I’ve hesitated to announce my plan to blog every day–it’s not a New Year’s resolution, but it is a January resolution. Here’s the deal: My orals will, insha’allah, take place during the second week of February, and I’ve left a lot of reading to the last “minute.” Meaning, I’m planning on working 10+ hour days, no days off, for the rest of January. This is going to involve plenty sleep deprivation after a winter break that was curtailed into two days, so I’m trying to record my thoughts before they get lost in the general burn out. I’m feeling really stupid about not even averaging 50 pages a day in the summer. Lurkers, if you’re out there and you’ve done your orals, can you offer me some consolation in saying that leaving way too much of your reading to the last month is standard practice?
So, my thoughts. My three lists–“The Victorian Novel and Temporal Depth,” “Postcolonial Theory, Globalization, and the Cultural Turn,” and “The Early Mid-Victorian Common Reader: The World, The Exhibition, and the Periodical Press, 1851-1851”–all can be tied to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. I think my favourite part of that book is the stuff on temporality, on how the rise of nationalism accompanied a shift from cosmological, eschatological time where everything works horizontally by Providence or typology, to Benjaminian “empty, homogenous time.” where things go vertically, and happen at the same time–“Meanwhile” is the key word. Anderson illustrates the imagining of these imagined communities with the example of the newspaper. I really saw this today while I was rolling through Volume V (Oct 1850-Apr 1851) of Eliza Cook’s Journal on microfilm. The articles make constant reference to or speculation about Englishness (sometimes independently of other peoples, sometimes in comparison to other European nations, but only infrequently in comparison to non-Western peoples). For example, the first article of 1851, “Prosperity!” notes the material prosperity of the nation, but then asks why England emphasizes material prosperity over moral and intellectual prosperity, and in fact, doesn’t do even do a good job with material prosperity given the living conditions of the working classes. What’s interesting about this, though, is that it’s not really events taking part in different locations, as in Anderson, but more abstract concepts. No doubt a large part of this is due to the Newspaper Stamp Duty I talked about yesterday. If you wanted to reach a large audience, i.e. sell for cheap, you could either take out news items, or risk getting arrested (check out Henry Hetherington‘s career as a printer). I’d say it’s more the imagining itself (every Sunday!), the sense of a shared reading experience, that creates national (and class) identity, than the way the media now reifies events as having national significance.
I’m reskimming Lady Audley’s Secret (and will start Aurora Floyd, since M. E. Braddon started writing it before she was finishied with LAS!), and I’m noticing that so much of sensation fiction is establishing that two simultaneous events were actually simultaneous, while traveling the country on trains scheduled according to “empty, homogeneous time.” Okay, that’s it. And so to bed.