Category Archives: News

Coming Soon: The 18th-Century Common

In mid-August, I had the great fortune of attending NASSR 2012 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and presenting on a Romanticism and New Media panel with Andrew Burkett, Assistant Professor at Union College. Following our panel, I wrote a fairly brief blog post that introduced a DH project for which Burkett is co-creator and co-editor, with Jessica Richard (Associate Professor of English, Wake Forest University): The 18th Century Common: A Public Humanities Website for Enthusiasts of 18th-Century Studies.

For blog two of this three-post series on The 18th-Century Common (a series that I am writing for HASTAC), I am happy to provide some details about this project that its co-editors have shared with me before the website launch on October 1. This is the trailer, if you will. (The third blog will be a tour of the website after its launch.) Here we go!

The Mission of The 18th-Century Common:

According to co-editors Burkett and Richard, the mission of The 18th-Century Common website is to “provide a medium for eighteenth-century scholars to communicate with an eager public non-academic readership,” and Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Knopf, 2009) provides the perfect vehicle for a project like this. More specifically, the success of Holmes’ award-winning popular science book inspired the co-editors, along with student and faculty collaborators at Union and Wake Forest, to create a website that would continue to captivate and cultivate a broad audience of readers interested in 18th-century studies—like those that are so drawn to Holmes’ bestseller—and explore new possibilities for digital public humanities scholarship that reaches beyond the Academy.

In The Age of Wonder, Holmes tells the stories of several 18th-century scientists and explorers and their landmark discoveries, including Sir William and Caroline Herschel’s discoveries of comets and the planet Uranus as well as the creation of the forty-foot telescope, James Cook and Joseph Banks’ epic nautical expeditions, and Humphry Davy’s contributions to chemistry and the invention of a “safety lamp” for miners. Holmes’ compelling and accessible prose, coupled with glossy color image spreads, were so popular with non-academic readers that the book could be purchased at Costco for $11.

A Short History of the Project:

Since Fall 2009, Richard has convened an interdisciplinary faculty seminar at Wake Forest on the subject of “Science and the Arts in the Eighteenth Century.” In 2010-11, the faculty seminar used Holmes’ book as a case study for investigating possible platforms on which popular and scholarly discourses on science studies can meet and, furthermore, what could be gained from such a discussion. The faculty seminar received a Ventures seed grant from the Humanities Institute at WFU—a grant funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities—in order to explore these questions. The study resulted in The 18th-Century Common website, which is set to launch this fall.

What’s in the Common?

While the website is still “incunabulum” and being polished and augmented before its launch, the demo site reveals the skeleton of a robust and exciting project. The homepage and “about” page deliver requisite introductions to the project and a place to subscribe to a list for updates as well as share and follow the website on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook—crucial social networking platforms that reach through and beyond the Academy to a wider audience. There is also a “Forums” page that will serve as a suggestion box and collect website feedback and content ideas once the site is officially up and running.

At this very early stage, it appears that the primary content pages will be the “Explore” page and the blog. The “Explore” section contains a collection of short essays from authors ranging from undergraduates to associate professors in a series entitled “The Age of Wonder: Science and the Arts in the Long-18th Century.” For example, Trista Johnson, an undergraduate at Union College, authored an essay in this collection that calls for a reconsideration of Holmes’ treatment of Caroline Herschel as merely an aide to her brother’s astronomical endeavors. She reveals a fascinating gap in Holmes’ research on the correspondence between Caroline and physicist Mary Somerville, even linking to Mary’s letter in Google Books, and suggests that more needs to be published on Caroline’s work not as a collaborator with her brother but as an astronomer working on her own. The blog section features pieces written only by professors, at present, who share intriguing short essays, such as Jake Ruddiman’s piece on soldiers’ amicable and amorous relationships with civilians during the Revolutionary War.

Call for Contributions:

While the project aims to increase the amount of popular science writing for a public readership that is hungry for this material, it also offers publishing opportunities to the scholarly community that will provide the material. With the launch of this website, scholars of eighteenth-century literature and culture that usually publish their research in books and journals addressed to other researchers within their discipline and in neighboring fields will have a new free, public digital venue for sharing their work with an enthusiastic public audience that is potentially larger than their academic audience. Furthermore, sections like the “Explore” page will offer opportunities for students to learn how to research and publish short essays on interdisciplinary topics that are in vogue with both scholars and the general public.

