Unlike the distinguished Special Issues published by Romanticism on the Net in the past, this is a not a “special issue” because of the topical focus of its essays. But it is special. It marks the first Victorian publication to appear under the auspices of the journal. In the event, Romanticism on the Net has made the decision to publish Victorian articles from now on. With this publication, the journal’s title is changing from RoN to RaVoN (Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net).
Romanticism on the Net has been a path-breaking scholarly work from the outset, and the inauguration of a Victorian number only underscores that fact. To have been asked to guest-edit this issue is a privilege keenly felt. As a result, I have tried to gather here a group of scholars whose work I know and admire. I did not ask them to write to any particular theme or topic but to submit essays that represent the current state of their research interests in Victorian literature and culture.
The essays are notable for the originality of their content and, in certain cases, for the critical methodologies they put into play. Stephen Arata recovers the arresting and badly neglected Stevenson novel The Wreckers and Nicholas Frankel and Herbert Tucker do the same for the poetry of George Meredith and Charles Doughty. While Augusta Webster’s verse has recently enjoyed a revival after years of inattention, Natalie Houston’s study of the 1870 Portraits volume gives a fresh reading of the book in terms of its status as material object. A similar critical method organizes William McKelvy’s formidably learned study of the cultural history of “The Lady of Shalott,” as it does Andrew Stauffer’s essay – focused on Dickens – of Victorian anxieties about the material bases of culture itself.
The concluding essay, by Bethany Nowviskie, requires special comment since it involves her critical reflection on what is being forecast in an online publication like this one. Her piece reflects practically on the significant critical and scholarly opportunities that are emerging with our new digital resources. It springs from the formal release in February 2007 of NINES – the Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship (www.nines.org). RoN and now RaVoN are integrated with the NINES environment, and Nowviskie’s essay describes how this integration will greatly enhance the work of scholars and educators whose research and publication are carried out in online instruments like RaVoN.
Romanticism on the Net has been a sponsor of NINES from its inception in 2002 to its first formal release this year. It was one of the earliest projects to promote online peer-reviewed research and publication and, as a necessary consequence, to press for a fuller exploitation of digital resources for humane studies. The expansion of RoN to RaVoN signals the need we have to integrate our work in broad cultural contexts. The essays here all exhibit a similar desire and need. Nowviskie’s shows how a well-conceived online environment will deepen and extend our critical engagement both with our cultural inheritance and with each other in our scholarly work.
He is the John Stewart Bryan University Professor, University of Virginia. He is the director of NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship: www.nines.org) and the editor of The Rossetti Archive. A Hypermedia Research Archive. He recently published The Scholar’s Art: Literature and Scholarship in an Administered World (Chicago, 2006) and is currently working on traditions of innovative and experimental writing from 1780-present.