The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot

The second edition to The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot, edited by Nancy Henry and George Levine, is now available through Cambridge

GE Companion CoverThis second edition of The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot includes several new chapters, providing an essential introduction to all aspects of Eliot’s life and writing. Accessible essays by some of the most distinguished scholars of Victorian literature provide lucid and original insights into the work of one of the most important writers of the nineteenth century, author most famously of Middlemarch, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, and Daniel Deronda. From an introduction that traces her originality as a realist novelist, the book moves on to extensive considerations of each of Eliot’s novels, her life and her publishing history. Chapters address the problems of money, philosophy, religion, politics, gender and science, as they are developed in her novels. With its supplementary materials, including a chronology and an extensive section of suggested readings, this Companion is an invaluable tool for scholars and students alike.

The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot is also available on Amazon and Kindle.



Gail Marshall to Speak on March 25

On Monday, March 25, Gail Marshall (University of Reading, UK) will give a talk titled “Writing 1859” at 3:30 pm in The Human Social Sciences Building, Room 205.
19-050 English Marshall poster rev-1
1859 was an extraordinarily creative year. It produced some of the most influential and enduring books of the Victorian period, many of which have come to embody a substantial part of what we mean by the term ‘Victorian’.  But the inhabitants of 1859 didn’t know that they were Victorians, at least in the way in which we understand that term. How did 1859 come to produce such an extraordinary richness of ideas and literature, much of which came to characterize the mid-Victorian period? How were these books read at the time, and how did they influence each other’s reception? “Writing 1859” seeks to answer those questions, and to discover more about life in 1859.
Gail Marshall is Head of the School of Literature and Languages and Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture at the University of Reading, UK, and has previously worked at the universities of Leeds, Oxford Brookes, and Leicester, where she was Director of the Victorian Studies Centre. She is the author of Shakespeare and Victorian Women (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Victorian Fiction (London: Edward Arnold, 2002), and editor of volume 22 in The Selected Works of Margaret Oliphant (Pickering & Chatto, 2015), The Cambridge Companion to the fin de siecle (Cambridge University Press, 2007), George Eliot, in Lives of Victorian Literary Figures, series 1 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2003), and several volumes on Shakespeare and the Victorians.  She is currently completing a project on the literature and culture of 1859

Rae Greiner to Speak at UTK on Feb. 25

On Monday, February 25, Rae Greiner (Indiana University at Bloomington) will give a talk titled “A Dull Boy: Stupidity and Affect” at 3:30 pm in 1210 McClung.

20190225_165611 (1)

From front left: Amy Billone, Rae Greiner, Nancy Henry and Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud

Stupidity after Enlightenment, her current work, examines literary and cultural writings from the later eighteenth to the middle twentieth centuries, a period which sees the first extensive uses of the term—and concepts of—stupidity, up to and including its use in eugenics, which lent the term a scientific seriousness that lasted well into the midcentury in psychoanalytic and cultural writings. This talk considers work by Samuel Smiles, George Eliot, and others in order to consider the varied meanings of stupidity in the nineteenth century (in Britain and France) and the differing uses—in particular, the affective uses—to which the concept could be put.

Rae Greiner is associate professor of English and director of graduate studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, author of Sympathetic Realism and Nineteenth-Century British Fiction (Johns Hopkins), and co-editor of Victorian Studies. Her new project is called Stupidity After Enlightenment.

Women, Literature and Finance in Victorian Britain: Cultures of Investment

Nancy Henry’s Women, Literature and Finance in Victorian Britain: Cultures of Investment is now available through Palgrave Macmillan.

IMG_0266Henry’s Women, Literature and Finance in Victorian Britain: Cultures of Investment defines the cultures that emerged in response to the democratization of the stock market in nineteenth-century Britain when investing provided access to financial independence for women. Victorian novels represent those economic networks in realistic detail and are preoccupied with the intertwined economic and affective lives of characters. Analyzing evidence about the lives of real investors together with fictional examples, including case studies of four authors who were also investors, Nancy Henry argues that investing was not just something women did in Victorian Britain; it was a distinctly modern way of thinking about independence, risk, global communities and the future in general.

