Britain and the Narration of Travel in the Nineteenth Century: Texts, Images, Objects, edited by Kate Hill and published by Ashgate, is out now. The book offers a rich exploration of British travel to Europe, Australia, China and Africa, and looks at encounters through travel writing as well as objects such as guest books, posters, and guidebooks. My essay “‘The formation of a surface’: European travel in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit” reads the European journey of the Dorrit family through its articulation of borders and boundaries: from the dissolving landscapes of the Alps to the “formation of a surface” by the socially-conscious British abroad.
I’m very pleased to say that my monograph Mobility in the Victorian Novel: Placing the Nation is scheduled for publication with Palgrave Macmillan in September 2015, and a short blurb and contents can now be found on the publishers’ website.
And here’s a quick preview of the various novels discussed in chapter:
Chapter 1: ‘Wandering out into the World’: Walking the Connected Nation
Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop
George Eliot, Adam Bede
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Chapter 2: ‘Flying from the grasp’: Embodying the Railway Journey
Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton
Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret
Chapter 3: ‘It’s all one’? Continental Connections
Charlotte Brontë, The Professor and Villette
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
Chapter 4: ‘The distance is quite imaginary’: Travelling beyond Europe
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford
Conclusion: The Mobile Nation of The Moonstone
I’m very much looking to speaking at the symposium Texts in Place/ Place in Texts at Royal Holloway on 21st May 2015, which brings together geographers and literary scholars to discuss their understandings of the relationship between texts and places.
My talk is titled “’The distance is quite imaginary’: locating the nation and the world in Dickens’s David Copperfield” and is drawn from a section of my forthcoming monograph which explores the representation of national and global spaces/places in the Victorian novel. Full abstract as follows:
“It is merely crossing,” said Mr. Micawber, trifling with his eye-glass, “merely crossing. The distance is quite imaginary.”
Mr Micawber’s humorous denial of the distance between Britain and Australia provides a comic strain to the emigration story of Dickens’s David Copperfield (1849–50), but its comedy belies an important point about the representation of place, and especially the national-global politics of representation, in the Victorian novel. In this paper, I will use David Copperfield to think about the representation of place in terms of narrative structure: how much narrative space is afforded to different places, how places are made more or less present through various representational modes, and how structures of nation and world intersect. I will suggest that David Copperfieldprovides an exemplary model of the structural delineation of place in the Victorian novel: a tight yet protracted core of the nation-space is set against an absent, often “imaginary”, world at large. Yet David Copperfield also calls for a closer reading of this structure, and I identify a paralleling of national and global places in the narrative to suggest how we might read for more subtle inferences of global resonances in the spaces of the Victorian novel.
Shakespeare on the Global Stage: Performance and Festivity in the Olympic Year, edited by Paul Prescott and Erin Sullivan, has just been published by Bloomsbury’s Arden Shakespeare series. The collection takes a range of perspectives on Shakespearean performance in 2012, emerging from the Year of Shakespeare project on the World Shakespeare Festival. I am pleased to have contributed a co-written essay, with Dr Peter Kirwan (Uni. of Nottingham) on “A Tale of Two Londons: Locating Shakespeare and Dickens in 2012”, which parallels the Shakespeare Festival and the Dickens bicentenary to explore the cultural politics of locating authors within national literary landscapes, and how this plays out within an international cultural context.
In the new issue of Victoriographies (4.2) I review Michael Hollington’s The Reception of Charles Dickens in Europe (Bloomsbury, 2013). It’s an impressive two-volume collection of essays with 48 international contributors covering Dickens’s reception in 28 European countries. In the review I discuss the volume’s themes of national identity, the influence of Dickens on European authors, Dickens and the visual arts, as well as the substantive publication histories assessed in different national contexts.
My article “A brown sunburnt gentleman”: Masculinity and the Travelling Body in Dickens’s Bleak House is now available online in the new issue of Nineteenth-Century Contexts (36.4) – a special issue on the Male Body in Victorian Literature and Culture, edited by Nadine Muller and Jo Parsons.
September brings a second invitation to a symposium at Lancaster University – I’ve already mentioned Mobility Cultures, which will be followed two weeks later by Border Masculinities on 19-20th September.
Border Masculinities will bring together scholars from a wide range of specialisms to discuss spatial and conceptual borders with regard to the representation of masculinities.
I will be presenting on masculinity and the travelling body in Victorian literature, focusing on the figure of the sunburnt gentlemen traveller and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.
Incidentally, September will also see the publication of my article on the sunburnt gentleman in Dickens’s Bleak House, in a special issue of Nineteenth-Century Contexts on “the male body in Victorian literature and culture”. The editors Nadine Muller and Joanne Ella Parsons have made the first draft of their introduction available online, so you can get a taste of what looks to be an excellent issue!