Specifically, in order to create a site of “public humanities scholarship” that communicates the results of research to an audience not limited to the Academy, The 18th-Century Common will seek a variety of contributions that include:

  • responses by scholars and students that contextualize and enrich Holmes’ work;
  • short articles, media, and other content aimed at a wide audience of readers; and
  • content solicited from academic contributors written specifically for a lay audience, including descriptions of recently published scholarly work in 18th-century studies, interesting holdings in library archives and museum collections, and critical controversies or research problems in the field.

For more information on the call-for-papers or if you have questions or comments about this project, please contact the editors. To subscribe to the website and receive updates on its launch, enter your information here. I’m looking forward to the launch and to the scholarly and pedagogical opportunities that this website will offer for outreach beyond the Academy.


Are you participating in a DH project that is under construction or published and underway with similar aims? I think it will be important to consider the relationship between The 18th-Century Common and other literary DH literary and related projects that share the goal of public humanities scholarship. How can these projects learn from one another to achieve the best possible results? Furthermore, what does “success” for a project like this mean or look like?


Author’s note: This blog post was originally written for and published on the HASTAC website on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. Find the identical original post here.

Welcome New Bloggers!

We’d like to welcome our new NASSR graduate student bloggers:

Kaitlin Gowan, Arizona State University
Laura Kremmel, Lehigh University
Kimberly Kaczorowski, University of Utah
Carmen Mathes, University of British Columbia
Aaron Ottinger, University of Washington
Randie Sessler, NYU
Cesar Soto, California State University
Mary Ellen Williams, University of California, Davis

As you can see, our new bloggers come from a variety of institutions.

 They also have diverse research interests.  All of them, of course, have a passion for Romanticism, and we’re looking forward to posts about everything from research resources and new digital tools to pedagogy and writing a prospectus.

Watch this space soon for new posts from new voices!

Next Thursday 8/11, 10:30am: “The Job Market” Roundtable at NASSR

image by Oberazzi

“The Job Market” — NASSR Day 1: Thursday, August 11, 10:30am.

The NASSR Graduate Student Caucus is proud to present a roundtable on the job market. Come hear luminaries in our field give us critical advice on how to land the positions we’ve worked so hard for.

Speakers and topics include:

Alan Bewell (University of Toronto):  Teaching issues.
Teaching portfolio: What should be included? How do you
demonstrate you are a good teacher?

Julie Carlson (University of California, Santa Barbara):  When
is it best to go on the job market, before or after you are
finished with your dissertation? The MLA interview:  what to
expect.  Some tips regarding a good job talk, what to wear,
the importance of the question period, etc.

Frances Ferguson (Johns Hopkins University):  What to do if
you get a job offer?  How job candidates should talk about
their personal situations with  prospective employers. Job
negotiations.  What can you negotiate?  leave?  A prestigious
postdoc?  Perhaps also something might be said about how one
should understand things if you do not end up with a job offer
or a campus visit.

William Galperin (Rutgers University, New Brunswick):  The job
letter and the dissertation abstract.  Genre of the job
letter: What should be in a job letter? What should not? What
are some viable formulas? Should we follow the standard format
(dissertation description,teaching experience, etc.)?

Jonathan Mulrooney (College of the Holy Cross): Interviewing
tips, as well as preparation for campus visits.  (differences
between research universities, liberal arts colleges,
colleges, etc.)

Juan Sanchez (UCLA): sharing his recent job market experience
and post doc advice.

See you there!

Bankrolling Education

I began my first post as a member of this blogging community as a reflection on course organization, but as the week progressed it has been impossible to ignore some of the larger issues facing higher education—Romanticists and non-Romanticists, faculty and students, graduate and undergraduate students alike. Public institutions around the nation are asking if they will have state support next year—support that (although less substantive than it was in the past) most state colleges and universities rely on.

Faculty members at various state institutions have made a stand this week, protesting the massive state budget cuts affecting education. For example, as reported by Slippery Rock University’s newspaper, The Rocket , students and faculty at Pennsylvania State School of Higher Education’s Slippery Rock University rallied together in protest of the proposed 51.4% budget cut. Meanwhile, in New York, thirty-three people were arrested during a non-violent protest. The proposed budget cuts in New York will reduce the budget of CUNY’s senior colleges by $95.1 million and community colleges by $17.5 million. Why should we all be concerned with the finances of these state institutions, you ask? Well, because these seemingly isolated incidents help to create a narrative about the importance of education in America. Educational funding is often framed as party politics or treated as an investment in some imagined future (raising/teaching the next generation, forming a future America). Perhaps those are both true but as a graduate student who learns with and teaches nearly 150 students a year, I’m most interested in how such changes dictate who is and is not able to attend college. State (and federal) funding opens or closes the doors of higher education for many Americans. If states’ education budgets are slashed in the ways proposed, universities must find a way to stay in the black. Who will bear the burden? How will our classrooms be affected by such changes, if at all?