Women, Literature and Finance in Victorian Britain: Cultures of Investment is also available on Amazon and Kindle.



2018 Dickens Universe

This past July, Professors Nancy Henry and Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud, and graduate students Josh Dobbs, Rochelle Davis, and Alli Clymer attended Dickens Universe at the University of California-Santa Cruz. This year’s conference centered on Dicken’s 1857 novel Little Dorrit, which raised cross-disciplinary questions about Dickens, Victorian studies, and the field’s role in academia more generally.

Nancy Henry has been taking graduate students with her to the “Universe” since 2009, when she joined the UTK faculty.  Jonathan Grossman (UCLA), the first co-organizer of this event, along with Helena Michie (Rice University) selected such lecturers as Sukanya Banerjee (University of Wisconsin), Kathleen Frederickson (UC Davis), Peter Logan (Temple University), Daniel Stout (University of Mississippi), Sharon Weltman (Louisiana State University) and Jason Rudy (University of Maryland) to provide fascinating lectures on Little Dorrit.


Henry, Clymer, Davis and Dobbs enjoying an evening at the Santa Cruz Warf

In-between the the lectures that bookended most days, Universe scholars from across the world participated in literary and professional seminars, workshops, and various other activities.

Graduate student Rochelle Davis attended a graduate student seminar led by Nora Gilbert (University of North Texas) and Rae Greiner (Indiana University, Bloomington):

“The seminar provided a similar atmosphere to a classroom. Typically, we spent time discussing the topics brought up during the lectures and discussions within the conference. We also spent time dissecting areas we felt were overlooked. Discussion tended to quite lively, jumping from topics of Maggie’s narratological purpose to Arthur Clenham’s reliability as a narrator.  Nora and Rae led and contributed to helpful discussions while also keeping us on topic as we meandered through and around the to make it through the ‘topics to discuss’ list we covered the chalkboard with during our first meeting.”

Josh Dobbs also attended the same seminar:

“This week-long seminar was small, about 10-15 graduate students, which allowed us to discuss the novel in-depth, much as we would in the classroom.  The faculty members lent their research and experience to the discussion, but also gave the graduate students the opportunity to ask the questions about the novel that had been plaguing us and to focus discussions around themes and characters that intrigued us.  This also proved to be a great complement to the daily lectures, allowing us to further explore concepts brought up in the lectures and panels, or to discuss the scenes and characters otherwise absent from the presentations that week.”

Rochelle also participated in a conference presentation workshop led by Zoe Beenstock (University of Haifa) and Chip Tucker (University of Virginia):

“Chip and Zoe led a helpful conference presentation workshop that not only helped early-stage speakers but also graduate students preparing for job talks. Each graduate student attendee gave a five-minute presentation, and the rest of the participants provided helpful feedback. On the last day of workshop, we delivered our presentations in the main lecture hall.”

Josh Dobbs also participated  attended a pedagogy workshop led by Iain Crawford (University of Delaware) and Michael Shaw (University of Kent):

“We discussed undergraduate research, its importance in undergraduate education, and how to integrate it into our undergraduate classes in a meaningful way for our students.  We also discussed how to make our Victorian literature courses more accessible to, as well as more rewarding and fruitful experiences for, our students.  We identified problems and challenges for our students as they read Victorian literature, such as a lack of comprehension of the history leading up to the works or their cultural contexts, the length of the works, and the tension between canon and diversity.  But, not content to leave us wallowing in problems, the instructors demonstrated how we could confront some of these challenges through methods such as student-led presentations, the inclusion of supplementary material in the reading list, and better selection of editions in the reading list.”

Josh also attended a seminar on delivering conference papers led by Logan Browning (Rice University) and Jonathan Grossman (UC Los Angeles):

“Browning and Grossman, the respective editors of SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 and Nineteenth-Century Literature, gave us an insider’s look into their selection and peer-review processes.  They gave us helpful tips on how to research journals’ personalities to find the best fit for our articles, told us key issues that they commonly have to address with submissions, answered our publication questions, and reminded us to be patient with the process.”



