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Special Issue of VR: Trans Victorians

Submission Date: 15 October 2017

The Victorian Review invites submissions for its special issue devoted to Trans Victorians. From the Chevalier/Chevalière D’Eon, Fanny and Stella, Dr. James Miranda Barry, and Vernon Lee, to the intersecting identities found in gender diverse side shows, including Madame Clofullia and Julia Pastrana, and the political cross-dressing of the Welsh Rebecca Riots, the Victorian era was populated by all manner of non-binary and gender expansive slippages. At the same time, Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s conflation of queer sexual orientation and trans gender identity and expression became part of the scientific foundation that informed cisnormative and heteronormative standards not only in medicine and the law, but the popular imagination. This special issue seeks to explore the overt and covert constructions of resistance to the constructions of more rigid gender binaries throughout Victorian Britain and abroad.

Recent critical work in Transgender/Trans Studies has begun to reconsider narratives of “transness” within structures of intersecting identities that focus on race, class, national identity, ability, colonialism and imperialism, and has begun to tease out the mis-readings and differences between sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression. Within post-colonial contexts, trans research has also begun to interrogate the British global mis-readings of gender diversity among various groups in the colonies such as the hijras in India and tangata ira tane and takatapui (Maori) in New Zealand. How might we approach Victorian Trans Studies while recognizing that the term “trans” or “transgender” and the meanings we now grant to them did not exist in the Victorian period?

Possible topics may include (but are not limited to):

Trans Representation in Victorian Literature (all genres) including Supportive and/or Derisive Depictions
Gender Diversity in Colonial Contexts
British and European Authoritative Readings of Trans
British and European Embodiments of Trans
Trans and Sex Crimes
Trans and Medicine
Trans and Law
Trans and Religion
Trans Communities and Cultures
Cross-Dressing as Theatrical Performance
Cross-Dressing as Political Theatre
Cross-Dressing as Embracing Trans Identity
The Spectacle of Trans Embodiment
Trans Celebrity/Trans Legends

Essays must be between 5000 and 8000 words and formatted according to MLA (8th edition) guidelines. Please submit manuscripts to Ardel Haefele-Thomas (guest editor):
Electronic Submissions:

Mailed Submissions:
Dr. Ardel Haefele-Thomas, Chair
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies
City College of San Francisco
50 Phelan Avenue
Box C11
San Francisco, CA 94112

Tennyson and the French Poets

by Ann Kennedy Smith

Oil Portrait of Tennyson

1840 portrait of Tennyson by Samuel Laurence. Copyright National Portrait Galley, London.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) is often seen as a very British poet. A new book, The Reception of Alfred Tennyson in Europe, examines how Tennyson’s poetry was published, distributed, translated and reviewed in the wider context of Europe from 1832 until today. I wrote about his French reception in it, and in this blog I’ll focus on some of the French poets and writers who admired, were influenced by, borrowed or stole from Tennyson.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of Tennyson’s very first fan letters was from a French poet. Hippolyte Lucas’s first collection of poetry was published in 1832, the same year that Tennyson’s early Poems appeared. Lucas’s letter has since been lost, but Tennyson’s reply of April 1834 shows how flattered he was to receive it.

It is a pleasurable thing to have found out a poetical spirit that can sympathize with me on the other side of the broad seas. Poets, as you say, are – at least they ought to be – bound together by an electric chain – for a Poet does not speak only to his own countrymen but wishes that his words and feelings penetrate wherever there exists a brother to echo them.[i]

Was the ‘electric chain’ that Tennyson refers to here connected to early experiments in electrical telegraphy? It’s a delightful image if so, evoking an international network of poets communicating and sharing their ideas across borders, regardless of differences in language and culture. Unfortunately, his optimism was unfulfilled, and for many years Tennyson’s poetry went largely unread outside Britain. Most nineteenth-century Europeans were still in love with the dashing, dramatic poetry of Lord Byron, who had died a hero fighting for Greek independence, and Tennyson seemed rather tame and insular by comparison.

But French poets did continue to read Tennyson, sometimes discovering his poetry through unusual channels. In 1851 Charles Baudelaire was preparing to translate some stories by Edgar Allan Poe, then a little-known writer. By chance he came across an obituary of Poe by the editor John R. Thompson. ‘Among modern authors his favourite was Tennyson,’ Thompson wrote,

and he delighted to recite from ‘The Princess’ the song ‘Tears, idle tears’; a fragment of which ‘– when unto dying eyes / The casement slowly grows a glimmering square’ he pronounced unsurpassed by any image expressed in writing.[ii]

This was Baudelaire’s introduction to the English poet’s work and he began reading it in earnest. Six years later he instructed his publisher to send copies of his own first collection of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal (1857) to just three English writers: De Quincey, Browning and Tennyson. We don’t know if Tennyson ever received it. Soon afterwards Baudelaire was prosecuted for offending public morals, and all remaining books were seized and destroyed.

