A quick end-of-year round-up of my blogging and reviews from 2013, starting with my favourite and most-read pieces from this blog:
Mapping the Past, today: TVs trend for treading the historical beaten track: early in the year I was thinking about the TV trend for series that retrace historical routes – whether it’s railway lines, canal routes, or guidebook tours – but always with a view to capturing the idea of treading in a predecessor’s footsteps.
“Curiously brought together” or “travelling strangely hither“?: inspired by some research I was working on, a quick snippet looking at the idea of connections in Dickens’s Bleak House and Little Dorrit. Dickens was also present in my most-read post of this year: a 201st birthday reflection on the bicentenary year.
“A group of true peasantry”? Rural realism and The Village: I enjoyed the BBC’s series The Village, set in rural Derbyshire in the early 20th century, but many viewers found it too bleak. In this post I reflected, through George Eliot’s writing on rurality, on why a little ‘rural realism’ was in fact rather refreshing.
“You are now entering the Big Brother House”: Heritage, houses and the location of cultural value: one of my personal favourites to write – in response to the National Trust temporarily taking over the Big Brother house as a heritage site, I reflected on why this seemed to touch such a nerve with some opponents, and argued that it represented an interesting move in light of Britain’s heritage houses
A new Crystal Palace?: following the announcement of plans to rebuild the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, I wrote about the history of the building and posed the question of whether there is any value, from a Victorianist’s perspective, in this move.
I continued blogging for a number of other sites, including the Journal of Victorian Culture online. I especially enjoyed the public history series earlier this year, and wrote about my experience of public engagement with Dickens 2012 and how it had been both fun and intellectually stimulating for my research. It was also for JVC that I wrote about two great events that I attended this year: the London Transport Museum’s Lure of the Underground – Tube at 150 exhibition and a production of the play Brontë by Polly Teale – the latter was a fun departure from my usual blogging, recorded as a skype conversation between myself and fellow Victorianist Amber Regis and covering topics including femininity, life-writing, the Brontë sisters’ afterlives, and more.
I also guest blogged for Brandy Schillace’s blog The Daily Dose on the subject of travelling bodies in the Victorian novel, and was pleased to contribute to the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association series of ‘historical groundbreakers’ with a piece on George Eliot as a complex historical feminist figure.
It was for the FWSA that I reviewed two recent studies on women’s travel writing: Judith Johnston’s Victorian Women and the Economies of Travel, Translation and Culture, 1830-1870, and Churnjeet Mahn’s British Women’s Travel to Greece, 1840-1914: Travels in the Palimpsest. I was also pleased to review again for Open Letters Monthly, especially as Tatiana Holway’s The Flower of Empire: An Amazonian water lily, the quest to make it bloom, and the world it created was a fascinating and enthralling read. Also available for reading online is the issue of Victorian Network that I guest edited, on the subject of Sex, Courtship and Marriage in Victorian Literature and Culture.
Finally, the year was a busy one for conferences and trips. I was lucky to have two journeys to Italy earlier this year, first to Sardinia as visiting lecturer at the University of Cagliari (lecture images and further reading for which I blogged here), and then to Venice for the NAVSA/BAVS/AVSA conference in June: I wrote about the Dickens: Local and Global seminar I participated in for JVC online. Travel was also the subject of Contact and Connections, the first symposium of the Travel and Mobility Studies network that I co-run at Warwick; we were delighted to have Tim Youngs and Cathy Waters as keynote speakers, and the whole day provided a fascinating array of papers around the theme.
Over the summer, I went to Liverpool for Neo-Victorian Cultures: the Victorians Today, and had a very enjoyable time rediscovering my love of neo-Victorian fiction! In light of this, Rethinking the Nineteenth Century at the University of Sheffield provided some interesting reflections on 19th-century and Victorian studies today, and in addition to my conference write-up I wrote a follow-up piece for JVC on Victorian or Nineteenth Century: definitions and positions. I finished the year with, predictably, some Dickens and Shakespeare: there was the annual Dickens Day in London, this year on the theme of Dickens and History, and Shakespeare On the Road, a symposium in Stratford-upon-Avon launching an exciting collaboration between the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the University of Warwick.
The start of 2014 is a busy one, and I’m most excited about the upcoming publication of Gender and Space in Rural Britian, 1840-1920 in a month or so. A co-authored piece on Dickens and Shakespeare in 2012 is also out soon, as well as two reviews for Studies in Travel Writing. I’m tying up a lot of loose ends at the moment in my research, with work on Mayhew and the Great Exhibition, Europe in Dickens’s Little Dorrit, male travelling bodies in the Victorian novel, neo-Victorian spaces in Lynn Shepherd’s Tom-All-Alone’s and, of course, the book on Journeys in the Victorian Novel all nearing completion in the next few weeks (or so). I’ll also be taking a trip to Brussels and then Haworth in March as research for a piece on Charlotte Brontë and then hopefully getting started on what may well be the next book-length project over the summer.
Thank you for reading my blog over the last year, and a very happy new year to all!