Journal of a Plague Year: Wild Campus, by Priyanka Anne Jacob

“may my heart always be open to little birds/ who are the secret of living”
-E.E. Cummings

In late March 2020, the university sent students home, and, shortly after, the state of Illinois shut down almost everything, including the parks. When that happened, Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus became a haven for suddenly “stay(-and-work-and-caretake)-at-home” parents, athletes needing a place to run and train, and seniors going for their daily constitutional. It became, in essence, a public park, at a time when we didn’t have any others.

Oh, not officially of course. The university put up yellow signs declaring the campus closed and use of the space “forbidden,” while simultaneously, and helpfully, offering reminders on how to social distance if you did happen to be there. Over time, most of the signs were knocked over by the winds, or, in one case, by my daughter, Laila.

Laila and I were among the daily visitors to campus. At the time of the shutdown, she was a year and a half old. She had only recently begun walking, and her vocabulary was limited to such essentials as “book,” “sock,” and “Pat-Pat” (her word for dog). One of her favorite words at the time was “bird,” used primarily in the interrogative, like so much toddler speech, and counting in her estimation as an entire conversation. “Bird?” she would ask, pointing at a Beatrix Potter illustration of a goose in a bonnet; and then on the next page, for the same goose, “Bird?” “Bird? Bird!” she’d inquire of the starlings chattering on the rooftop next door. When the pandemic inevitably shattered our no-screens policy, the first television program I put on for her was a Youtube channel called “CatTV” which consisted entirely of bird-cam footage. “Bird?” she asked, pointing to the television. Yes. Bird.

And so when we began our twice-daily excursions to Loyola’s campus, its bird life was a natural point of interest. Not previously a bird-watcher myself, I decided to learn some names and distinguishing markers to help me relate to her new obsession. It was spring after all, and the robins were hopping about the field abutting Kenmore’s pedestrian promenade. This block was the perfect car-free place for my daughter’s unsteady feet. She spent hours exploring the promenade, sometimes playing, sometimes bursting into tantrums, while rosy northern cardinals sang overhead. Her favorite spot was right in front of Ignatius House, where she watched mourning doves resting on the grass and rabbits grazing in patchwork sunlight. A flurry of sparrows chirped and fluttered around the bird feeder hanging from a tree. (“The birds are having a time,” I recorded in a journal on March 27, 2020.) Laila looked on in delight, wandering in and out of this animal scene.

When kept indoors by rain we spent a lot of time with the oversized book, The Lost Words: A Spell Book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. The book was created in response to the Oxford Children’s Dictionary removing from its 2015 edition fifty words related to the natural world: “acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker—gone! Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow, wren…all of them gone!” In this “spellbook for conjuring back these lost words,” each word is honored with poem and painting. Macfarlane’s verse is tactile, alliterative, and dynamic, creating sensory experience through the “Tar-bright oil-slick sheen and/ gloss of starling wing” and the “late day light in a bluebell wood.” Morris offers lush, sensitive illustrations—the long arc of an otter underwater, the inky feathers of a magpie tail. Though the specificity of these nearly-lost words escaped my daughter (remember, we were still just talking “bird”), the chance to spot an owl, berry, or rabbit in its colorful pages kept her fascinated. Morris said in an interview that she hopes the book “is a harbour for those who can no longer get outside,” and indeed it was a critical resource for us in pandemic seclusion. She also said “I hope it will lead a child who has never before noticed the bright song of a little brown bird stop for a moment and listen to its whirr and churr.” I must admit it was me, the adult, who needed this invitation, and it was my child who offered it. With feet that move ever-so-slowly and eyes for what is tiny and close to the earth, she was already attuned to the scrabble of small critters and the “whirr and churr” of “little brown birds.” I was learning to follow along.

Such small birds weren’t the only residents of campus. We regularly saw ducks pecking about in the mud or paddling near the rocks. And then the geese arrived, in mass. One day, a pair of geese were hanging out on the grass near the chapel, and Laila strode right up to them with a cheerful “hiiii.” All the walkers and joggers on campus had also paused to see the geese—the only form of group spectacle remaining to us in the pandemic. Perhaps all our capacities for attention had changed. The geese on the grass was an event worth watching.

You may have noticed signs the university has provided, explaining the ecosystem being encouraged here. Our campus is decidedly urban and, at the same time, on the largest lake in this country, itself a critical migratory path. I had read these signs before, but I hadn’t attended to this ecosystem or figured myself as part of it until now. As spring advanced into May, we watched migrations in real time, the black dotted lines of hundreds or thousands of birds skimming the surface of the lake as they headed north, one v-formation following another, for miles.

Let me not forget the rabbits. Rabbits thrive on the Lake Shore Campus. Laila, who was accompanied on these excursions by a small stuffed Peter Rabbit pinned to her jacket, called them “munno.” These bunnies were stalked and chased by both my toddler and my dog, and for that I apologize to their entire leporidae community. We learned that the rabbits slept in the morning and were most active toward dusk. We learned their favorite spots on campus, and we peered under hedges to ask “Where’d’t go?” These sure-footed creatures always slipped away.

Laila’s burgeoning vocabulary was shaped by her time on campus. Every body of water she saw in a book was a “lake.” Music was and still is “gong gong,” thanks to the bells that ring evenly over the neighborhood. At first the bells alarmed Laila, but eventually they became an opportunity for a dance break. That too is an example of how, during this time, she grew braver and more curious, adventuring through this environment. Physical skills were shaped here too: developing her balance and tread, she walked the wee parapets in the grass along the lake and spent hours trotting up and down the stone steps that lead secretly through the bushes by Piper Hall. This was one of many spots I wouldn’t have visited without her as my guide through the space.

Eventually it was October. The new academic term rolled on, virtually; Laila started preschool. But the pandemic was still with us. So, too, were the animals. The geese were calling to each other in the skies to plan their next journey; the squirrels were scrambling about preparing their hoards for winter. And then, one afternoon, walking home from school, we saw it—a fox! We had seen the fox on those signs about the lakefront ecosystem, but never really believed they were here. And yet. With its full flaming tail pointed up, the fox pounced! Like us, it was hunting rabbits in front of the Norville Center, alongside its cousins the (statues of) wolves. While Laila and “Pat-Pat” were bold enough to try to follow the fox into the brush, I insisted we watch from a distance. The fox met my gaze directly as if to say, “wise choice.”

