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From novel to literary history… As Dave Mazella and John Holbo have already noted Breeding’s literary quality, I want to start off with some literature: Jenny Davidson’s first novel, Heredity (2003), which yokes together eighteenth-century Gothic tropes, the parallel-plot historical novel (popularized by A. S. Byatt), and an SF twist on fertility treatment.  Elizabeth Mann, the… Miriam Burstein 05/28/09 2 05/29/09
Epic: Britain’s Heroic Muse, 1790-1910 Epic poetry was once considered the most exalted form of poetry; not coincidentally, writing a great epic was supposed to be part and parcel of the career trajectory of any major poet.  Herbert F. Tucker’s Epic: Britain’s Heroic Muse, 1790-1910 is, suitably enough, not just about the epic, but at 737… Miriam Burstein 10/27/08 3 10/29/08
Linking about: Illustrating Milton The Iconography of Paradise Lost (multiple illustrators, including Hayman, Medina, Fuseli, Dore; George Klawitter) Blake’s 1808 Paradise Lost (posted by Don Ulin) John Martin’s Paradise Lost Mezzotints (Spaightwood Galleries) Henry Fuseli’s Paradise Lost paintings & engravings: Dallas Museum of Art, Tate Britain (scroll down) Blake’s Paradise Regained (Blake Archive) Terrance Lindall’s… Miriam Burstein 04/05/08 2 04/06/08
Profession 2007: “Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion” What follows are some scattered observations about both the task force’s report and the various responses to it.  (The Valve got a mention from Caroline Levine, incidentally, as one of the “[s]ites for intellectual exchange about books and ideas” (103) now proliferating on the Web.) Miriam Burstein 12/17/07 2 12/18/07
Citations I’m discussing MLA style with my graduate students the week after next, a subject that never fails to generate polite yawns passionate enthusiam from all concerned, and, by a circuitous route, this led me to thinking about blogs.  Specifically, what happens when our article or book project incorporates material we’ve discussed… Miriam Burstein 09/09/07 7 09/12/07
The Material Interests of the Victorian Novel [Disclaimer: I both know the author and am thanked in the preface (as part of the Western New York Victorianists Group).] Students have been known to run shrieking from the room at the very sight of Bleak House.  Even full-blown academics occasionally break into whimpers of agony when faced with Middlemarch. … Miriam Burstein 07/23/07 5 07/25/07
The Novel of Purpose Readers may well wonder how “transatlantic studies” constitutes an alternative to the familiar practice of Anglo-American criticism—or, for that matter, any other form of comparative criticism.  Most nineteenth-century specialists, for example, are well aware of Poe’s influence in France, Scott’s influence in America, or Hawthorne’s influence in England.  “Influence,” however, suggests… Miriam Burstein 04/13/07 2 06/27/10
Book Event: Amanda Claybaugh, The Novel of Purpose Beginning today, the Valve will be hosting a book event devoted to Amanda Claybaugh’s The Novel of Purpose: Literature and Social Reform in the Anglo-American World.  Professor Claybaugh (Columbia University) has kindly agreed to join the mix of regular Valve authors and special guest posters.  Scott Eric Kaufman and I will… Miriam Burstein 04/13/07 10 02/16/08
The historicist’s useful fiction Bill Benzon’s post on aesthetic vs. ethnographic criticism, which notes that the ethnographic critic "simply needs to be interested in culture wherever and however it is," leads me to wonder about one of the ethnographic critic’s key but frequently unstated difficulties: not what any given author knew, but what s/he likely… Miriam Burstein 02/14/07 4 02/16/07
Little Professor in the House [Some holiday silliness, crossposted from The Little Professor by popular demand (OK, by Scott’s demand).  In case you’re wondering, lecturing on Walter Pater just before Thanksgiving break appears to be contraindicated.] [As the episode begins, the PATIENT OF THE WEEK--a small Victorianist--is striding about the classroom, gesticulating as she goes.] PoTW:… Miriam Burstein 11/24/06 3 11/24/06
What we like Early on, WBM tells us that "we love race--we love identity--because we don’t love class" (6).   His choice of verb proves to be a little odd, because this is not a book in which anyone loves much of anything, let alone "identity."  Instead, America turns out to be overpopulated by people… Miriam Burstein 10/05/06 12 10/07/06
The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period [X-posted from The Little Professor.] William St. Clair’s The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (2004) is one of the most ambitious literary-historical projects in recent years, akin to Jonathan Rose’s The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (2001).  Although St. Clair’s title may suggest that the book covers relatively… Miriam Burstein 08/06/06 5 08/07/06
