the path I have as a Victorian scholar was William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. This novel without a hero drew me in by mocking everything that was wrong with Regency and Victorian culture even as the latter had barely begun. Becky Sharp was a slap in the face to the hypocrisy of the middle-class bourgeois attitude toward difference. From the moment she throws that damnable dictionary out the window until we leave her smirking in Amelia’s face at the end, she is an unmatched survivor. I am Becky Sharp – at least I wish I was Becky Sharp.

I have also read Barry Lyndon (excellent!) and The Newcomes (a bit dry). I have recently begun my fourth Thackeray: The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852).

What fascinates me about Esmond is the role that books play in this book. First, it was originally printed in an eighteenth-century typeface to reflect the historical period in which the novel takes place (1690s until the early-eighteenth-century reign of the good Queen Anne). My Penguin Classics editors did not use that type and I find that unfortunate because the materiality of the book is so central to work.

In addition, the novel’s bildüngsroman of Book I follows the coming of age of Henry (Harry) Esmond as he works as a page and is eventually sent to university by his Aristocratic Catholic family members Lord and Lady Castlewood. Throughout the book we are told what he is reading from the Restoration comedies he sneaks out of Lord Castlewood’s collection, to Horace, Pope, Swift, etc.

The novel addresses the Tory/Whig conflicts as well as the battle for religious toleration in Britain’s Augustan age. Esmond’s conflict is a microcosm of the larger political conflict that occupied the politics of the era. I am just about to read Book II and I cannot wait to see what happens now that his life has fallen apart and Harry finds himself in prison, abandoned by his family and no one to turn to.

Thackeray’s works are very reminiscent of the episodic novels of Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding; however, Thackeray’s work features a unity of storytelling that does not typically leave loose ends hanging or engage in an adventurous turn without some larger narrative purpose.

If you have not yet had the chance to read Thackeray, why not start now? Vanity Fair and Barry Lyndon are both fantastic reads and have quality editions available with Oxford World’s Classics. With Vanity Fair, I do recommend the Norton Critical edition assembled by Victorian and Bibliographical Scholar, Peter L. Shillingsburg.

Happy reading Vicky and Eddie readers!

(P.S. The Image is Beatrix Knighting Esmond (1857) by Augustus Leopold Egg, held by the Tate Gallery in London, UK).

 

 

Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend Reading Project

Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend Reading Project

This sounds like a fantastic project. In my opinion, part of the reason that people find Victorian novels so challenging is the cumbersome twentieth-century formats in which we ask people to read them. This project asks people to reconsider Dickens the way he was read by his fellow Victorians – as a monthly, over a 20-month period of time.

The Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend Reading Project is a WordPress page dedicated to people reading the novel as it was originally designed, over the original period of time and as a shared experience to be shared between friends.

I’m planning on joining this group and reading along. I am of the opinion that we need to find new ways of sharing our passion for VIctorian literature if we are to interest digital generation in these fantastic works. This project is one such way.

Click on the link in this post to join the Victorian fun.

Happy reading Vicky and Eddie fans!

Reminder: CFP ‘Cosmopolitanism, Aestheticism, and Decadence 1860-1920′

victorianandedwardian:

This is a conference I wish I could afford to go to this year. Looks like a fantastic lineup. I am especially impressed with Dr. Stephano Evangelista’s book British Aestheticism and Ancient Greece (Palgrave Macmillan). This book is worth a read if you are at all interested in Aestheticism, Decadence, or discourses of same-sex desire in late-Victorian literature and culture.

Originally posted on The Victorianist: BAVS Postgraduates:


Reminder: Call for Papers deadline 3 March 2014

Cosmopolitanism, Aestheticism, and Decadence 1860-1920
University of Oxford, 17-18 June 2014

Plenary Speakers:
Dr Stefano Evangelista (Trinity College, Oxford)
Professor Jonathan Freedman (University of Michigan)
Dr Michèle Mendelssohn (Mansfield College, Oxford)

This conference is supported by the Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (KIASH) and the Faculty of English Language and Literature of the University of Oxford.

Over the past twenty years, the term “cosmopolitanism” has been the focus of intense critical reflection and debate across the humanities. For some, it represents a potential remedy for oppressive and antagonistic models of national identity and a means of addressing the ethical, economic, and political dilemmas produced by globalisation. Others consider it a peculiarly insidious form of imperialism, and argue that it advocates an untenable ideal of a privileged, rootless observer, detached from — and disposed to romanticise or commodify — very…

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The Invisible Woman

Apologies for my lack of posts of late. I have been deep in the world of my dissertation and rarely get a chance to poke my head out into the wider world of the Victorians and Edwardians.

We are having a lovely blizzard here this evening and snow always makes me think of Dickens. Normally, that means returning to A Christmas Carol, but this year, actor / director Ralph Fiennes offers an interesting alternative.

Fiennes takes on the role of Charles Dickens and tells the story of Ellen Ternan – his mistress, or as the title of the film suggests – the invisible woman.

Dickens embraced the Victorian tradition of the paterfamilias – the head of a “morally” upright Victorian middle-class family, who openly cheated on his wife with a young, impressionable women made vulnerable by a social system that condemned her (not the married man) for her participation in non-marital sexual intercourse.

Fiennes seems to be telling the story of those consequences for Ms. Ternan. It looks promising. Something I will certainly track down once this massive project is off my plate.

I promise that this space is alive and well and I look forward to many more comments and links on Victorian and Edwardian literature and culture.

For now, it is to time return to the dissertation. There is a lot to accomplish between now and Christmas Day!

Happy snow!