These days, nearly one year into the pandemic, things are different. Laila speaks in full sentences, and asks “why” questions. She runs, jumps and does yoga. I stopped recording all the new words in her vocabulary, because there are too many of them. She calls our dog by her actual name, Maggie; “Pat-Pat” is now one of the many “lost words,” lost to growing up. She learned the word “campus” last week and immediately started calling Loyola “my campus” (she’s also entered the possessive toddler phase).  

These days, it’s the dead of winter. Campus is quiet and still, no animals making themselves known, though we’ve continued to look for them. Though some students seem to be back in residence halls, we rarely see them. After days of snowfall, everything is hushed. “Where’s the lake?” Laila asked the other day as we looked out on the expanse of shelf ice and snow where Lake Michigan used to be, the water stilled to silence below.

Laila plucked an icicle from a hedge and watched in alarm as it melted in her mittened hand. “Why?” We talked then, less about physics and more about change and the passing of time. The snow will melt, I told her, not as quickly as this icicle but just as surely. The birds will come back. As for when human life will return to campus, I can’t say. But it will, once again, be spring.

Works Cited

Macfarlane, Robert and Jackie Morris. The Lost Words: A Spell Book. Anansi Press, 2018.

“Illustrator Jackie Morris Interview.” TOAST Magazine,12 Feb 2018,

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Journal of a Plague Year: Anna Rubenstein

The Ghost Ship fire happened a few years after I graduated from high school and moved away from San Francisco, having realized that, with the city being pressure-washed by capital the way that it was, living there was going to be a constant source of grief and rage to anyone invested in ideas like community, culture, and the right of working-class people to lead dignified lives. Of course, the fire was not what I was envisioning—not then, anyway, though I’ve since offended a few friends by refusing to attend their shows in the packed basements of DIY venues that I’m sure were very vibrant and fun but my god, building codes exist for a reason, call me when you play somewhere licensed.

The Ghost Ship fire happened a few years after I moved away from San Francisco, but the Bay Area is a small place, especially among the people who have roots there, and the degrees of separation were slight. Friends of friends, acquaintances’ siblings. Kids from my high school were killed. The week after, a friend posted a picture from my high school, taken in the grimy second-floor bathroom I’d used and dawdled in a thousand times. TELL YOUR FRIENDS YOU LOVE THEM, someone had Sharpied urgently across the mirror. I think about it all the time.

Jack Cragwall had this lovely idea to create a place for the departmental community to share their reflections about life in quarantine, and, once we’d set it up, warm and gracious as ever, he solicited a submission from me. I flinched and left the question hanging. I’m self-conscious, I haven’t worked here very long, I’m not an English major and never claimed to be, and anything I might say about the moment would feel so awkwardly provisional when no one knows what might happen next, politically, personally, medically, and yet feel repetitive when everyone’s experience is similar and everyone’s days are the same. Not so much weeks where decades happen as weeks that just feel like decades.

But I am trying to default to being painfully earnest, especially as my social skills atrophy to the point where I don’t have much choice. Hence, this, with the disjointed quality of someone whose cognition has suffered from too much screen time and not enough books. Again, I was never cut out to be an English major, but I like culture as much as the next guy. If I read more literature, I might have more useful frames of reference for this moment, as I’m sure you’ll find in submissions to this series that were written by people who actually read. Long, gut-wrenching evocations of a very specific feeling, sometimes with trajectory or catharsis, sometimes without.

As it is, best I can do is The Thing. I’ve been watching a lot of horror movies in quarantine; my friends and I have a little club. (I’m a big proponent of the idea that large Zoom-based social gatherings, much more than in-person ones, require a certain amount of structure to function well. I’d recommend movie or book clubs, PowerPoint parties, or Codenames.) The Thing is a landmark of the genre for a reason: the score is amazing, the gore setpieces are disgusting triumphs of practical-effects engineering. But it’s the tension between, we know now, as we settle into our own hunkered winter of wondering what’s hiding in the bodies of the people around us, that’s much too evocative. “Nobody trusts anybody now, and we’re all very tired,” Kurt Russell mutters blearily into a tape recorder, hunched over a bottle of whiskey. But he gets his catharsis and his agency too, when his comrade’s head finally detaches itself from his body, sprouts legs, and scurries away like a monstrous spider, and Kurt Russell gets to chase after it with a flamethrower. I have watched him do it again and again and felt a vicious stab of envy.

We are arriving at a winter with all of the terror and nothing to blow up. We all knew, I think, that there would be terror this winter. There was terror in the spring, when this was all novel and our old lives were still tauntingly visible behind us; there was terror in the summer, mostly when the Humvees pulled up. But this is here now, and it does not feel provisional to say that we are scared, that we know people will suffer greatly from both disease and despair. I am trying to carve out what agency I can and make the sacrifices I can afford. Options are limited, though they won’t be always. Tell people you love them. I wish you all well.

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Journal of a Plague Year: Moby Dick in the Pandemic, by Margaret Hawkins

Frank Stella, “A Bower in the Arsacides” from the “Moby Dick” series, 1993, lithograph, etching, aquatint, relief, collograph on white TGL handmade paper, 58 1/4 x 49 5/8”

I read Moby Dick this summer, preparing to teach it this fall. 

I was hungry for something consequential and thought my students might be, too. I craved content that was soulful, dense, dark. Longer than 280 characters. Chapter 42 (“The Whiteness of the Whale”) features a sentence that runs to 467 words. 

The project felt crazy — tackling Herman Melville’s 1851 epic about a vengeful sea captain chasing an albino sperm whale through the oceans, while I was social distancing in the Midwest in the middle of a pandemic, then trying to talk about it over Zoom with 38 anxiety-ridden undergraduates — but so did everything last summer. Soon I was hooked. 

I knew the story, sort of, about Ahab steering his crew toward oblivion in monomaniacal pursuit of the elusive and uncannily intelligent whale that bit off his leg. But I had no idea the book was also about race and justice, greed and virtue, fear and courage, fate and God and will and reincarnation, the crimes of colonialism and missionary-ism, the smug heartlessness of the pious, the decency man owes to animals but fails to pay. Oh, and WHALES. 

Ah, so much about whales. True, there’s some 19th century science and Melville erroneously calls Moby Dick a fish, but, really, who cares. He gets the big stuff right. In Chapter 86, “The Tail,” Melville praises the whale’s flukes: “Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it.” Later in the same chapter he describes how sperm whales fight their fellows with their heads and jaws, reserving their tails, “contemptuously,” for human foes.  

