August 2008

The Long 19th Century Group @ the GC

…is now online!

Join us at

to keep up with our schedule of discussion groups and professionalization workshops and stay for our scintillating posts about all things Victorian, Romantic, and beyond.

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The British Long Nineteenth Century Group was formed in Fall 2006 by the Victorian Area Group. The Colloquium is designed to create community among students working on British literature of the long nineteenth century, facilitate student and faculty interaction, and establish a support network for professionalization. Questions / comments / complaints can be directed to Anne McCarthy at


In the course of what I affectionately have come to think of as The Article That Ate Summer (more on that in future posts), I found myself spending quite a bit of time on Google Books, often browsing some of the fine 19th century periodicals the site has to offer. While I was mostly on the lookout for information on how to tell apparent death from actual death (no, really), I also ran across a number of other pieces that really cried out to be shared, particularly in a forum such as this one.

Thus, I inaugurate now what I plan to make a semi-regular feature detailing unexpectedly amusing things I find while looking for other things on Google Books. Today’s item, “The Philosophy of Drinking,” was first published in Bentley’s Miscellany in 1842. This appears to have been a regular feature in the magazine–if you click on the link to the Table of Contents, you will notice that there are also philosophies of Smoking, Physic, Money, Law, and Divorce. However, it being Friday and all, I thought this one would be the most appropriate. The six bumpers of philosophy offer their paeans to the bottle in the form of poetry, prose, and lists. Not to mention illustrations. Bumper the Third is one of my favorites, and begins:

How very rational and manifold are the reasons for drinking!

…indeed. This section also informs us that

There is less cause for the limitation of the license for drinking to bachelors than to married men, who should invariably be more steady, and the more especially as it does sometimes occur that the latter become pugnacious when the wine is in the ascendant.

–upon which I myself cannot comment from my personal experience, though I know we have some married persons in our blog audience who may like to weigh in on this one. I particularly like the phrase “the wine is in the ascendant” and may try to incorporate it into my speech accordingly. On the other hand, I will probably not be giving the following toast (with bonus explanation of the pun!) anytime soon:

“May the man who has a good wife never be addicted to liquor (lick her).”

Anyway, cheers.

I post the following in my capacity as the facilitator and sometime despot of the physical-world manifestation of the Long 19th Century Group @ the Grad Center. One of the things we do during the school year is hold monthly discussions on recent books (generally by reading the intro and one chapter) and articles in our field. We define the field broadly and try to read with an eye toward interdisciplinarity. Our readings in the past have included chapters from Sharon Marcus’s Between Women, Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts, and Seth Koven’s Slumming.

For each discussion, a volunteer facilitator selects the text for discussion and makes it available to the rest of the group, either by leaving a copy for people to borrow and reproduce in the English department or (for online journals and other texts), circulating the link to the list serv. The discussions themselves are usually small and informal, beginning with some preliminary remarks by the facilitator and then going from there. Many of our most productive discussions have used the texts as a jumping-off point for examining our own methodologies and interests.

This semester, we plan to hold the discussion groups on either Mondays or Tuesdays, with the specific dates TBD (ideally, the “D” part will happen in the next week or so). We also need to choose texts and find facilitators, which is the central purpose of this thread. I’ll post below the links to descriptions of the texts that have already been suggested. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to use the comments to let us know which ones look interesting (or just hideous), to make alternative suggestions, possibly with inspiration from New Books in 19th Century British Studies, and to volunteer to lead discussions. (If you do want to lead a discussion, please let us know what days are good for you this semester.) We’re looking for about three readings for the fall, for meetings in September, October, and November. Our experience with December is that events requiring extra efforts of thought are not well-attended.

One final thing to consider: Mia has brought up the idea of expanding our reading from current work (last 5 years or so) in Victorian studies to classic texts as well–think Walter Houghton’s The Victorian Frame of Mind or Jerome Buckley’s The Victorian Temper–that may have been absent from our own formal training. What do the rest of you think? Should we devote one meeting a semester to older works? Discuss them on the blog? Ignore them altogether?

Onward to the current contenders. The links for the books go to their reviews in RaVoN:

Right now, I’m working on finishing up coursework while thinking about coming up with orals lists and doing some research and brainstorming on a possible dissertation project. For this, I’m approaching Victorian lit (primary texts still to be decided) from three perspectives:

  1. China and world history–in particular, revisionist work started by Roy Bin Wong, Andre Gunder Frank, and Kenneth Pomeranz arguing that until 1800, China and Western Europe, in economic terms, were at similar levels of development, and that the “great divergence” only happened in the nineteenth century.
  2. Thing theory–in particular, “Freedgoodian readings” of the forgotten social histories embedded in fictional things such as mahogany furniture and calico curtains.
  3. Temporality–in particular, an investigation of Victorian “chronopolitical” constructions of China which “denied coevalness” (the terms of Johannes Fabian) by maintaining that China had reached a high degree of civilization but remained stuck in temporal stasis.

So, I’m looking at relations between China and Britain in the mid-nineteenth century (when the Opium Wars were fought) through the medium of material culture.

Okay, so I finally did an About page.  Comments about that or anything else about the site are welcomed.

Made it onto the site, so I just wanted to stop in and say hello. Thanks to Mia for getting this put together!

I would love to begin here with something more fittingly Victorian, but I already did the whole “auction of Queen Victoria’s bloomers” message on the list serve. Alas. I suppose that means it’s back to course prep for me.