Alli Clymer, Hannah Fogerty, and Rachel Cason, the 2018 Cruise Directors

Graduate student Alli Clymer, however, took on a different role at this year’s Dickens Universe. Serving as a “Senior Cruise Director” or graduate social organizers, along with Hannah Fogarty (University of Buffalo) and Rachel Cason (University of Mississippi):

“As a Dickens Universe Cruise Director, I planned and facilitated daily events for graduate and faculty to network and socialize during this week-long conference. Our ultimate goal was to provide fun and innovative opportunities for attendees to engage creatively and collaboratively with this year’s selected novel, Little Dorrit, and cultivate meaningful social and professional relationships.”

Although most of the Dickens Universe days were filled with lectures, talks, workshops, and seminars, the UTK attendees also made time for the Universe’s festive activities, including PPPs (post-prandial potations), Victorian high teas, a Grand Party filled with extravagant cheeses and desserts, and a Victorian dance (with period dress, music, and dancing!).

Students who attend the Universe are also fully funded for attendance at the corresponding Dickens Project Winter Conference the following year.

**UT students need not be specialists in Dickens or even in Victorian literature to attend the conference, but students who have attended the Universe have also participated in the Nineteenth-Century British Research Seminar. Applications to represent UTK at the Dickens Universe are usually solicited in February by Professor Nancy Henry.**

Reading Like a Victorian: Audrey Cheatham

The following is a reflection written by MA student Audrey Cheatham after reading and discussing Armadale, Book Two, Chapters Three and Four (originally published April of 1865).  This reflection is part of the Nineteenth-Century British Research Seminar’s experiment with reading Wilkie Collins’s Armadale “like a Victorian,” or in its original serialized parts.  More information about our group’s experiment can be found here.

Reading Chapters III and IV in Book Two of Armadale together with Brent’s post below brought up a fascinating point for me about the nature of serialization.  Since Robyn Warhol’s talk here at UTK last September, I have been thinking about how to conceptualize the individual segments that make up a serialized novel.  Warhol’s talk dealt primarily with the effects of serialized reading on an audience; Brent’s point about unity—and the possibility of reading each serial installment as a coherent narrative whole—illuminated for me a new way of reading the novel’s epistolary motif.  Given how important correspondence is to the novel’s movement, it may not be such a leap to conceptualize the novel’s serial installments as a kind of correspondence. Of course the novel’s plot hinges on letters—concealed letters, scheming letters, letters sent too early or too late or to the wrong recipient.  (Someone in discussion brought up the point that in our modern world of mobile phones and instant messaging, the novel’s plot as it stands would evaporate.) There are smaller letters too, however, less crucial to the plot but no less crucial to the social world in which each Allan Armadale must operate.

Chapter III finds Allan’s and Midwinter’s troubles with the country community around Thorpe Ambrose begun by a series of letters.  Neither realizing nor caring for the importance of public image to a gentlemen in the country, Allan trivializes local correspondence.  It is Midwinter who must bring Allan’s notice “a little impatiently to a letter lying on the breakfast-table” (ch. 3), read Pedgift’s self-recommendation aloud to force Allan’s attention, and ask after Mr. Darch’s response to Allan’s message when Allan is “too lazy to put the question for himself” (ch. 3).  Understanding as well the importance of reputation (less charitably called gossip, that most ubiquitous and unreliable of correspondences), Midwinter insists that Allan treat the issues of local opinion seriously, and that he respond promptly to any perceptions of impropriety. Allan has all of the activity and none of the thoughtfulness required of a landed gentleman in the country, while Midwinter possesses an understanding of local politics with none of Allan’s power to respond; thus, when Allan does act to respond to local correspondence, he does so in exactly the wrong way.

