General:From Queen Victoria to the Sensation Writers



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Name: Vicky Simpson


Tell us something about your level of study and the type of institutional appointment you hold. 
Choose any of the terms below that apply to you:
* undergrad
* grad
* part-time instructor
* pre-tenure faculty member
* tenured faculty member
* archivist-librarian
* independent scholar
* creative practitioner
* interested citizen

Role: PhD candidate and part-time instructor

Institution: University of New Brunswick, Fredericton

Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: English, specifically Victorian literature, Gothic and sensation fiction, popular culture, and writing by women


Please write a paragraph about your persona as a researcher: your position, your discipline, your general research interests, 
and the extent to which you use computers in your research. 
You may wish to mention particular tools that you use with some regularity.

I recently completed my dissertation, which focused on the development of the cultural narrative of Queen Victoria, from the early literary experiments and counter-narratives about her to the frenzied reginamania that coincided with mass-market sensation fiction in the late 1850s and early 1860s. I also teach part-time at UNB; last year I taught an upper-level women’s writing course, and I’m currently teaching the history of the British novel to the nineteenth century. I regularly use computers and databases (such as Orlando, Google Books, the English Poetry Database) in my research, and I also use a course management system with a blog function (Blackboard) for my classes.


Please provide a short description of the larger project from which this story emerges.

I used several databases while working on my dissertation, titled Royally Fictional Families: From Queen Victoria to the Sensation Writers.


Each of the chapters in my dissertation makes use of full-text digitized collections of nineteenth-century sources. The resource that I used most regularly was the VICTORIA list-serv, which connects scholars and readers interested in Victorian literature and culture from all around the world. I receive the messages that people post each day in digest form and can post in response and interact with a community of people from wide-ranging backgrounds, but I can also search the history back to the early 1990s to see what issues and texts have been explored in the past.

Other resources were used for the individual chapters in my project. The first two chapters examine the early years of Victoria’s reign and the growing sensation over the manufactured image of the royal family. Chapter One details the British public’s fascination with the story of Queen Victoria and investigates the specific references to the queen and her family in the creative works of writers from the early to mid-nineteenth century. I was able to discover some works on the queen by lesser-known writers, such as Laetitia Elizabeth Landon, Alexander Rodger, Samuel Lover, and Caroline Norton; these works have only recently become available through collections like the English Poetry Database. This database provides access to a mass of poetry that helps convey the diversity and wealth of representations of the queen in the nineteenth century. The database is very simple to use; however, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the extensive results that my searches retrieve. Another drawback to this resource is that it does not provide images of the original texts, but transcribed copies. Chapter Two examines the savvy marketing of the royal family image, which made it the primary fantasy dangled before the mid-Victorian female consumer. The research in this chapter relies on several databases, including The Times Digital Archive, 19th Century UK Periodicals, and ProQuest Historical Newspapers. These collections helped historicize my study, providing the visual and narrative examples of how the idyllic royal family invaded every middle-class home, not only in the literature of the period, but also in the advertisements featuring the monarch, the royal warrants endorsing certain products, the royal souvenirs and carte de visite portraits, the court circulars devoted to the queen’s daily activities, the periodicals developed upon the queen’s example, and the royal rituals and traditions copied in households across Britain.

The second half of this project moves fully into the sensation fiction of the early 1860s and makes use of additional online collections. Chapter Three examines the sensation genre’s relationship to domestic ideology and commodity culture, with reference to three early sensation novels by Caroline Clive, Wilkie Collins, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, which suggest that the ideal family may be nothing more than a sham spectacle created by the property and familial roles that society has deemed valuable. Chapter Four provides an extended analysis of sensation novelist Ellen Wood’s most famous novel, East Lynne (1861), which turns away from the cultural narrative of the ideal family, questions the boundaries and categories of the family, and imagines bold female characters who repudiate the conventional roles of “wife” and “mother.” ProQuest Historical Newspapers provides access to nineteenth-century reviews of and commentaries about sensation novels and writers. Orlando provides information about the women writers in my project; the entries are very detailed and each piece of information is cited. Through Orlando, I can search for “sensation fiction” and find a long list of women writers who dabbled in the genre. Moreover, the list goes beyond Wilkie Collins, who is usually cited as having written the first sensation novel, to cite Caroline Clive’s sensation novel of 1855 (and this is how she came to be a part of my project). The only drawback in Orlando is that there does not appear to be a “print” option (I can cut and paste the material into Word but that isn’t always convenient). The Internet Archive and Google Books are also valuable digital collections to consult; they contain out-of-print texts, works that cannot be attained even through interlibrary loan because they are so old and rare. Through The Internet Archive, I was able to access old copies of Wood’s short story collection Ashley and Other Stories (1897), which has never been reprinted. Through Google Books, I can read nineteenth-century copies of Clive’s poem on Victoria called “The Glass-berg” (1851), Braddon’s un-reprinted novel Vixen (1879), Wood’s journal The Argosy, and other rare texts from the period, such as An Anecdotal Memoir of Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal of England (1888). It might be handy if some databases, like Orlando, could link to free full-text copies of writers’ works (perhaps Orlando already does this).

How broadly do the practices described in this story apply to others in same field, in related fields, etc?
* broadly applicable
* shared by some
* shared by few or none

Scope: I think my practices are broadly applicable to others who work in the 19th century, although some might not be aware of the multiple tools that they can use.

Does your story describe current research activities that you think CWRC will enhance (present), 
or future research possibilities that you can only dream of now? (future)

Timeline: Current research activites.

Please provide some keywords that will allow us to group or cluster related stories--or aspects of stories. 
Use as many of the ones listed below as relevant or provide your own.
* Aggregate
* Annotate
* Consider
* Discover
* Interact
* Publish
* Archive/Preserve
* Share
* Visualize
* Map
* Historicize
* Edit
* Network
* Collaborate
* Integrated History of Women's Writing in Canada
* Orlando

Keywords: Victorian, literature, consider, read, discover, interact, historicize, Orlando.

Are there parts of the story that relate to other CWRC stories? 
Please provide title(s) and link to the relevant story page.

Related Stories: "Blue Sky" Possibilities for Victorian Research [[1]]

Are there tools that do some of the sorts of things you'd like to see in CWRC? 
If so, what are they?

Related Tools: VICTORIA-L, Internet Archive, Google Books, Orlando, English Poetry Database.