Other French poets paid tribute to Tennyson by borrowing freely from him. Joseph Autran’s ‘Gertrude’ (1856) was a straightforward translation of Tennyson’s ‘Dora’, even if Autran did not admit it. André Theuriet’s eleven-part poem ‘In Memoriam’ (1857) went further, taking the name and theme of deep mourning from Tennyson’s 1850 work, and inserting lines from ‘Mariana’, an earlier poem.

In 1864 Tennyson’s Enoch Arden, etc was an immediate bestseller both in Britain and in Europe. The title poem tells the story of a shipwrecked sailor who returns home after ten years to find his wife, believing him dead, has remarried. It struck a lasting chord with French readers, and was translated many times over the years. One translator, Émile Blémont, agreed with Browning who admired Tennyson’s poem but disliked the ending. So Blémont simply changed it. In his translation, the heroic Enoch ensures that his identity is kept secret after his death. The poet Stéphane Mallarmé loved Blémont’s version: ‘The real translation! And how one hears Tennyson singing through it, if one has the slightest ear for English!’[iii] Mallarmé himself had published a ‘poetic prose’ translation of ‘Mariana’ in 1874 while translating Poe’s stories. As Gerhard Joseph has pointed out, the musicality of Poe’s and Tennyson’s English language inspired the French poet’s own stylistic concept of pure poetry.[iv] Mallarmé acknowledged his debt to the English poet in his 1892 essay ‘Tennyson, vu d’ici’ (‘Tennyson, seen from here’) which was included in his collection of poetic critical essays, Divagations in 1897.[v]

Other French writers took a less reverent approach. Émile Zola’s brilliant novella, Jacques Damour (1880), about a former Communard who returns to Paris after the amnesty to find his newly bourgeois wife does not want him back, is clearly a satirical reworking of ‘Enoch Arden’. Zola always claimed that he had never read a line of Tennyson, but I’m convinced that he knew the story well. One mystery remains. Did Victor Hugo ever read Tennyson? If he did, he kept quiet about it. Despite their political differences, Tennyson read and admired Hugo’s poetry throughout his life, and even wrote a questionable sonnet in his honour. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – Hugo did not return the compliment.


Dr Ann Kennedy Smith is a panel tutor at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education. She is currently researching Cambridge’s university wives 1870-1914, and has contributed to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Her Twitter handle is @akennedysmith.


[i] The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson eds Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon, 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982–90). III: 451

[ii] ‘The Late Edgar E. Poe’ (1849), in appendix of Edgar Allan Poe: sa vie et ses ouvrages, Charles Baudelaire, W.T. Bandy (ed.), (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1973)

[iii] Clerget, F., Emile Blémont (Paris: Bibliothèque de l’Association, 1906) pp. 130–31

[iv] ‘Stéphane Mallarmé’s Tennyson vu d’ici’ in Tennyson Research Bulletin, 7. 5: November 2001

[v] In Mallarmé in Prose, Caws, M. A. (ed.) (New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2001) pp. 70–73

Interview with Juliet McMaster at VSAWC 2015

At the 2015 conference of Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada, we were given the opportunity to speak with Dr. Juliet McMaster about VSAWC’s origin, inaugural conference, and role in Western Canada. Dr. McMaster told us that in 1971, following the Middlemarch Centennial Conference held in Calgary and organized by University of Calgary professor Ian Adam, Dr. Adam suggested that they begin a Victorian studies association for Western Canada, since there was a similar organization in Toronto. They decided that, while Toronto’s organization met on a single day, VSAWC would need to hold a longer conference to make it worth the extra travelling that attendees would need to do. Dr. McMaster organized the conference for the following year. “It was a very congenial, happy event,” she said, adding, “In those days, we did conferences about stars. We had six speakers and that was it.” In the video below, she describes that first conference and comments briefly on how the organization has since developed.

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In this second video, Dr. McMaster reads from a speech given by her late husband, Dr. Rowland McMaster, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the organization. Both Juliet and Rowland note that the core characteristic of the VSAWC, in addition to its high-quality scholarship, has been geniality. Of the VSAWC’s keynote address, newly named the McMaster lecture in honour of both Juliet and Rowland, Dr. McMaster commented, “I would like it to exemplify the best in Victorian studies, by the best.”

