Life-writing, literature, popular culture.
Regular visitors to the blog will no doubt have realised this is not the long awaited third instalment of my series on celebrity memoir. Be assured this post is on its way, although it may have to wait until next Christmas…
In my first post, I described this blog as ‘a life narrative of my very own’. And so, it only seems appropriate that I interject a brief, autobiographical account of what I’ve been up to, the projects I have on the go, and how these relate not only to life narrative, but also to the act of blogging.
What’s the phrase? We apologise for the disruption, normal blogging services will be resumed as soon as possible. But why the disruption? In brief, I’ve been busy. January has brought with it the beginning of a new semester and an increased teaching load. But there is much to look forward to, and two of the modules I am teaching will involve the study of life narratives. (Life-writing continues to be under-represented on university syllabi, most often limited to specialist modules, read in isolation, and only rarely alongside other texts and genres.)
In Prison Voices at LJMU I will be making use of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century criminal broadsides (many courtesy of the Old Bailey Online). Published and sold to accompany public executions, these pamphlets contain the fictive, “ventriloquised” confessions and laments of criminals — a macabre souvenir of the day.
I will also be teaching a survey course for the Open University on The Arts Past and Present (AA100). The module ranges across disciplines, from philosophy to music, religion to architecture, literature to film. The course is arranged into four thematic books, the first of which is titled Reputations. This book investigates the concept of fame (and infamy) and how the biographical/historical record shifts and changes, how lives are constructed and reconstructed, how reputations wax and wane, ebb and flow.
This has been a topic of interest in my own work, and last year I published an article exploring competing accounts of Vita Sackville-West’s life and how her sexuality has been subject to successive concealments and revelations. It will be a treat to return to these issues, to investigate new and different case studies (and these will include Cleopatra, Stalin and the Dalai Lama).
I’ve also had an exciting commission in recent weeks. I’ve been invited to write a short article on blogging and Twitter in the field of Victorian Studies. Now this may raise a few eyebrows. Academics have a reputation for resembling their research and many terrible stereotypes result: historians are as dusty as archives; artists are bohemian; mathematicians are bespectacled and methodical. From the outside looking in, therefore, Victorian Studies might not seem particularly fertile ground – surely we’d all be happier communicating via the telegraph and through letters with a penny black stamp? Well, you might be surprised. There are so many interesting Victorian bloggers and tweeters, and the field of Victorian Studies has produced a vast and diverse array of digital projects, such as the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition, the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration, and Charles Darwin Online (to name but a very few).
As I set out on my adventures through the Victorian Studies blogosphere, look out for posts and tweets asking for your opinions and input. To what uses are blogs and Twitter put in the field of Victorian Studies? Do users represent a distinct demographic? Are they PhD students and early career academics? Are they on the receiving end of bemused looks and skepticism from more senior (and older) colleagues? Or, is this an unfair distinction? What identities are adopted and performed by Victorian Studies academic and enthusiasts in the blogosphere and on Twitter? I’ll be considering all of these questions in the coming weeks, so get your thinking caps on!
Thank you for your patience; normal blogging services will now resume…