Welcome to the first number of the first online journal of nineteenth-century studies!
Launched at Birkbeck, University of London on 1 October 2005, 19 is a new electronic publishing initiative designed to achieve two main aims: to publicise and disseminate the research activities carried out under the auspices of Birkbeck's interdisciplinary Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies; and to provide practical research and professional development opportunities for the large and active body of postgraduate students currently undertaking research degrees in nineteenth-century studies at the College.
The Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, first established in 1997 under the directorship of Professor Isobel Armstrong, has undoubtedly been crucial in establishing Birkbeck as London's leading research school in the area. It has over the last eight years convened the London Seminar for Nineteenth-Century Studies, developing a reputation for intellectually imaginative, cutting edge research, and playing a major role in the modern definition of this important interdisciplinary field.
Given the high quality of the conferences and seminars run by the Centre, and their immense value to academics and postgraduate students – particularly those working in and near London – the fact that they have generally not reached a wider audience in the form of published outcomes has long been a matter of regret. We have felt the need for some time now to capture something of the synergetic excitement of these academic gatherings, to preserve a record of the carefully coordinated programme of papers that each one of them represents, and to reach a broader and more dispersed intellectual community19 is designed to redress that problem. Birkbeck is an institution founded on the honourable educational mission of widening access, and this its latest initiative is intended to enable the widest possible access to our vibrant research culture in nineteenth-century studies through the electronic publication of refereed articles developed from material presented at our conferences, workshops and seminars.
Our launch number builds, aptly enough, on a conference convened by Sally Ledger on the theme The Moving Subject: Interdisciplinarities in Nineteenth-Century Studiesheld at the Institute for English Studies in London last summer. As well as articles based on brilliant papers first aired at this conference by Regenia Gagnier (Exeter) and Rohan McWilliam (APU), we include a fine critical piece by Anne Humpherys (CUNY) who has recently spent six months at the Centre as a Leverhulme Visiting Professor; a co-authored article by Jim Mussell and Suzanne Paylor (Birkbeck) about their innovative work on the major new AHRC-funded Nineteenth-Century Serials Project directed by Laurel Brake and Isobel Armstrong (Birkbeck) and Mark Turner (King's); a fascinating discussion of the current state of interdisciplinary research on nineteenth-century British literature and music by Michael Allis (Royal Academy of Music); and an intriguing piece by Patrizia Di Bello (Birkbeck) on the early nineteenth-century album, focusing on the album created by the wife of the founder of the College which includes, amongst other riches, unpublished work by Mary Shelley and Letitia Landon.
The electronic form of the journal encapsulates some of the key features of the Centre. As an on-line journal, it can not only reproduce the leading-edge research for which the Centre is famous in a fast-moving intellectual world, but can also provide a space for democratic debate and experimentation. A forum for the pursuit of genuinely interdisciplinary research, it has an advantage over traditional print journals in that it is capable of incorporating sound clips and visual features equally with the written word. It is, like the Centre itself, founded on a principle of collaboration, both between disciplines and between institutions, and whilst collaboration has always been a feature of periodical publication, it is made both easier and more interesting by the virtual possibilities of electronic publication. And it is an enterprise that involves the creative collaboration of postgraduate students and more experienced academics, equally with that of traditional scholarship and modern technologies.
The establishment of 19 is supported by seed-funding from Birkbeck as part of its provision of a first-class research environment and professional development and research skills opportunities for postgraduate students. In line with its commitment to the development of transferable skills as a part of all postgraduate training programmes, the College has awarded the Centre a grant from its Development Fund to fund the appointment and technical training of two postgraduate students each year as editorial assistants responsible for the day-to-day management of the journal. The first two students appointed, Holly Furneaux and Robert Maidens, have borne the major responsibility for getting the journal up and running and putting together this inaugural issue. This has involved a tremendous effort and commitment on their part, and the journal is a tribute to their hard work, resourcefulness, and their enthusiastic and imaginative embracing of the project. Thanks to you both, and to all the other postgraduate students, colleagues and contributors who have made this venture possible.
Anne Humpherys tells us in her article for this number that Jerome K. Jerome had ambitions for the Idler to become ‘a magazine that will be almost a need to thinking men and women.' At least we won't have to sue the printer after the first issue, as he did in the case of TO-DAY when his high standards weren't met! We look forward to seeing the journal evolve and prosper into a publication that will be ‘almost a need,' at least to thinking men and women working in nineteenth-century studies.