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Floating Academy: Earthworms, Thomas Hardy, and Touch as Knowledge

by Tara MacDonald I’m teaching a upper-level undergraduate Victorian literature class this term that focuses on bodies, ghosts, and technologies. Typically in a class like this I would assign a number of Victorian texts as well as critical articles. While I picked some great articles for the students to read alongside Wuthering Heights, Lady Audley’s Secret, A Laodicean, Dracula, The Turn of the Screw, and In the Cage, as I put the syllabus together, I realized that I also wanted my students to be aware of what Victorianists were researching right now. As Moscow, Idaho (my new home) isn’t exactly the center of Victorian studies in the US, I opted to have students listen to lectures recorded for the London Nineteenth-Century Seminar, posted on the website of the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies. They listened to Sue Zemka’s talk “Prosthetic Hands and Phantom Limbs,” (Thursday 28 May 2015) and Anna Henchman’s “Darwin’s Earthworms and the Sense of Touch” (Wednesday 11 March 2015). Both talks connected to our reading but also presented interesting experiments in listening without any visual cues. We all admitted that it was more challenging to stay focused listening rather than reading. It was also a bit tricky following all of Sue Zemka’s lecture as she used so many images to explain the history of artificial limbs (if I do this next year, I’d show students some of the images she refers to before they listen to the lecture rather than after). Anna Henchman’s talk was also hard to listen to at times because there were a few sound issues and many people coughing in the audience! Despite these challenges, our own experiences nicely related to the talks’ emphasis on senses other than sight. Both focused in the sense of touch in particular; indeed, this seems to be a topic attracting attention from many Victorianists at the moment. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes: On Being an Undergraduate Research Assistant

By Reba Ouimet

At the beginning of the fourth year of my English Bachelor’s degree at UBC Okanagan, I came across a research assistant position at the Victorian Review by way of a happy coincidence. Over the summer months, I had a meeting with my honours thesis advisor, Dr. Constance Crompton, digital dissemination editor of the Victorian Review blog. I had taken several classes at UBCO with Dr. Crompton previously, and as we were discussing my academic interests and my desire to seek an academic job, she told me of an available position as the digital dissemination and outreach coordinator position at the Victorian Review. I consequently applied for the job, and the rest was history.

Before working with the team behind the Victorian Review blog, I’d had rather little exposure to nineteenth-century literature. Prior to accepting the position, I had only taken two or three courses that covered the works of nineteenth-century authors. Upon beginning my work at the blog, however, my interest was piqued, and I began to further investigate Victorian literature. My research interests currently lie at the intersection of nineteenth-century literature and children’s literature. I am writing my honours thesis on female evil in the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and soon hope to begin a master’s in English literature, with a thesis that explores developing adolescent sexuality in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

My duties as research assistant include the maintenance of the Victorian Review WordPress site and the upkeep of the journal’s social media accounts. My work comprises copyediting and polishing previously-written rough drafts, as well as transcribing VSAWC conference footage and interviews. I write and post original articles, and I am also in the midst of producing materials, maps, and Victorian studies exhibits for this year’s VSAWC conference, which will take place in Kelowna, BC, in April. I also assist in coordinating the collaboration of the Floating Academy blog collective and the Victorian Review blog so that we may host Floating Academy scholars’ work on our website.

Interview with Lisa Vargo at VSAWC 2014

By Reba Ouimet

At the VSAWC 2014 conference, we caught up with Professor Lisa Vargo, Chair of the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. When we asked Dr. Vargo about community engagement and the importance of combining personal experience and scholarly research interests, particularly as regards literacy, she discussed her departure and subsequent return to academia, stating that when she “got the opportunity to go back to academia, … [she] never left literacy behind” and continued to volunteer as a tutor and board member for literacy organizations. Dr. Vargo’s role as chair has allowed her to increase her outreach and engagement activities, as she says, “partly through long-distance education, offering more classes so more people can access classes,” but also through assisting people in the community who are unable to take university courses. Dr. Vargo declared herself “just an old-fashioned Victorianist” who had “always been intrigued by the idea of working men’s institutes,” which led to her initiation of a community lecture series. This intrigue, combined with a passion for community outreach, inspired her to start an informal model of the working man’s institute in the form of the Literature Matters lecture series.

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While Dr. Vargo described her own involvement in the area of community engagement, she also noted important contributions made by her colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan, declaring “we now have a research center in the inner city called Station Twenty West…. One of my colleagues helps teach some classes to the community there.” Dr. Vargo elaborated on the community outreach performed by her colleagues, stating,

We have several courses in our department that help students connect their learning with the community. One of those is an internship course, [through which] our senior honours students do internships in the community with … various community organizations [for which they use their skills in reading and writing]. We also have a course called “dynamics of community involvement” [in which], again, students do projects in the community and join their learning with learning about [and helping] communities…. The particular professor who leads that has been very actively involved in a [creative] writing program … at a local prison called “Inspired Minds,” and she has … incorporated community engagement into her research work.

