Monday, February 14, 2011

More Weapons for the Arsenal...

So a due date is approaching: I assured Craig the refined and perfected Chapter One would be complete upon his arrival on March 6 (?) as he’s spending spring break here with us in St. Louis.  It’s sad, I should be rounding out Chapter Two, at the least, but keep finding new and more insightful works of criticism that I want to bring into the fold.

Like most of my students, I sadly approach writing (at least initial drafts) as a marathon, or going to war! A caffeine, adrenaline fueled, 1-2 day enterprise, leaving revision and second-guessing for a later time.  But before I really tackle it, I keep adding weapons to the arsenal, new works of criticism broken down into dozens and dozens of pages of notes… Before I belabor this metaphor, I’ll end by noting I got through three books today, a pace I need to keep up to make it through the last twenty (yes, twenty!) books I want to incorporate into Chapter One:

Julia M. Wright’s  Ireland, India, and Nationalism in Nineteenth-century Literature.  
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Duncan Bell’s Victorian Visions of Global Order: Empire and International Relations in Nineteenth-Century Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Philip Leonard’s  Nationality between Poststructuralism and Postcolonial Theory:  A New Cosmopolitanism. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2005.

Leonard’s book was a bust for me… The points he’s making about the nature of contemporary criticism are sharp, but he dauntingly summarizes and cites every relevant theorist from the past two centuries and it’s difficult to get to the root of what HE actually thinks: what are his truths about literature? Also, I really dislike theory with no application.  It’s philosophy, which can be illuminating, but not my bag baby!

Bell’s work is purely historical, and it’s so refreshing to read a historical text! I didn’t have use for many of the anthology’s articles that weren’t his, but he makes brilliant points about Britian’s fluctuating sense of identity in the nineteenth century.  He notes the anxiety that swept through England following the French Revolution and national unrest that persevered until a sense of stability began to set in in the 1850s, as marked by the Great Exhibition and an age of general affluence.  But as he notes: “…the view of the mid-Victorian era as an age of equipoise needs to be balanced by a recognition of the existence of widespread anxiety over Britain’s place in the world.  Arrogance and pride co-existed with apprehension and frustration” (7). H'es right: it's reductive and irresponsible to look at 19th century Britain as a clearcut colonial bully.  It was suffering through its own growing pains and uncertainties regarding its global conquests which confused it’s very understanding of itself—what I’m pointing out in Thackeray’s writings.

Finally, Julia Wright is another sharp cookie and I’m still in the process of typing up my notes for her.  She has a fascinating approach, examining the nuances of colonialism in Irish fictions which explore English imperialism in India! Furthermore, she pays special attention to the unusual position of Ireland, a colony of Christian, caucasian, English speakers often treated as a different species, much less race. But more on my friend Julia tomorrow.  Night world!

**Oh, and happy 5th birthday to my boy Blue!

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