Victorian Teaching Now: A Call for Reflections
In concert with other university, academic, and intellectual organizations and institutions, the V21 Collective unequivocally condemns all hate speech and hate acts with racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, anti-semitic, ableist, sexist, and bigoted agendas.
A central tenet of V21’s project has been the embrace of “strategic presentism,” a mode of literary and cultural analysis that opens our objects of study to longer durées and pursues transtemporal critique. Strategic presentism charts the continuities between the salient issues confronting our own era and those faced in the nineteenth century, including the spread of imperialism and settler colonialism, the rise of finance capital, shifts in norms around gender and sexuality, and the emergence of large-scale ecological disasters created by industrial activity. We hope now to help foster a robust discussion about how strategic presentism can shape our pedagogy in Victorian studies as we enter a new political era.
The global rise of ethno-nationalist populism — manifested by Trump, Brexit, Putinism, the French National Front and elsewhere — ushers in a new stage of crisis. The first place many of us began to grapple with this new reality was in our classrooms following the US presidential election, where we were met by both jubilant and devastated students. The classroom is the arena in which strategic presentism is most urgent, as we work to recognize and communicate the relevance of our period’s literary and intellectual contributions, as we seek to build our students’ capacity to understand and process the relationship between the past and present, and as we collectively strive to contest this present and inspire various visions for the future.
We invite readers to share in the comments section below thoughts about how you are leading your classrooms in ways that engage and address the challenges faced by our emerging political present. How do the insights generated by the V21 Collective about form, historicism, the Anthropocene, and worlding, among others, come to matter in your post-election work with students? What new approaches and frameworks are becoming more or less salient in the election’s wake? What Victorian literary and cultural texts are now must-reads? What concrete strategies for discussion, lecture construction, assignment prompts, and syllabus design are you using to productively engage students in strategically addressing Victorian literature through lens of the present?
We also welcome freestanding blog posts with reflections, assignment prompts and text clusters, and / or syllabi to be published on the V21 site. Please send them to v21collective at gmail by December 15th (and after as you continue to think of them).