Wordle: My MLA paper

(My MLA paper–well, my MLA paper two drafts ag0–as envisioned by Click to enlarge if you don’t mind spoilers.)

It’s MLA Eve, of course!

…wait a minute, what most wonderful time of the year did you *think* I was talking about?

Anyway. In the past two days, I’ve been to Chicago and back again–quite a feat, considering the weather there and here this morning and the whole “hey, why don’t I light my pants on fire right before the flight lands? Al-Qaeda, yeah!” ridiculousness. And after my whirlwind of blissfully unironic family hangouts (baby! dogs! Uncle Ron’s bourbon slushies! did I mention a *baby*??), it’s time to unpack and repack and head to Philadelphia in the morning for four days of geeking out over hotel-priced cocktails and all the other joys that MLA brings.

I have to admit that I really like MLA. This will probably be my last year to say that, since next year I pretty much absolutely have to be on the job market and that’s going to change things substantially–after this year, the experience is going to be a lot less fluffy and innocent. But for now, I’m looking forward to it. This will be my third time going, first time giving a paper. I didn’t go to San Francisco last year, lacking even the slightest justification for spending the money. And I found that I missed it–not when I was sledding in Wisconsin with my family on December 28–but later in the spring semester, where I found myself uninspired and losing sight of why I was doing what I was doing in the first place. And, in a hugely dorky way, I’ve been fortunate enough to find MLA (or at least the two MLAs before this one) to be energizing and inspiring. I come home weighed down with books and ideas, I have notes that I can refer to, and I’m reminded that there really are people out there who are reading and thinking and doing cool stuff. And I kind of need that right now for all kinds of reasons.

Whether I’ll get it of course remains to be seen. But, since this is my last pre-job market MLA and since we need to get this blog back into gear for 2010, I’ve suggested to Mia that we attempt a kind of liveblogging of the convention over the next several days. So check this space for talk postmortems and notes — and who knows what else.

(We are also both, incidentally, on Twitter. I’m @annecmccarthy and she’s @mini_mia.)

First up — my own paper! I’ll be presenting some version of the above Wordle during the very first panel session tomorrow (Sunday 12/27) at 3:30 pm. The panel is “Literary Form and the Social: Victorian Poetry” and my paper is of course on Browning. Should be a good time, despite the inexplicable time conflict with the Tennyson bicentennial panel that will force me to miss a talk by one of my heroes, Matthew Rowlinson. Clearly, the MLA assumes that the audience for Victorian poetry is so vast that there is no room in the Philadelphia Marriott that can hold us all at once and so they have wisely forced us to choose between panels at a time. I have a feeling that 25 copies of my handout may have been optimistic.

For now, however, it’s time for me to get off the computer and pack in earnest. Am trying to make the 10:14 train out of Penn Station. My appreciation for New Jersey Transit is running high as I pack all kinds of crazy stuff in my baggage like liquids over three ounces and plan on arriving at the station fifteen minutes rather than two hours before my train.

See you tomorrow, MLA!


Wicked smart, devilishly funny, unbelievably kind, tough as nails. RIP EKS.*

Truly one of the greatest Victorianists of all time–and, of course, she was so, so, so much more. We at the Graduate Center will mourn her wit, warmth, and generosity dearly, but it’s truly been an honour to have her with us for over ten years.

Great links at And do check out the post by David Shankbone, who took the incredible, oft-reproduced photograph displayed above. It’s just one more example of the kindness she shone on every body.

*The R stands for Reincarnate.

The 2009 CUNY Victorian Conference, with program, and much more, at, put together by a certain WP monkeygrrl.

Thought this might interest Maggie because of its speculative bent.

Dept. of Germanic Languages: “Sights of Enchantment: Magic-Vision-Metaphor” Workshop

Friday, February 13th, 2-8pm

Friday, February 13, 2009

“Sights of Enchantment: Magic-Vision-Metaphor”

at Deutsches Haus
420 W. 116th St. (Between Amsterdam Ave. and Morningside Dr.)

Bringing together literary, historical, anthropological and media
perspectives, the workshop aims to provoke an interdisciplinary
discussion of magical concepts of vision and their rhetorical functions.
Given that the realm of this discussion has been described as “the
underside of vision” (by Lawrence Di Stasi, in his book on the evil eye
entitled Mal Occhio), one of the subjects might be how the concept of
magic took the form of an implicit psychology long before
psychoanalysis delivered its influential interpretation of the relations
between visual experience, emotions, and the unconscious.

Workshop with contributions by Mark Anderson (Columbia University),
Stuart Clark (Princeton University), Simon During (Johns Hopkins
University), Anselm Haverkamp (New York University), Thomas Levin
(Princeton University), Dorothea von Mucke (Columbia University),
Elisabeth Strowick (Johns Hopkins University), Michael Taussig (Columbia
University), Brigitte Weingart (Bonn University/Columbia University).