I was recently asked a set of questions meant to provoke interesting material for a banquet introduction. One of the questions asked, “If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?” I thought through all of the typical answers: violence, bigotry, misogyny, hunger and disease. I even considered the entirely selfish answers: deadlines and comprehensive exams. In the end I decided my answer was college debt. Not only because I’d love to relieve my credit report of this particular burden but because I believe that education should be accessible for those of us who would like to learn. Education should come at a price—the loss of ignorance, some serious intellectual exercise– but it seems unjust that the cost of education should be a lifetime of debt. Many of us excuse such debt by calling it “good debt,” but deep down we know there is no such thing. If college loan debt were good debt then it wouldn’t prevent my cousin from qualifying for a home loan, especially since he works a full-time job that he is qualified for because of his college education; but that isn’t the case, he cannot buy his first home because his educational debts make it impossible for him to do so (and he attended a relatively low-cost state institution). The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the Pell program, which provides “need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education” (which means that unlike loans, they do not have to be repaid). Even though the Pell program, through Congress’s continued support, has been able to

keep up with both inflation and a surge of new college students…low-income undergraduates are actually much worse off than equivalent students were 30 years ago. A student without a Pell Grant in 1980 paid less out of pocket to attend a public four-year university than a student with a Pell Grant pays today. That’s because between then and now, the cost of higher education has grown far faster than inflation. As a result, the federal government has gone from bit player to major investor in the educational part of higher education, to the point that it’s starting to rival states in the magnitude of support.

As state budget cuts continue, the reliance on federal support—through programs like Pell, FAFSA, and so on—will increase (as will educational debt). Students will be forced to make difficult choices about the financial viability of education. Whether we are (graduate) students and/or teachers at state funded universities or not, it is important that we advocate for education’s financial accessibility. None of this is new to those of us who annually navigate(d) those annoying, tax-like FAFSA forms in order to pay tuition bills. Even more familiar and heartbreaking are the pleas from students, “I just need a B in your course or I lose my (often state or federally supported) scholarship!” Robert Reich’s recent article might best summarize the importance of education, “Over the long term, the only way we’re going to raise wages, grow the economy, and improve American competitiveness is by investing in our people — especially their educations.” The ways that our governments approach, support, and finance education does and will continue to shape our classrooms.

Finally, hello! I am Teresa Pershing, another new NGSC blogger. I’m a proud member of the Mountaineer (West Virginia University) community and am happy to spend the next several months learning with all of you!

NASSR 2011 Proposals due Jan. 15, "Romanticism and Independence"

From the NASSR 2011 conference website:

Call for Papers: “Romanticism and Independence”

The NASSR 2011 Organizing Committee invites proposals for papers and special sessions on “Romanticism and Independence.”  The conference theme is capacious, and we encourage submissions that engage any of its many possible inflections: literary, aesthetic, political, social, cultural, scientific.  Proposals from disciplinary perspectives beyond literature and the arts are particularly welcome.  Please submit proposals of 500 words to by January 15, 2011.

In addition to paper proposals, we also invite the submission of proposals for complete special sessions on the conference theme.  Special sessions should consist of three presenters and a moderator (who may also be a presenter); please submit separate proposals for each paper and a brief description of the session.  In the event that a proposed special session cannot be accommodated, individual paper proposals will be considered separately.   Continue reading NASSR 2011 Proposals due Jan. 15, "Romanticism and Independence"

On the NGSC Blog: Why We're Here

Clearly, we started in medias res: our blog content and authors need an introduction, a prospectus if you will, for our project. But maybe it’s apropos that we jumped right into the thick of things …

There is a unique relationship between Romanticists and the digital that I have yet to put my finger on theoretically. With such enormous contributions to the digital humanities field made by Jerome McGann, Alan Liu, Laura Mandell, Romantic Circles, The Blake Archive, NINES, 18thConnect, The Poetess Archive and Journal, RaVoN, and other important Romanticists and projects too numerous to list, there must be something that draws scholars in our discipline to “half-create” and “perceive” in this digital textual research and writing environment. Here’s our half (or quarter).

