The Wide 19th Century
Edited by Sukanya Banerjee, Ryan Fong, and Helena Michie
The “long” nineteenth century, as we have come to understand, is a necessary reminder of the fact that literary and cultural movements cannot be straitjacketed by neat temporal markers and that periodization is, by nature, a labile, dynamic process. What, then, can be gained, in focusing on the “wide” nineteenth century? What kind of a heuristic does “width” proffer? What happens to the term “British” when we widen “its” century? And, is widening, with its suggestions of inclusiveness, necessarily a salubrious undertaking? What is gained, and what is lost? What is at stake? It is questions such as these that prompt this special issue on "the wide nineteenth century." We wish to examine the interpretive and methodological possibilities that emerge when we expand our objects of study beyond what has been ordained by the temporal—and spatial—purview of the British nineteenth century, which is to say that we wish to put further pressure on the geotemporal linkage that has largely tethered studies of the nineteenth century to the geographic confines of Britain. In our efforts at widening, we do not view the nineteenth century as a container of endless possibilities. In fact, for the purposes of a special issue of Victorian Literature and Culture, “Victorian” helps determine how far, or how much, we can widen. But in that process, the term “Victorian” itself becomes a more tensile one, reacquainting us with its dispersed provenance, its applicability, and a resonance that is as varied as it is abiding.