Co-Sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

For program details please see attachment,
go to
or contact Brigitte Weingart:

This semester, we will be meeting at 2:30 on the first and third Wednesday of each month, beginning on February 4th. Our focus this semester will be discussing the state of the field and our place within it. Rather than making a strict distinction between reading/working meetings, we’ll combine the two, looking at general professionalization issues and, as always, helping people with their works in progress. For the readings, we have decided to focus on journals and articles that are readily available in electronic format (i.e. no more going to the Grad Center just to copy something). 

For February 4th, I will, lest I be everlastingly ashamed, workshop a paper on The Trial for a special issue on Charlotte Yonge. We will also be discussing the hottest, sexiest, digi-tastic research resources available for us long-nineteenth-century-ists. We’re interested in finding out your research strategies, too–where do you start searching? What sites keep you up to date on the latest scholarship? What do you wish you were more knowledgeable about?

Perhaps the most famous Victorian New Year’s resolution was the one that Robert Browning made in 1853 to write a poem a day. He kept to it for three days, four at the most, but one of the poems he wrote was “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.”

(Let’s just say that would be  like me resolving to write a 1,000-word blog post every day and finishing my dissertation by Thursday.)

Nevertheless, it’s in this spirit that I am making my own resolution, one that has to do both with Victorian poetry and this blog. Basically, it’s this. I’m going to rediscover the wonders of The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse. I will do so on this blog, sharing a poem a week from this collection along with whatever commentary I see fit.

The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse was first published in 1912, with selections by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, the first Professor of English at Cambridge. (In an amusing turn, he includes some of his own poetry.) It was intended as something of a supplement to his earlier anthology, The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900. (This one is available in full on Google books; the Victorian one isn’t. Unfortunately, whoever did the hyperlinks didn’t realize that the numbers in the index referred to poem numbers, not page numbers, so it’s kind of difficult to navigate.)

I have sort of a lazy, passing interest in these kinds of anthologies–kind of a mixture of curiosity and the allure of possibly being able to have obscure bits of poetry and prose on hand. I bought a copy of this a couple of years ago at a used bookstore in St Louis. (I have the 1955 printing, the same one available in snippet view on Google books. It doesn’t appear to be a new edition, though given the inclusion of people like Hopkins, some things must have been added later.) I remember flipping through it at the time and remarking that it had pretty much every Victorian poet I’d ever heard of and about a hundred others, as it goes from Walter Savage Landor to Lascalles Abercrombie. But, mostly, it’s just ended up sitting on my shelf next to other anthologies like The World of the Victorians, Victorians on Literature and Art, the Viking Portable Victorian Reader, and more recent collections like the Penguin Book of Victorian Verse and Victorian Woman Poets: An Annotated Anthology.

Today, however, Quiller-Couch seems mostly famous as the representative of a practice of English literature as a “soft” discipline, a kind of educational sop to women and the working classes to which the New Criticism was meant to respond and correct. In that sense, of course, Quiller-Couch himself could be seen as representing a kind of embarrassingly “Victorian” sense of taste.

These, of course, were magic words for me, ensuring that I would become completely obsessed with the anthology.  I’ve moved it to my desk from the bookshelf so that it can be closer at hand when I have a distracting question. I’ve already established, for instance, that it includes three sonnets by Lord Alfred Douglas but only one poem by Wilde, and that even the poets I’ve heard of are often represented here by poems that I haven’t. The collection at least nods to the transatlantic, including poems by the likes of Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson, and Poe. We’re about half and half on poets included in Virginia Blain’s Victorian Women Poets anthology–yes on Augusta Webster, Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, and Amy Levy, but no on Emily Pfeiffer and Felicia Hemans. Michael Field is followed by James Joyce and Ezra Pound, neither of whom we would think of as Victorians. There’s a brief editorial preface, but no scholarly apparatus to speak of. The poems are arranged by their authors’ dates of birth, without more specific dating, but perhaps I only find this irritating (or worth mentioning because I’m me).

And I can’t wait to read more, to figure out who these people are, to wonder why certain poems were chosen, to think about the conception of the Victorian that is being presented here–especially as, in a sense, it was almost immediately superseded and dismissed. In a certain sense, it changes the entire discussion that we have (both in Victorian poetry and Victorian literature more generally) about how a text gets lost and then rediscovered–and even whether there’s a greater emphasis placed on going and retrieving a poet from the archives of literary annuals and other periodicals than there is in flipping through an anthology like this one and wondering who Sir Lewis Morris is. (I swear I just opened the book to a random page and got that.)

My first post will likely be tomorrow, where I’m mostly going to talk about the intro and the  logic behind the anthology. After that, sometime each Sunday/Monday, I’ll choose a new-to-me poem from the text to talk about. In the case of supercrazynoncanonical poets I’ll see what I can find about them on Google. I plan to try to keep this up at least through the spring semester. After that, who knows?

Tangentially: Robert Langbaum’s The Poetry of Experience seems like it’s becoming increasingly unavoidable. Anyone read it? Anyone want to read it?

It’s been a pretty crummy year for real estate, stock markets, and investment banks, but for this humble group of Victorianists gone wild (and their co-conspirators), 2008 has been very good indeed. Among our accomplishments:


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