Victorian Literature and Culture

Review Essay

CURRENT THINKING: ON TRANSATLANTIC VICTORIANISM

John M. Pickera1

a1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A few years ago, out of scholarly as well as pedagogical interest, I happened to be looking through two recent anthologies on the nebulous-sounding subject of “transatlantic literature.” I was teaching a new course on transatlanticism and was particularly curious to discover how these texts represented the period that is the focus of this journal and the one to which at least a few of its readers are attached. In both cases, I was struck by the degree to which “the Victorian” – the era, people, frame of mind, even the word itself – was either subsumed within Romanticism or absent. In Transatlantic Romanticism: An Anthology of British, American, and Canadian Literature, 17671867, edited by Lance Newman, Joel Pace, and Chris Koenig-Woodyard, the subtitle alone incorporated half of the Victorian era, even while the contents omitted virtually all of the Victorians we would expect to represent that half. That anthology as well as the other, Susan Manning and Andrew Taylor's Transatlantic Literary Studies: A Reader, included glossaries of salient terms for transatlantic inquiry, and while “Enlightenment,” “Peterloo,” “Romantics,” and “sublime” appeared there, “Victorian,” not to mention “Great Exhibition,” “natural selection,” and “utilitarianism,” did not.

(Online publication May 18 2011)

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