The NASSR Graduate Student Caucus members in our earliest meetings wanted to construct a web “hub” that would connect our grad colleagues in discussions and issues relating to reading and research, writing, professionalizing, teaching, and braving the job market. One small piece of the hub is this blog.

We hope our posts will engender a sense of community among grad student Romanticists. At every conference I attend, I meet other PhD students in Romanticism who present their research on unique and important topics and engage with similar questions about the profession. (We’re also usually slightly less socially comfortable among the masses of chatting professors at conference events, unless we’re lucky enough to know another graduate student or professor at the conference — but that also makes it easy for us to spot one another.)  We’re thinking of this blog as another venue–one that is accessible and doesn’t require travel expenses–to talk to one another about Romanticism scholarship and teaching from our point of view. Not that our posts necessarily must address Romanticism–my first post on analog reading technologies obviously did not, Michele’s post on forming a reading group takes a geographically and chronologically capacious view of the field, and Kelli’s post on emotive reading uses her experience teaching Frankenstein to rethink pedagogical approaches to teaching close reading.

As a large and dispersed body of grad students of Romanticism(s), teachers, writers, readers, and probably aspiring professors, we will have this blog and our forthcoming website as a shared space of praxis, networking, problem solving, and collaboration.

The Blogs:

We bloggers include PhD students of Romanticism at varying stages in our degrees; studying a wide range of authors and subjects from flower books to Byron; and teaching different courses that include Shakespeare for Non-Majors, a survey of Women Writers, and Masterpieces of British Literature. We aim to blog on the issues that affect us, rile us, and inspire us as we novice professionals learn to navigate the field and establish how we will contribute to it. No bloggers have any pre-set categories or topics on which to blog, but surely our interests will drive our content. Our topics will include questions, challenges, and solutions to pedagogical issues as well as research, reading, and writing methodologies. We’ll blog about what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching it, what we’re reading or re-reading in the field that we find useful and exciting, as well as what professional activities we participate in (reading groups, planning conferences, attending conferences, trying to get published, etc.).

In sum: we hope that reading/skimming/glancing at our blog will engender connections at some level between those of us in the field that will make our work less solitary (perhaps even collaborative), and that will trumpet our victories as we leap ballerina-like through shrinking flaming hula-hoops and land–only slightly singed but hopefully employed–on the other side.

Belated introduction complete! Now, back to work.

General Notes on the Proceedings of the Vancouver 2010 Meeting

Notes on the Proceedings of the NGSC Caucus Meeting
August 21, 2010 – Vancouver, BC

A special “thank you” to all who attended our inaugural NGSC meeting at the NASSR conference in Vancouver last weekend! The general interest and enthusiasm expressed by those present bodes well for the future or this organization.

With many helpful suggestions from attendees, we accomplished the primary task of the meeting: to review, amend, and ratify NGSC bylaws. These bylaws will soon be posted on the NGSC blog and website in their updated form, and will remain in effect for the coming year.  Amendments may be proposed via email for consideration at next year’s caucus meeting.

We also announced the need to fill several positions on the NGSC Executive committee (visit this blog post for details).  Those interested should submit a CV and Statement of Purpose addressed to our Faculty Advisors (Jill Heydt-Stevenson and Deidre Lynch) by Friday September 10th, 2010. Submit your application materials to

Finally, the meeting witnessed a grand unveiling of the NGSC website. This will eventually replace the blog, and will be linked to the main NASSR page.  For now, it remains hidden from search engines and will undergo some further construction before going completely live. Those interested in viewing the website and making suggestions for items to include on it should visit the blog for details.

In addition to the caucus meeting, The NGSC hosted a special session at the NASSR Conference titled “’What is now proved was once only imagin’d’: or, What Every Graduate Student Should Know About Journal Publication.”  Featuring panelists from the editorial boards of several prominent journals, the session explored graduate students’ most frequently asked questions about publishing. A distillation of notes from the panel will be posted on the NGSC blog.

Thank you again for your enthusiasm, energy, input and support! As always, we invite your suggestions on all subjects related to the NGSC, by email, blog comment, or Facebook Group. With your help, we look forward to a productive and dynamic new year of building and improving the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus.

Kelli Towers Jasper, Secretary
and the NGSC Executive Committee
August 25th, 2010