Comments (1)

  1. I love this, especially point #4. It seems to me that what you have picked up on is the speculative, generative spirit of V21, as opposed to framing it as a critique of the field (whatever “the field” actually is). While the critique aspect is certainly present in the manifesto (and is inherent in the genre), I think that the broader spirit of the collective is not “this is what is wrong with Victorian studies” but rather, “what if?” or perhaps “why not?” It provides a space in which we intentionally try to suspend the rules (whatever we perceive those “rules” to be), in order to see what happens. Done well, a certain kind of strategic presentism is, among other things, a form of counterintuitive history that grooves on contingency and the generative power of “what if?.” It doesn’t just map present concerns backward, but uses the delightful weirdness of the Victorian era to unsettle the terms of present debate. That experimental quality was extremely evident at ACLA over the past few days (including two seminars with V21 participation that I attended, Form as/against History; and Anthropocene Historicism), and it was extremely invigorating, partly because the terms seemed wide open. I mention that last point primarily to highlight the disjuncture between the image of V21 that seemed to be taking shape in the various Facebook feeds (as a bunch of angry history-haters) and the one that was playing out on the ground during the same timeframe (which seemed all about experimentation and supportive exchange rather than judgement or antagonism). That, finally, suggests to me a question about the digital platform itself: why does it so often seem to capture the conflict dimension rather than the generative, experimental, and collaborative energy? It is simply because writing (perhaps especially quick, short form writing) is hard, and thus it’s easy to be misunderstood? It is because people are just nicer and more forgiving in face to face interactions? Is it because you can’t actually buy someone a drink on Facebook? Picking up on your suggestion about the prospect for increased digital collaboration as a feature of V21, I think that the palpable discordance between the tenor of the digital and face-to-face versions of V21 that was dramatized over the past few days is worth giving some thought.

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