Quarterly Reading Group: Casual racism in Victorian literature (12/5)

In the spirit of end-of-quarter conviviality, we thought we’d combine a reading group discussion with happy hour. To wit, please join us next at 4:30 next Thursday, 12/5, at the College Inn Pub, where we will discuss Carolyn Betensky’s new essay, “Casual Racism in Victorian Literature” (Victorian Literature & Culture 47.2, Winter 2019). Victorian-focused certainly, but with much to interest colleagues working in other national or linguistic contexts. By way of tantalization, here is an excerpt:


The first time a casually racist reference crops up in the Victorian texts I teach, I tell my students that the presence of slurs and stereotypes in Victorian literature reflects the prevalence of racism in Victorian society. I give them some historical context for the racism whenever possible and smile stoically. Yes, I say, that expression in the novel I’ve made you purchase and that I’m encouraging you to find fascinating is indeed racist. Let’s talk about how racist it is and why! The second time an explicitly racist reference crops up, we refer to the previous conversation. The third time it does, we look meaningfully at each other and shake our heads. The fourth time it does, we don’t even mention it. We learn, like the Victorians, to take it for granted.


Please email Matt Poland to RSVP and I’ll trade you a PDF of the essay. If you download the essay yourself, RSVP to me anyway so we know how big a table to get.
We hope you’ll join us for a chat, a drink, or some pub nachos — preferably all three.