Allan’s response to Mr. Darch’s rejection of engagement as Allan’s legal adviser is as prompt as could be.  He calls out “Stop the messenger!” (ch. 3) and responds then and there, but his response only inflames the series of contentious misunderstandings.  When Midwinter finally returns to urge caution it is too late; to Midwinter’s “Where is your answer to his letter?” Allan replies “Gone!” (ch. 3). They cannot take back the message now, whatever the consequences.  (In the modern world, this intemperate response to ill-temper might be like sending that all-to-honest drunk text message to your boss, and more closely resembles problems of our own time than the slow correspondence of the rest of the novel.)  Allan’s response to the offense of the neighborhood at his evasion of their public welcome is similarly thoughtless, with Allan utterly failing to read the room at any of the houses he visits. In making his excuses he trivializes what he calls “speechifying” (ch. 4), the very thing in which the locals take pride, and declares that he does not “care two straws about hunting or shooting” (ch. 4), the chief recreations of country gentlemen.

Allan’s misreadings of communication, whether written, oral, or nonverbal, cost him a reliable local support network, which opens him up further to the machinations of someone like Lydia Gwilt.  Correspondence involving Lydia in Chapter IV returns the issue of letters once again to the larger drama of the novel’s plot. The consequences of Miss Milroy’s ill-fated change to her father’s advertisement for a governess have come to fruition—Lydia is coming to Thorpe Ambrose, well ahead of any possibility for suspicion.  Timing is once more at fault. In Chapter III and the beginning of Chapter IV, local correspondence moves quickly (perhaps too quickly)—Allan rushes off his two messages to Mr. Darch, engages Pedgift, further troubles the waters of local opinion, and sends strawberries to Mrs. Milroy all in one long (and presumably difficult on Richard’s feet) day.  At the end of Chapter IV, the trouble becomes the opposite. The pieces can come together only so quickly, and Mr. Brock, Midwinter, Allan, and the Milroys all fail to pool their various pieces of information in time. If only Mr. Brock had Google and an Instant Messaging system; if only Midwinter could send emails chasing after Allan’s hasty decisions; if only Lydia Gwilt were in a facial recognition database of known con artists.

Alas, they are as hampered by time and distance from “reading ahead” in Lydia’s plot as Collins’ readers would have been, and this is where the nature of serialization begins to resemble a kind of correspondence.  For me as a reader, confined to reading “like a Victorian” (without leave to read ahead), this installment of Chapters III and IV becomes a letter, with Collins dispensing local gossip, recommending (or recommending against) particular characters, and filling in key pieces of Lydia Gwilt’s puzzle, paralleling the purposes of the letters in the novel itself.  Like Midwinter, I must wait on Mr. Brock’s further discoveries and the postal system—or, in my case, the timing of the publisher—which will deliver them. Across the troublesome distances of time and space, Wilkie Collins is performing a type of correspondence with his readers; the novel’s serial installments are his letters of news, this elaborate piece of English gossip Collins’ to impart, expecting response in the purchase of the next installment.  The reader no more knows “how this strange discovery is to end” (ch. 4) than Mr. Brock does. I suppose I will have to wait for Collins’ next letter to find out.

Allen Shearer’s “Middlemarch in Spring” to be Performed at the Bijou Theater, April 13-15

The UT Opera Theater will be performing “Middlemarch in Spring” at Knoxville’s Bijou Theater on April 13-15.

“Middlemarch in Spring” is a chamber opera created by composer and baritone Allen Shearer and librettist Claudia Stevens.  In this stirring yet often lighthearted opera, George Eliot’s towering literary work comes to life with powerful imagery and compelling music. One unforgettable spring in the town of Middlemarch, passionate love and political upheaval are brewing. Dorothea Brooke, an idealistic woman who hopes to improve the world, naively marries the scholar Casaubon for his “great mind” and is devastated when he turns out to be cold, shallow and not very bright. But in spring, anything can happen. Could Dorothea have a second chance at happiness with the dashing, eminently unsuitable Will Ladislaw? The odds are stacked against her.

Middlemarch Postcard_CORRECTED COVER

In addition to the four performances of the opera (listed below), the Saturday, April 14 evening performance will include a pre-opera discussion with the composer and librettist from 7 – 7:40 p.m. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for this 1-time event.

Performance times include:
Friday, April 13, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 2:30 and 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors 60+, and $5 for students with a school ID and youth under 18.

For more information, please see the Facebook page for the event.