Melville’s language is enticement enough to read the book. Biblical, nautical, and Shakespearean all at once, it nods to the bard’s love of the bawdy and the phallic pun. The book is funny! Also radically irreverent. Mostly, though, it’s haunting. Chapter 23 offers this: “Better it is to perish in the howling infinite than be dashed upon the lee.” It will send you to the dictionary to look up lee, which means protective shelter.  

I worried about my students wrestling with the vocabulary, especially in the sterile context of Zoom discussions, but the first week, when a girl returned from a breakout room and said, “So we looked up woe …”, I knew it was going to be OK. We’re all looking up woe these days. 

I’m a slow reader. Even scanning a menu, I fall behind, lingering on words like tender. This book took me a good month. I got myself three copies, two from the library. My favorite edition has large type and is illustrated with Rockwell Kent’s woodcuts. It’s like an 800-page children’s book about death. And whales. 

I’m tempted to say the whales are the only noble characters in this book, but that’s too simplistic. All the characters are complicated, even Moby Dick, and Captain Ahab isn’t evil. This moral subtlety surprised me, accustomed as I am to a world where the word “evil” gets slung around a lot. Melville is too great a mind for that. This book is not about evil. It’s about the deadliest sin, pride. It’s a book for our times.

The book is about obsession and soon I was obsessed, too. I started following my husband around the kitchen in the morning, reading bits out loud while he boiled eggs and cut up fruit, excitedly paraphrasing scenes.  

“Science! Curse three, thou vain toy!” I shouted, imitating Ahab trampling his quadrant with his whalebone leg, destroying the one tool he might have used to steer them out of the typhoon. How could he — the masts were burning like taper candles! Yet, I understood. I was thinking of GPS and my laptop and the gas grill I couldn’t figure out how to light. 

Then the grimmer parallel dawned. I remembered another lost, vengeance-obsessed captain on a four-year voyage who turned his back on science and steered his crew into the storm: on purpose. 

I finished reading the book on Labor Day, on my landlocked patio, rooting for the injured whale but heartbroken, too, for the senseless suffering of the loyal men who fought it and died. I mourned all the hunted creatures in the sea and all the suffering humans in Melville’s world, the children on shore waiting for fathers who would never come home, and the suffering creatures in my own world. And even Ahab, tragic in his wasted life. 

Then a gust of autumnish wind blew through the yard. My pile of yellow stickers, with notes scrawled on them that I’d been transferring from my library edition to the smaller-print student edition, suddenly lifted into the air and swirled into a little vortex like the one that took down the Pequod. I gathered up my things and went inside. Later, when I looked in the mirror, I saw that one of the little notes had stuck to me. I was wearing a tag that quoted Starbuck: “It’s a brave man that weeps!”  

I’d worried that reading a book this long, written so long ago, might further deaden my sense of reality in an already unreal time. But the exact opposite happened. I haven’t felt this excited in ages. Now I’m thinking ahead to November, and I have to say, I disagree with Ishmael. In present circumstances, being dashed upon the lee is better than perishing in the howling infinite.

This piece originally appeared in Visual Art Source.

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Journal of a Plague Year: Lydia Craig

Dear LUC Department of English Community,

My actual COVID-19 journal has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, so it’s valuable to be able to summarize events in a smaller piece for the Journal of a Plague Year. Like many of my graduate peers, I was teaching an undergraduate course in Spring 2020. When the university moved classes online, I often forgot my own panic when viewing complicated individual struggles my students bravely confronted while helping each other cope and study. Our weekly classes soon became something of a support group. We made COVID-19 journals connecting events in the news from March to April 2020 with similar events surrounding class, race, and cultural encounters in the nineteenth century, which affected people then far more severely. We found that these issues are still present and intensified during times of national crisis. Attacked at once on so many personal fronts, spatially, financially, ideologically, we found verbalizing our thoughts and feelings to be helpful, but still inadequate in the face of calamity and hate.

Like others, I have realized anew that action is necessary if the world, and this country, can move forward to an improved civic responsibility and love of all humanity. My family members and friends have experienced deaths, losses, and mental breakdowns. A young friend died unexpectedly, arguably only because busy hospitals dismissed what appeared to be a mild injury. I’ve experienced fear during my mother’s successful bout with COVID-19 in a nursing home, a virus that her two roommates and another resident friend sadly did not survive. Multiple friends have been infected, directly owing to others’ refusals to wear masks or social distance. It’s been baffling to witness firsthand how little some people care about the safety of the whole community in comparison to the instant gratification of individualism.

Weirdly, there have been some good times in 2020. When my sister’s university also moved online, I spent precious time with her in quarantine, both of us alternately screaming “Sorry, YOU go ahead!” and “You’re NOT muted!” at our respective computer screens. Using materials accessible through the wonderful LUC Libraries website and other online databases, I’ve written a lot, both on my dissertation and on other projects. Besides beginning a new cross-stitch sampler, I’ve tried my hand at growing vegetables…and will NEVER quit my day job! Over Zoom, I’ve caught up with friends and have used its platform, with others, to design, hold, and support several international virtual conferences to preserve valuable museums and charities. Through the internet, I’ve also been able to attend multiple events like the Harper Dickens Conference (Dickens Universe) that would have been financially impossible for me otherwise.

Watching how other humans have reacted to the isolation and financial crunch has been revealing, but also unexpectedly inspiring. Former students are forging ahead with plans or demonstrating resilience and flexibility as they channel their energies elsewhere. Despite the ongoing crisis, a friend has inspired me by going on a crusade to end medical debt in her area, using social media to powerfully transform lives and create feelings of hope and fresh beginnings. Especially after the events of the last months, I am intensely grateful for my courageous friends, opportunities to enjoy life, and for the vote I have already cast.

I miss all my friends at the Department of English, whether current, graduated, or in residence, and hope to see you again very soon!

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Journal of a Plague Year: Jack Cragwall

Welcome, everyone, to the English Department’s revitalized blog! Our teaching, our learning, and our living have never been so disrupted, and our hope is that this place can be a small place for sharing and connection, even as we’re all, as Mary Wollstonecraft would say, “immured in our families, groping in the dark.”

Our idea is that our whole community—students, faculty, staff—might help build this “Journal of a Plague Year”. Teaching from my dining room table this semester has shown me how much I took for granted, and how much I now miss, the casual conversations and connections with students and friends that were the texture of a regular day on campus.

