Humanistic inquiry, e.g., as in our literature classrooms, is now more important than ever. So is feminist pedagogy.

It’s been a long year, and it’s only August. Among other bright career spots, I managed to complete two projects that have meant a lot to me, despite the way my sabbatical was disrupted by the squall of viral and racial pandemics, homeschooling, and a childcare crisis. My essay “‘Most men are human’: Race and Grant Allen’s The Type-Writer Girl” is included in the forthcoming collection Critical Insights: Feminism (August 2020). In that essay, I argue that Allen’s feminist narrator instrumentalizes racial discourses in her pursuit of liberal selfhood and gendered emancipation. Using postcolonial and anti-racist feminist theory, I argue that The Type-Writer Girl, much like Jane Eyre, shows how the consolidation of liberal feminist selves depends on domesticated “Others.” More broadly, I suggest that Victorianist feminist literary criticism needs to actively seek to become more intersectional. (This is not a new idea, and I especially love Jill Ehnnen’s essay on the subject, but it’s an idea that bears repeating.)

I’m very excited to announce that the special issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies on “Victorian Literature in the Age of #MeToo,” co-edited with my good friend Lana Dalley, is now live. This features nine substantial, excellent essays on research and teaching Victorian Studies in the wake of a globally powerful social movement against sexual violence, plus an introduction by Lana and myself, and a compelling concluding essay by Marlene Tromp–whose book on marital violence, The Private Rod, has been quite impactful on my life and my work.

I’ve also immersed myself in several of the summer’s online opportunities to discuss virtual teaching and learning with feminist and Victorianist colleagues. These included Ms. Magazine’s “Teaching WGSS Online: Preparing for Fall Classes in the Time of COVID”; as well as a “Teaching WGSS Online Working Group” instigated and led by Sheena Miller, a faculty development professional. In the interest of diversifying my Victorian literature offerings, I attended the sessions on Dickens and Frances Harper at the Virtual Dickens Universe. To stimulate and improve my remote course offerings, I participated in some of the workshops offered by COVE.

It is with some trepidation that I consider the start of a new school year, given that teaching and learning will look so distinctly different. But I join my colleagues in the Humanities at Washington State U in St. Louis in reiterating the value of humanistic inquiry during times like these to prompt critical thinking and to stimulate hope.