Friday, July 26, 2013

NAVSA Book Prize - Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem

The North American Victorian Studies Association is very pleased to announce Catherine Robson’s Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem as the winner of the first NAVSA Book Prize award.

About the book:

Many people in Great Britain and the United States can recall elderly relatives who remembered long stretches of verse learned at school decades earlier, yet most of us were never required to recite in class. Heart Beats is the first book to examine how poetry recitation came to assume a central place in past curricular programs, and to investigate when and why the once-mandatory exercise declined. Telling the story of a lost pedagogical practice and its wide-ranging effects on two sides of the Atlantic, Catherine Robson explores how recitation altered the ordinary people who committed poems to heart, and changed the worlds in which they lived.

Heart Beats begins by investigating recitation's progress within British and American public educational systems over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and weighs the factors that influenced which poems were most frequently assigned. Robson then scrutinizes the recitational fortunes of three short works that were once classroom classics: Felicia Hemans's "Casabianca," Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," and Charles Wolfe's "Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna." To conclude, the book considers W. E. Henley's "Invictus" and Rudyard Kipling's "If--," asking why the idea of the memorized poem arouses such different responses in the United States and Great Britain today.

Focusing on vital connections between poems, individuals, and their communities, Heart Beats is an important study of the history and power of memorized poetry.

"Heart Beats is a work of passionate intelligence—sensitive to issues of class and to the place of recitation in the disciplining of minds and bodies, but at the same time open to the idea that verse memorization can liberate and shape social practices for the better." —John O. Jordan, University of California, Santa Cruz

"Robson's history of memorized poetry is impressive in every way: imaginatively conceived and massively researched, it holds important implications for the way we teach and read." —Leah Price, Harvard University

"This innovative book gives an institutional history of memorizing poetry in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century schools, and provides an account of the psychological effects of this practice in the lives of students who memorized. A key scholarly book in the field, this book is a winner." —Linda Peterson, Yale University

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BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History, 1775-1925

Editor: Dino Franco Felluga

BRANCH has just published the most recent set of essays, making the total word count of BRANCH now close to 500,000 words. The most recent additions are as follows: 
Sean Grass offers up BRANCH's first entry on the death of an individual as event. Deborah Nord and Linda Shires offer up articles on art history while Phyllis Weliver provides us with a first BRANCH entry on music. Linda Shires' piece is a companion to her earlier BRANCH article on George Field's Chromatography of 1835. Karen Weisman examines the significance of the lesser known poets Marion and Celia Moss. And Sharon Aranofsky Weltman's piece joins a series of BRANCH articles on theater and theatricality, including previous articles by Ellen Malenas Ledoux, Renata Kobetts Miller, and Angela Esterhammer.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Postal Plots in British Fiction, 1840-1898: Readdressing Correspondence in Victorian Literature

By Laura Rotunno 

By 1840, the epistolary novel was dead. Letters in Victorian fiction, however, were unmistakably alive. By examining a variety of works from authors including Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, Postal Plots addresses why. It explores how Victorian postal reforms encouraged the lower and middle classes to read and write, allowed them some social and political agency, and led many to literature. The writers born of postal reforms increased stratification between Victorian novelists, already struggling to define themselves as literary professionals. The reform-inspired readers threatened the novelists' development by flouting distinctions between high and low literature. Letters in Victorian novels thus become markers of the novelists' concerns about the hierarchies and mediocrities that threatened Victorian fiction's artistic progress and social contribution. Postal Plots explores Victorian literary professionals' conflict between their support for liberal ideals in the literary marketplace and their fear that they would be unable to bring those changes to pass.

Purchase through Amazon or Palgrave