I think we’d all like to know how everyone else is doing, and this blog can be our window into each other’s experiences. We’ll be hosting what any of you would like to share: reports on how you’ve handled quarantine and The Remote University, stories you’d like to give us, poetry, fiction, or anything else that you’ve made in response to COVID, or even just pictures of your quarantine quarters. Send anything you’d like to share with us to me ( and Anna Rubenstein (

I thought I’d start by sharing something I wrote for our graduation ceremony in May. Things were different then: the economy was in more obvious freefall, infection rates were rising rapidly, and my very young children hadn’t seen a playground in months. And at the same time, nothing much has changed, and some things have worsened: a future of two hundred thousand dead would have shocked me during the hardest moments of quarantine. We’re further along now than in May, but I’m not sure where we’re going.

Graduation in the time of COVID (May, 2020)

Thank you all so much for being here. I’m so glad that we’ll have this opportunity—however transformed—to celebrate our students and their extraordinary accomplishments.

I’ll start, confessing that in a moment of weakness, I asked David if we shouldn’t cancel this celebration. I worried that it would be diminished, a “celebration” of small boxes and smaller talking heads, reminding us of what’s been changed, lost, and broken.

I worried that the goofy sanctity of the event wouldn’t survive, and that our students—and their hard work, enormous talent, and courage in adversity—wouldn’t get the celebration they deserve. What I really worried about, though, was that I was diminished.

I remember the moment. In the first week of quarantine, I was hurrying through a pile of papers during my youngest child’s ever-shorter nap. I was trying to critique a student thesis, pen poised over the margins, when it broke over me: this doesn’t matter now.

Maybe this was generosity, not acquiescence, I thought. In the hour of plague and collapse, surely there’s a virtue in accommodating three-quarter-formed theses. But there was a terror in it, too.

It doesn’t matter now—will it ever again? When? Will I be there to see it? Who won’t? And if this thing that we all, student and teacher alike, love so much—being in a room with interesting people, thinking about interesting things—if this thing could cease to matter so quickly, giving way within a week to existential concerns, how much did it ever matter, really?

Last week the Undergraduate Program Directors of all the Humanities departments did an event for accepted students and their parents. The first question was “why should someone study the Humanities”? Our answers were competent: we talked about skills, outcomes, pleasures. We’d done this before.

But our answers felt like archeological shards from a ruin we’d inhabited only days earlier, and still wished we did: where seminars weren’t screens, where jobs for students and their parents still existed, where terror didn’t cage us in our homes, where Moloch and Mammon weren’t demanding us outside as their prey.

Moloch and Mammon, Satan’s princelings, demons of slaughter and profit. Paradise Lost has helped me to figure the evil of this moment.

It’s right there in its title—the poem is never not about loss. It’s especially good at cracking that brittle bravado, masquerading as optimism, of its anti-hero, Satan. All the high-sounding “courage never to submit or yield,” that determination not to be “lost in loss itself,” the final lie that “the mind is its own place”—all this insistence that everything will be okay with enough grit, is the colossal stupidity of someone working hard not to see how irrevocably altered everything is.

So it’s not Satan, but Eve, only Eve, who’s given me something I can give you. At the end of the poem, anticipating cataclysmic exile, Eve turns to Adam, and speaks the last words of any character in the poem:

In mee is no delay; with thee to goe, 
Is to stay here; without thee here to stay,
Is to go hence unwilling; thou to mee
Art all things under Heav’n, all places thou.

Eve’s courage is what Satan, Adam, and even Milton’s Messiah never achieve: a courage that isn’t diminished by catastrophe, but diminishes it. It’s a courage of companionship and shared vulnerability, capable of admitting that there’s no safety in the self, in the narcissism that claims to make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven—it’s the people we love who transfigure space and time for us, if we have the strength to let them.

Eve leaves Paradise willingly because she knows that the work of love can make a new one, happier far. But she has another consolation, one especially meaningful for the people gathered virtually together here, today. 

Her primal anxiety was always language. Unlike Adam, Eve never speaks on the day of her creation, and can only narrate its trauma long after the fact. She’s the gendered difference that makes the Word of God signify, along with the great chain of masculinities who bask in Its image as their own. She plucks the Fruit in the desperate hope that it might “give elocution to the mute, and teach the tongue not made for speech to speak.”

It doesn’t work. And yet.

Her last words, spoken as her home burns in the wrath of God—her words don’t rhyme, since almost nothing in the poem does. But they do add up to fourteen lines, a math problem even English majors can solve. Eve’s final, and our first, comfort is the sonnet—the original poem, fast after the original sin.

Milton gives Eve the dignity his God never would—she is the one who pursues things unattempted yet in prose or rhime, as the mother of humankind and poetry both. One is the measure of the other.

I’d been worried that crisis is no time for poetry. But poetry was the only thing we carried from the ashes of the Garden. It’s not the thing we give up first; it’s the thing we do first. This thing we all share, the thing we’re brought here to celebrate today—it is, as another poet said, the rock of defense of the human spirit.

After Eve finishes her valediction, Michael ushers the couple to the gates, where they drop some natural tears. But instead of punishment, they are rewarded with a vision of quiet sublimity: “The World was all before them.” Whatever that time before was, it was never part of the “all” that makes up the “World.” A conventional theology would have this be a time of cosmic sadness. For Milton, it’s a somber call to action—a world of choice, duty, and labor, that make Paradise and its loss feel parochial.

Our world will heal. It will heal because we—and especially the students whose grace, intelligence, and determination we’ve come here to celebrate—will heal it. We will make it more just, humane, and righteous. This moment, and its aftermath, will call our students to a heroism of necessity from which I wish, for all the world, I could excuse them. I can only promise them that as they take their solitary way through what comes next, they will do so hand in hand with us.

Jack Cragwall

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44th Annual Edward L. Surtz, S.J. Lecture in the Humanities, “The Challenge of Translating the Bible”

Students and faculty are invited to the 44th Annual Edward L. Surtz, S.J. Lecture in the Humanities, to be delivered by Robert Alter, Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley.

“The Challenge of Translating the Bible”

Wednesday, February 26, 2020, 4pm

Information Commons, fourth floor lecture hall

Professor Robert Alter

Professor Alter is author of more than 20 books of criticism, translation, and commentary, most recently The Art of Bible Translation (2019). His complete translation of the Hebrew Bible, a work 24 years in the making, was published by W.W. Norton in 2018 and has been acclaimed as stylistically faithful to the Hebrew while inventively artful in English. Alter has also written extensively on the European novel, contemporary American fiction, and modern Hebrew literature. His lecture is co-sponsored by the John Cardinal Cody Endowed Chair in Theology, and the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage.

Since 1973, the Surtz Lecture has promoted interdisciplinary and trans-historical humanistic inquiry at Loyola University Chicago. This lecture honors the memory and scholarship of Edward L. Surtz, S.J., a beloved member of the Loyola faculty and distinguished scholar of early modern literature and renaissance humanism. Recent lecturers have included Robin Fleming, author of Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400-1070; Emily Wilson, translator of the Odyssey and author of The Greatest Empire: A life of Seneca; W. J. T. Mitchell, author of Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present and editor of the interdisciplinary journal Critical Inquiry; and Ato Quayson, editor of The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature.

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2019 Martin J. Svaglic Fall Lecture Invitation

Faculty and students in LUC’s Department of English are cordially invited to the Martin J. Svaglic Fall Lecture, “Textual Studies & the Nonhuman Turn, A Symposium.” This event is sponsored by Marta L. Werner, the Martin J. Svaglic Chair of Textual Studies and The Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities.

Matt Cohen

Matt Cohen, Professor of English, University of Nebraska, Lincoln will give a talk entitled “Walt Whitman’s Leaves.” Matthew Cohen is the author or editor of five books, including most recently Whitman’s Drift: Imagining Literary Distribution, which received the Finneran Award; The Networked Wilderness: Communicating in Early New England (2010); and Colonial Mediascapes: Sensory Worlds of the Early Americas (co-edited in 2014 with Jeffrey Glover of LUC’s Department of English). With support from a 2017 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Cohen is currently writing a book on intercultural theory and method in early American studies, tentatively titled The Silence of the Miskito Prince: Imagining Across Cultures in Early America. He is a contributing editor at the Walt Whitman Archive and director of Cohen Lab, a digital humanities lab at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Branka Arsić

Next, Branka Arsić, Charles and Lynn Zhang Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, will deliver the presentation, ““Butterfly Tropics: Dickinson, the Archive and Aerial Poetics.” Branka Arsić is the author of Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau (2016), which received the MLA James Russell Lowell prize for the outstanding book of 2016; On Leaving: A Reading in Emerson (2010), and Passive Constitutions, or 7½ Times Bartleby (2007). She is the editor of the critical collections Melville’s Philosophies (co-edited with Kim Evans, 2017) and The Other Emerson: New Approaches, Divergent Paths (co-edited with Cary Wolfe, 2010). Arsić is currently working on two book projects: Ambient Life, Melville, Materialism and the Ethereal Enlightenment, which focuses on images of the elemental, vegetal and animal that traverse Melville’s work as a means of investigating how he imagined the capacity of matter to move and transform; and Butterfly Tropics: Emily Dickinson, The Archive and The Lyric, which investigates Dickinson’s obsession with transmutation and invisible continuities among discrete bodies promised by entomological life forms, to raise the question of how such a preoccupation governs her understanding of the poetic form, as well as what it does for her manner of archiving poetry in fascicles, sets, envelopes, letters or, simply, boxes and chest drawers.

This event will take place Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 from 4:30-6:00 p.m. and will be held on the 4th floor of the Information Commons. It is free and open to the public.

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Dr. Marta L. Werner: “Dearchivizing Dickinson’s Birds” and Textual Studies

Since beginning to teach as a faculty member in LUC’s Department of English, what projects have you begun? What are your current research interests? Do you think living in Chicago will give you access to new research materials?

I’m working on three projects—all at quite different stages of development. First, I’m finishing a new edition of Emily Dickinson’s “Master” documents that I’ve been working on for a little over two years. It started out as a small project and then took on a life of its own…as editions so often do! In this work I’m trying to tell a different story about these documents, and one that runs counter to the story about them that has become part of literary history. At once a new edition of these writings and a new reading of them in and for our time, my edition, The Master Hours, challenges the prevailing understanding of these documents as “letters,” re-draws the boundaries of the constellation by adding two verse works to the three more epistolary works designated the “Master Letters” by earlier editors, offers new images and typographic facsimiles of the documents, and provides individual commentaries for each of Dickinson’s five “Master” texts. Two large aims of the present edition are to re-enter the “Master” documents as far as possible in the flow of time and to re-world them by imagining them again as they may have once lain on the ever-changing surface of Dickinson’s desk. To these ends, rather than presenting the “Master” documents as quarantined from Dickinson’s larger scene of textual production, this edition proposes reading them next to Dickinson’s other major textual experiment in the years between c. 1858–1861: the Fascicles. In both of these at times parallel — always adjacent — writing experiments Dickinson can be seen testing the limits of address and genre in order to escape bibliographical determination and the very coordinates of “mastery” itself. While the opening materials of the edition ground the presentation of the documents historically and textually, the closing meditations approach each of the documents as a singular, complex “organized world of meaning” and a “deep map” of experience, emotion, and memory.

From the “Master” Documents

I’m also working on a very different Dickinson project – one that intersects with my interests in archive studies, sound studies, eco-studies, and digital humanities. I’m really at the beginning stages of this work, so it’s likely that it will undergo some re-description over the next year! Briefly, though, I’m imagining “De-Archivizing Dickinson’s Birds: Sound-Notes From the Shores of the Anthropocene” as a community-based listening and archival project designed to help readers and dwellers of the 21st century to re-imagine one thin bandwidth of Dickinson’s lost sound-world of the 19th century while also taking a measure of the ecological distances, both actual and perceived, between Dickinson’s 19th c. world and our 21st c. world. By constellating the poems and other writings from Dickinson’s oeuvre alluding to birds and pairing them with the sounds of the birds that fly in and out of them, new archives of poems and birds — summer and winter archives, morning and evening archives — will come into being, while the archive itself will be reconceived as a living, mutable environment rather than a storage space for dead letters or ornithological specimens. Although there are many components to this DH project, I’m currently working on creating a prototype for a time-sound-line for Dickinson’s bird writings.

“De-Archivizing Dickinson’s Birds” is very much a project about our sense of emplacement, and the significance of bird sounds to our experience of place and time. And inevitably, it’s also about the diminishment of bird sounds in our time and how that changes our experience of—our sense of inhabiting—the world.

Finally, I’m also planning a small edition / exhibition catalog of Dickinson’s “pinned” writings—literally poems made by pinning and unpinning manuscripts. There are lots of challenges involved in representing these beautifully mutable works. And it brings me back into contact with Dickinson’s late work, which is an abiding interest of mine.

One of Emily Dickinson’s “pinned” documents

Chicago is Library-Land! I’m especially grateful to live in easy proximity to the Newberry Library – the collections seem to go on for miles – but I’ll also be searching for more out-of-the-way archives in and around Chicago. I like the feeling of not knowing what I’ll find yet….

Describe your understanding of what textual studies can accomplish. What new meanings have your own researches helped you uncover? What remains to be discovered?

Wow. This is a vast question, and my response will be necessarily very fragmentary. In A New Republic of Letters, Jerome McGann proposes that the question “Why does textual scholarship matter?” is not a “technical” question, as many people think, but an absolutely foundational question for our time; and in our first seminar meeting in the Textual Studies course we discussed the role of textual studies in translating—literally “carrying over”—the cultural record into the future. The stakes in our field are very high because we are working at a hinge-moment in history, at the moment when literally the entirety of our cultural archive is migrating into new digital forms. And how we perform this migration matters. The stakes are very high. Writing about this challenge, the great textual scholar Thomas Tanselle recently observed, “The misconception that texts are easily extractable from books has contributed to policy decisions — all the more shocking for being deliberate — that will mark the present as an age of destruction on a scale beyond even that of the book burnings of the past.” At its best, work in textual studies encourages us to see texts complexly and to find ways of representing that complexity, of carrying it over into a new age in new forms.

I think it’s salutary to have think about the aims of the discipline as a whole, to circle back to them periodically because the work textual scholars do on a daily basis—identifying all the witnesses of a given text and their relations to one another, transcribing these texts in a way that accurately and deeply represents their layered composition and reception histories, following textual variants, etc.–can feel almost myopic at times. But this kind of close attention to any one work advances the larger project of textual scholarship and, I think, literary studies more generally. In my own case, working with Dickinson’s manuscripts transformed my thinking about her work. Since my initial foray into the archives, I’ve been experimenting with different structures for representing Dickinson’s late works—first binding some of them into a codex book titled Open Folios; then summoning others—or, rather, their digital surrogates—into an electronic archive fueled by millennial energies and called Radical Scatters; and then collecting the poems Dickinson wrote on envelopes to give them new homes, and new readers in The Gorgeous Nothings. This last, collaborative work with the artist Jen Bervin itself appears in two different iterations: first, in the form of an archival box filled with loose, full-scale facsimiles and transcriptions of the works; and later, in an oversize volume that preserves to some extent the sui generis nature of the poems by arranging them not in a chronological order but on the basis of their visual correspondences and singular routes. Most recently, I’ve been working on Dickinson’s “Master” documents. Each of these editions (or exhibitions) represents my repeated attempt to map the topos of Dickinson’s unbound, untitled and ultimately unhouseable writings.

I think all textual scholars know that the work they do will be carried on but also transformed in the future, if only because each new generation of textual scholars will approach the work informed by the ideas of their times. Discovery is perennial.

Are there any particular themes or research focuses you are itching to pursue in a future graduate course at LUC?

Yes. Definitely! I love to teach Textual Studies because the field is so vast and constantly changing, evolving. At the moment, my seminar covers a lot of ground – and takes many different paths toward thinking about manuscripts, books, and born-digital works as material and cultural objects that have much to say about their makers (and all of the other agents involved in their production, dissemination and reception) and the values of the culture in which they arise. But so many different iterations of this seminar are possible. For a long time I’ve been thinking about a textual studies seminar called “The Seasons of Dickinson’s Desk,” where participants will be drawn into the material, social and literary structures of Dickinson’s poetry, letters and fragments by first exploring the scope and trajectory of her writings and then engaging these writings by intellectually imagining and digitally re-creating Dickinson’s desk and the trajectories of its activities in and across time. I’d also like to collaborate with folks in the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities to teach a seminar on “Living Texts: Editing & Curating in the 21st Century.” And since I’m interested in the non-human turn in literary studies, I’d love to have the opportunity to explore this turn, perhaps through the work of Dickinson and Thoreau, in seminar. Finally, I’ve always been interested in late work – and in “lateness” as a phenomenon – and I’d welcome to chance to structure a seminar around expressions of late style.

In your professional career so far, what do you think were the best opportunities for graduate students or young instructors in your field? Are there specific activities or projects that you felt to be particularly useful in building your own skill set?

This is a great question. And a timely one. Although we all know the job market is, well, abysmal, there are still many opportunities for professional development for graduate students and new faculty. I know that many of you are involved in conference planning, which is a great way to get a sense of the larger coordinates of the field you’re working in and to see how your own work contributes to it. If you have the chance to collaborate with a professor whose working on a project that interests you, do it! And if you have the chance to work as part of the team on a scholarly journal (say, a journal like Textual Cultures, hint, hint!), that’s also a wonderful way to get professional experience.

In the last years, we’ve seen a shift in the kinds of skills academic departments are looking for in new faculty. A background in DH is often highly marketable. Grad students who are thinking about the job market should also look for post-doc opportunities in their field.

The structure of graduate study has changed a lot since I was a graduate student. Thirty years ago it was still the Age of Innocence! We simply weren’t as professionalized as grad students today are—and have to be. I worked as a TA and an RA—both great experiences and essential ones. I was very lucky in my mentors. They were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge. But perhaps the most formative experience I ever had was going to the archives. It changed the direction of my work. And it changed my life.

Everyone has to find his/her/their own way. And there are so many different ways.

Dr. Marta L. Werner is the new Martin J. Svaglic Chair of Textual Studies in Loyola University Chicago’s Department of English.

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Find Library Books and Research Archives in the Greater Chicago Area!

The Newberry Library

Interested in conducting research while studying for your BA, MA, or PhD degree at LUC’s Department of English? It’s fortunate that you live in the Chicagoland area! For literary, historical, and academic works, consult the catalogue or chat with the librarians at Cudahy Library at this link: Note that if you are unable to find a particular scholarly article, you can request it through the Interlibrary loan feature and the pdf will usually be emailed to you through your account. Likewise, if the book you want is not held by our institution at the LSC or WTC campuses, you can special order it for no cost through Interlibrary loan after searching for the book through WorldCat. Links to these services can be found on the library website, as well as the email addresses of librarians such as Head of Reference Services Niamh McGuigan, listed by specialization.

As accessed through the library’s home page, Cudahy also has multiple databases devoted to various subjects and time periods that are extremely useful for students in the Department of English. Some examples include African-American Periodicals 1825-1995, Archive of Celtic-Latin Literature, Early American Newspapers, Series 1, 1690-1876, Early English Books Online (EEBO), Editions and Adaptations of Shakespeare, the MLA International Bibliography and Literary Research Guide, and Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO). There’s also many other interesting databases, such as Ebook Central to save you that late-night trip to the library, Naxos Music Library to provide you with millions of hours of free music to listen to as you write, and Ancestry Library to help you find dirt either on your ancestors or the authors you are “supposed” to be researching!

On the second floor of Cudahy Library is located LUC’s University Archives and Special Collections department, which boasts thousands of works of history, literature, science, Jesuitica, and first or early editions of world-famous works: After searching the online catalogue for lists of holdings, students should email University Archivist and Curator of Rare Books Kathy Young to set up an appointment to view their desired materials. She and Assistant University Archivist Ashley Howdeshell will be able to assist students in their research quests and can help locate other works at the Special Collections of other libraries in the US and around the world.

No matter what your subject of interest is, there is likely a nearby library or archive you can access online or visit to consult. First and foremost, LUC students can get a library card at Chicago’s prestigious (and newly remodeled) Newberry Library, which contains millions of primary sources from the medieval period onwards. Boasting a large Native American and Early American collection, the library also contains illuminated manuscripts, Early Modern drama folios, novels of the 16th-19th centuries, and Modernist works. After establishing an account, students can reserve books prior to their in-person visit through the online catalogue, which is searchable to the general public: Besides hosting graduate conferences, the Newberry holds frequent workshops and an annual Book Sale.

Students often have reciprocal borrowing privileges with Chicago university libraries such as Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne (located three hours south), Purdue Libraries, Marquette University, and more. Other Chicago archives are located at other nearby research institutions as well as the Newberry. For example, the libraries of NU and UIC, as well as the DeSable Museum of African-American History, all hold many documents and primary source materials relating to the origins of the transatlantic slave trade and African-American history in the United States, particularly in Chicago. Another archive devoted to Chicago legal history resides at UIC, and even more civic and political material is held at the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center, prominently and unmistakably located at 400 S. State St. After bringing proof of residency and an ID, students can check out materials from the Harold Washington using their CPL card and request to view Special Collections documents that can be found, along with general catalogue holdings, on the website:

Make the most of your experience at LUC and in Chicago by utilizing our own Cudahy Library’s resources and planning a trip to a local library or research institution so that your own discoveries take into account the best possible evidence for your project. Happy research and writing!

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“Hideous Progeny”: The Gothic in the Nineteenth Century

Just in time for Halloween, the third LUCVS day conference occurred on 27 October on the 4th floor of the Information Commons – replete with heaping piles of candy ornamenting the round tables and Frankenstein fridge magnets and Gothic postcards available in the registration area. “‘Hideous Progeny’: The Gothic in the Nineteenth Century” was inspired by the bicentennials of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and the birth of Emily Brontë, author of Wuthering Heights (1848). Additionally, LUCVS wished to uncover the cultural and literary impacts of new iterations of the Gothic in the Victorian era, as subsequent generations made sense of the Romanticist movement, European scientific and industrial developments, and engaged with the themes and prophecies of Gothic novels from previous decades. After the attendees had enjoyed coffee and a light breakfast, Dr. Frederick Staidum (LUC) introduced the plenary speaker, Dr. Alison Booth (University of Virginia), citing her contributions to digital humanities and prestigious record of acquiring grant funding and publishing on the topic of female biography, notably her book How to Make It as a Woman (2004), which reveals the history of all-female biographical collections in nineteenth century Britain and America. Booth then delivered the plenary lecture entitled “Gothic Anachronism, Heterotopia, and Gender: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (with some forays in The Castle of Otranto).” By showing several passages from these novels depicting chase scenes through edifices, Booth demonstrated how Gothic heroines, or the pursued, sought safety in neutral, often abandoned parts of the building, Stevenson adopting and gender-swapping the 18th century convention evident in Otranto in his 1886 novel. In this Gothic tradition, geographies of houses mirror that of cities, and even of the human mind and body.

Next, came Panel 1: “Gothic Vision” moderated by Lydia Craig (LUC), which focused on Gothic interpretations of seeing, seeing others, and being seen. In her paper “Gender Under Surveillance in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette,” Amy Bower (independent scholar) claimed that cross-dressing in a theatrical male role enables Lucy Snowe to explore and define her own identity in resistance to the identities others like Dr. John, Ginevra Fanshawe, and M. Paul attribute to her; conversely, cross-dressing for others, such as Ginevra’s male lover in the nun’ habit, achieves no such self-transformative function. Making the case in “Gothic Mutations of Pity in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Star-Child’” that Wilde’s 1891 story replicates stereotypically pejorative assumptions about disability and contains more progressive aspects, Dr. Chris Foss (University of Mary Washington) interpreted Wilde’s text as utilizing a neo/retro Gothic space within which subversively to mutate both the standard sentimental fare of fairy tales and the classic horror effects of Gothic stories as they relate to abject bodies.

After a quick coffee break, attendees heard Panel 2: “American Gothic” moderated by Wren Romero (LUC), which explored appearances of the European Gothic in Amerian literature of the nineteenth century. “Salem Belles and Seductresses: Transatlantic Witch Lore and American Gothic Anxiety” by Sylvia Cutler (Brigham Young University) insisted that as the lore or use of the history of American witchcraft literature shifted to fit the mold of a burgeoning American Gothic literature, the Puritan witch took on a curious and even unrealistic identity. Ultimately, American Gothic writers were left with a choice: embrace the actualities insisted upon by American history, or drawn from the more seductively mysterious and exotically appealing European witch lore not readily found in the New World’s own canon. In the next paper, “Death by Romance: The Tortured Textuality of Alcott’s A Modern Mephistopheles,” M. Fontenot (Michigan State University) portrayed Louisa May Alcott’s 1877 novel as appealing to its own circular textuality to form a foundation and capitalize on and manipulate the Gothic’s reliance on dark secrets and a monstrous villain. Once both are revealed, the novel collapses into divergent conclusions, transforming itself backwards instead of forwards, as the reader is forced to re-view the novel in light of the revelation of its climax. The final paper by Dr. Josh Richards (Williams Baptist University) entitled “The Impossible Union of Spheres: Class Contact and the Feminine Gothic in Henry James’ ‘In the Case’ and ‘The Jolly Corner’” examined the way that these two late-nineteenth-century works by James embody the feminine Gothic construction and utilize Gothic imagery when discussing the interaction between characters of highly divergent social strata; the Gothic, as a liminal genre, appears at the otherwise impossible union of social classes. After this panel, a short lunch followed in Crown Center, guests enjoying conversation with each other and the view afforded on the second floor of Lake Michigan in the sunshine.

In the afternoon, Panel 3: “Neo-Gothic” moderated by Dr. Brandiann Molby (LUC) took as its focus Victorian amendments, evolutions, and utilizations of the eighteenth century Gothic legacy. The first paper, “Gothic Intrastructures: Smoke, Ventilation, and Sewage in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton and Charles Kingsley’s Alton Locke,” insisted that where ordinary infrastructures (or lack thereof) surface in the Victorian novel, so does the Gothic. Jeremy Goheen (the University of Texas at Austin) argued that Victorian writers often mobilized a Gothic mode in realist fiction to defamiliarize smoke, ventilating structures, sewage systems, and other infrastructural networks to achieve an “infrastructural consciousness” evidenced in novels like Kingsley’s Alton Locke (1850) and Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848). Noting in “Reinventing the Gothic: The Uncanny Portrait in Lady Audley’s Secret,” that when characters pause to look at portraits in nineteenth-century English novels, they often learn key information about the depicted subjects, Olivia Xu Lingyi (Northwestern University) claimed that Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s 1862 novel recycles the gothic narrative strategy of the uncanny portrait while reinventing the picture in a notoriously Pre-Raphaelite style. While the portrait, suggestive of hidden knowledge, perpetuates the novel’s detective plot, the painting draws upon a practice of historical anachronism by propelling the narrative forward. Thus, the novel explores the tension between its efforts to assimilate the visual form into its careful narrative timeline, and the fact that the painting’s entailed temporalities stand out of sync with the novel’s chronology. Dr. Jo Devereux (Western University) contended in “Arches, Cloisters, and Tracery: Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale and the Gothic Revival” that the paintings of this artist (1872-1944), known as the last Pre-Raphaelite, would seem to lack Gothic gloom and overwrought affect, instead evoking an idealized medieval world of ladies in peaceful walled gardens and forests. Yet a closer examination of her work reveals a pervasive influence of the Gothic Revival of several decades earlier, Devereux concluding that many of Brickdale’s paintings and illustrations recuperate the passionate moralism of Pugin and Ruskin, while subtly questioning the role of women in their doctrines.

After a brief coffee break and discussion came Panel 4: “Textual Studies” moderated by Dr. Michael Paradiso-Michau (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago), which discussed the appearance of Gothic elements, advertisements, and images in Victorian print culture. “Orgiastic Authorship and Misattribution in Wilde’s ‘Teleny’ and Des Grieux” by Dr. Sandra M. Leonard (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania) discussed the question of the latter’s “round-robin” style of collaborative authorship. Though the paperback covers of the fin de siècle erotic gothic novel Des Grieux (1899), sequel to Teleny (1893), falsely attribute authorship to Oscar Wilde, Leonard theorized that the perception of Wilde’s involvement is as an act of orgiastic authorship, a queer, erotic, and Saturnalian creative process that is consistent with Wilde’s reception at the end of his life, a time when his name was both unmentionable in public and a byword in decadent circles. The focus of the second paper, “Frankenstein’s Amputated Paratexts: On the Occult Advertisements in Lackington & Co.’s First Edition,” was on the 1818 ads for occult books by the likes of Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus, philosophers all mentioned in the novel itself as having influenced Victor Frankenstein’s early education. Michael Van Hoose (University of Virginia) demonstrated the relevance of the quotations selected from the advertised books and their reviews to Frankenstein’s narrative, showing Lackington’s firm grappling to fit the novel’s treatment of overturned science and the perils of unsystematic reading within their own commercial focus on antiquarian supernaturalism. Finally, in “Parliamentary Alchemists and Electric Colossi: Scientific Imagery in Sir John Tenniel’s Punch Cartoons,” Grayson Van Beuren (independent scholar) presented a series of images by Punch head illustrator John Tenniel, who produced work for the magazine from 1850-1901. Interpreting Tenniel’s illustrations through the lens of nostalgia theory, Van Beuren advanced the theory that the cartoonist’s combination of the historical with the scientific stemmed from his deep-set affinity to medievalism, tying his political cartoon work to the gothic tradition. A short wine and cheese reception followed, allowing guests time to prepare for the long-awaited keynote lecture.

As the grand finale, Dr. Suzy Anger (University of British Columbia) gave the keynote lecture “Victorian Fiction and Mind: A ‘turbid, muddled, gothic sort of affair’ or ‘strictly measuring science’?” While giving the introduction, Dr. Micael Clarke (LUC) expressed her long-held interest in Anger’s research, having heard her speak at a conference prior to the publication of Victorian Interpretation (2005), which investigates Victorian preoccupations with interpretation in various areas of thought and social practice that still infuse modern interpretive theory and ethics today. Anger began her lecture by explaining her recent interest in psychological interpretations in Victorian novels, such as the manifestation of weather patterns as being related to a character’s internal feelings. However, as seen in several passages from Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, and traceable in the novelist’s own correspondence with Ellen Nussey regarding a weather front and her headache, it is apparent that Victorians also believed that the weather could influence their state of mind and physical experience. Interest in this and similar phenomenon was supported by the gatherings and publications of certain investigative societies, representing a blending of Gothic literary tropes with pseudoscience.

According to annual custom, the conference speakers and attendees, along with several LUC professors enjoyed a comfortable dinner and excellent conversation at the long communal board at Uncommon Ground after the main event concluded. Besides extending thanks to both Dr. Booth and Dr. Anger for their unflagging interest and contributions to the conference discussion throughout the day, LUCVS would like to acknowledge Dr. Micael Clarke, Dr. Melissa Bradshaw, Dr. Frederick Staidum, and Dr. Priyanka Jacob for their invaluable advice and frequent, enthusiastic support of the conference. Also, we must express overwhelming gratitude to our sponsors, Dr. Paul Eggert, Martin J. Svaglic Chair of Textual Studies, the English Department, the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, and the Writing Program. Additional photos of the event, along with the archived 2018 CFP, conference program, and poster can be viewed here.

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