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Victorian Poetry Studies 20 years on?
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What are the most important events in Victorian poetry studies in the last 20 years?

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Isobel Armstrong’s monumental study Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics, Politics, and it’s hard to underestimate the impact the book has had on the field. When I noticed that the study — which I read and cite regularly, and frequently recommend to students — was almost 20 years old, I was taken rather aback. After all, I first devoured the book as a fresh-faced graduate student, and was immediately in awe of the book’s capacious breadth, close engagement with deep structures of Victorian poetic language, and bold assertion that the study of Victorian poetics is inherently political. More established scholars agreed. The special panel at the 2002 MLA Convention dedicated to her work on poetry, and the conference in her honour held at Birkbeck College on 21 June 2002 (Radical Aesthetics: The Work of Isobel Armstrong), as well as the frequency with which Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics, Politics is still cited and debated, speak volumes.

But what has been the influence of the book’s concept of Victorian poetics? What are the major publications in Victorian poetry studies since her book was published, and how has our understanding of poetry, poetics and politics shifted?

I’ve been thinking too about how these questions relate to scholarly editions of Victorian poetry as well as to digital initiatives. What does the poetry canon look like now? How would we teach a course on Victorian poetry AND poetics?

At the moment I’m working on a review essay of Victorian poetry studies in the last twenty years, so these issues are very much on my mind. I’ve devised the beginnings of a timeline of important Victorian poetry studies contributions since 1993 and although it’s very incomplete (even as I type this I think of books and digital projects that I need to add), I think it might begin to suggest possible swerves, shifts and trends in the field.

You can see the timeline here. Comments, suggestions, additions welcome.


One Response to Victorian Poetry Studies 20 years on?

  1. Ken says:

    I shouldn’t have been surprised, but as I looked at the timeline, and tried to recall what was on my own desk and stuffed away in various bookcases, I was struck by the relatively few titles I could come up with whose primary focus was Victorian poetry.

    I also was struck by the number of important Vic. prose studies and Romantic poetry studies that I have had to refer to in my own work in lieu of studies focused primarily on Victorian poetry.

    I think I felt marginalized…

    However, there is one very important event that should be added to the timeline: the Linda Hughes edited double issue of VP, Whither Victorian Poetry (2003,2004).

    And now that it is on my mind, I guess I would also add Dr. Hughes’ “What the Wellesley Left Out: Why Poetry Matters to Periodical Studies.”

    And Monique Morgan’s Narrative Means, Lyric Ends

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