A Sermon, on the Current Disputes Over Turning Off Cellphones in the British Library Reading Rooms; You can use laptopsand take mobilesin but please turnoff the soundbefore you entera Reading Room.As I wander the streets and Underground stations, I behold many men, women, and youths discoursing on their cellphones.  Yea, they speak on the Tube.  They speak on the sidewalks.  They speak in cafes.  They speak in… Miriam Burstein 06/21/06 2 06/21/06
Dr. Wortle’s School Anthony Trollope’s late Dr. Wortle’s School (1880) is the kind of book that makes people think “subversive"--indeed, John Halperin, editor of the 1984 World’s Classics edition, describes it as “a novel far more ‘subversive’ than anything in the Dickens canon” [1].  Dr. Wortle, our hero, has a problem: Mr. Peacocke, one… Miriam Burstein 05/15/06 2 05/18/06
How Novels Think To think about Nancy Armstrong thinking about the novel, we need to begin with Ian Watt.  Miriam Burstein 03/21/06 4 03/24/06
Information dump We interrupt the high theory to bring you a question of pedagogy.  I am currently up to my ears in a stack of papers (which, given my height, is not as altitudinous as it might otherwise be), and my students are telling me, with remarkable frequency and thoroughness, that Petrarchan sonnets… Miriam Burstein 03/12/06 29 03/18/06
Plagiary (X-posted from The Little Professor.) 1.  After reading Scott McLemee’s article at Inside Higher Ed, I scooted off to Famous Plagiarists--and felt vaguely dissatisfied.  The vague dissatisfaction arose from the "Literature" section, which features such luminaries as S. T. Coleridge, T. S. Eliot, and William Shakespeare.  Oscar Wilde is nowhere to… Miriam Burstein 01/30/06 6 01/31/06
Critical [X-posted, with some edits, from The Little Professor.] I'm not exactly the most theoretically-inclined professor in contemporary academia; my interest in theory, with or without capital "T," is at best wholly pragmatic.  And so I'm not altogether the best person to respond to Lindsay Waters' article in the CoHE (sorry, reg.… Miriam Burstein 12/16/05 26 12/22/05
Decrepitude While I’ve always liked to think of myself as what a Hyde Park bookdealer once called the "blessedly pragmatic" type--in search of a working text instead of a collector’s item--I nevertheless have had a hard time overcoming my aversion to less-than-intact bindings.  That’s a remarkably foolish aversion, given my line of… Miriam Burstein 11/19/05 12 12/16/05
Where do little books come from? At first glance, the traces of a book’s ownership--bookplates, gift inscriptions, signatures, stamps--seem wonderfully revelatory.  Here, in other words, is proof that a book had an audience.  Moreover, in the case of Victorian prizebooks, we can often identify the audience’s religious composition (Reformed, Anglican, Catholic, and so forth).  But, at second… Miriam Burstein 10/08/05 7 10/09/05
Library Thing Library Thing is proving to be a wonderful distraction from freshman comp essays and administrative paperwork.  The site, active since late August, uses a simple interface: type in some identifying details about your book--e.g., an ISBN, author’s name, or part of the title--and a tag, and lo! the LOC or Amazon… Miriam Burstein 09/18/05 4 10/04/05
Evidence According to the Independent, there’s a new theory afoot to explain the origin of Oliver Twist: The author and academic John Waller claims in a new book that the story was inspired by a London-born child called Robert Blincoe, who at the turn of the 19th century spent four grim years… Miriam Burstein 09/07/05 1 09/08/05
Prosaic Dr. Crazy suggests that what separates blogging from academic writing is, in part, the reader’s desire: Because there is that immediate response, and you know that the response has nothing to do with academic hierarchies but rather with the fact that people are interested enough to read, not because they must… Miriam Burstein 07/30/05 4 07/31/05
Religious Publishing After reading PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson, I thought: well, these books sound remarkably familiar--in fact, I’ve got more of them than you can shake the proverbial stick at, except that they happen to have been written in the nineteenth century and not our own.  I then toddled over to Douglas… Miriam Burstein 07/14/05 7 07/18/05
Literature and Religion in Victorian Studies [Note: the main text is a brief and, to be honest, disjointed sketch for a longer, but still brief, piece on the return of religion to Victorian studies.  Comments, questions, corrections, etc., will all be welcomed and acknowledged in the finished essay.] Just to prove that everything old can be new… Miriam Burstein 04/26/05 6 02/12/11