At the VSAWC 2014 conference, Dr. Vargo shared her experiences with community literacy projects and community engagement at the roundtable discussion, and she introduced the Literature Matters project to conference attendees.

Interview with Amy Coté at VSAWC 2014

By Reba Ouimet

During VSAWC’s 2014 conference, we interviewed Amy Coté, a master’s student at the University of Alberta whose research focuses on religious and political reform in the early to mid-Victorian period. Her research examines how politics borrows religious and theological rhetoric and, more specifically, how the exchange between the two fields of rhetoric is related to Chartism. Coté expressed to us her gratitude to two fellow VSAWC attendees, Lisa Surridge and Mary Elizabeth Leighton, for opening the doors to the Victorian studies community. Coté said that the two scholars “scooped [her] out of a second year undergraduate class and … slowly started involving [her] in their own work,” which went from administrative work on the Victorian Review to copyediting and, finally, to becoming an editorial assistant.

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As a master’s student involved in the Victorian studies community, Coté is in a prime position to offer advice to emerging Victorian scholars and students about ways to become involved with the academic community. Coté described her experiences in the first year of her undergraduate degree as quite challenging and said, “I hated it. I wanted to drop out and move home.” Luckily, Coté worked through this difficult period and ended up in an honours seminar that turned her academic experience into a positive one. She says the following of her peers:

[They] just turned into my community…. They’re [still] my best friends, … and they’re my roommates. And the professors, [whom] I still adore and interact with on a daily basis[, made a real difference]…. I think that was a very unique situation, but I think what came out of it was [my] realizing that … [not only are one’s peers] people with very active lives of their own but … professors are as well, and many of them want to talk to you and want to know you in [a] professional capacity.

Coté’s advice for undergraduate students who want to become involved in the academic community is to form relationships with professors and students alike. She strongly advised that students get to know their professors by visiting them during their office hours, talking to them, and being on the lookout for research opportunities related to their professor’s academic interests.

Coté also discussed the importance of maintaining these relationships and the ways in which she hopes to maintain her relationship with the Victorian studies community as she moves forward in her academic career. She praised the Victorian Studies of Western Canada Association and spoke of the benefits of becoming involved with the association at an early stage in her scholarly career. Coté declared that “even in terms of being involved in limited ways as an undergraduate,” her involvement was advantageous, as it made moving from her undergraduate to her master’s degree easier due to the relationships she had formed through VSAWC. Coté says of the Victorian Studies in Canada, “It’s just been this wonderful community of both grad students and faculty…. This is a community that … I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Interview with Teresa Mangum at VSAWC 2014

By Reba Ouimet

Dr. Teresa Mangum began her career as an English professor at the University of Iowa; she later became the director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies there. This has given Dr. Mangum a unique perspective on the issue of initiatives to bolster community involvement. She has since engaged with gender and women’s sexuality studies at the university because she believes the department has a strong interest in engaging with the public through its work.

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Dr. Mangum made clear her belief that not all scholars should feel the need to do the same kind of work, and she encouraged diversity and the pursuit of one’s strengths. She stated,

I think what’s important in a university and any place of learning is to figure out … what people do well, encourage them to use those talents, and translate [their] love (in my case, of literature) into a variety of formats…. While some will … focus on traditional scholarship, deep research, and archives, … what we’ve found is that there are a lot of graduate students, [undergraduate] students, and faculty who want to continue to be researchers but who really want to think about how to share [their] passion.

Dr. Mangum urged those in the academic community to encourage the public’s interest in the humanities and to think about how to bring their research to the community, both as a tool for research and as a way to further their own learning. Her advice for students concerns the distinction between outreach and engagement. She stated, “Most universities have pretty active outreach[, during which] you go and speak at a library and tell [members of the public] about your research, … and that is very important work,” but she declared her belief that imbedding oneself in the community as an intellectual partner is of utmost importance as well.

Dr. Mangum briefly outlines her own work as a community partner:

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Dr. Mangum commented that a large part of her own institute’s concern is the funding of public projects. She recommended searching online for the Imagining America tenure report, as it provides clear instructions about how to evaluate one’s public academic work and assemble a portfolio. As a concluding remark, she stated her belief that all academics should be “talking to our administrators, [our] chairs of departments, [and] our colleagues about what [comprises] … good, strong projects [and] research projects in public, with public partners.” She also believes we should “be clarifying what … our goals [are] and how we evaluate this work.”

Dr. Mangum recommended that anyone who would like to learn more about publicly engaged teaching and scholarship in the humanities visit the websites of the Simpson Center for Humanities at the University of Washington for sample projects, the Humanities Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy.