Tonight was the first meeting of my department’s new 19th-century reading group. My current project will extend into the 19th century, so I’ve decided to use this group as an opportunity to reconnect with the period. I am reminded that, as an undergraduate, I specialized in 19th-century European history in my course work, and I took a few 19th-century lit courses as a graduate student. Last year, I chaired a search committee to hire a Victorianist. So, I look forward to this reconnection.

The meeting went very well. We read an essay about periodization and whether there really was a “Victorian period.” The conversation was a lot of fun, and I think we all look forward to our next meeting in January.

One of the things that struck me about the article was that many of the phenomena the writer discusses actually “began” (if debates about or issues of class, gender, empire, sexuality, science, state power, etc. can ever really be said to “begin” in any particular period) in the 18th century.

During the search last year, I frequently joked with my colleagues about the idea of the long 18th century, the idea that the 18th century extends from about 1649 or 1660 to about 1820 or 1832, depending on who’s making the argument. Now I wonder if the 18th century shouldn’t be even longer — perhaps to the 1850s!

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