2015 Winner of the NAVSA Best Book of the Year
Helena Michie and Robyn Warhol, Love Among the Archives: Writing the Lives of George Scharf, Victorian Bachelor (Edinburgh UP), 2015.
We are delighted to announce that the winner of the NAVSA Best Book of the Year for 2015 is Love Among the Archives: Writing the Lives of George Scharf, Victorian Bachelor, by Helena Michie and Robyn Warhol. In this remarkable work, Michie and Warhol explore not just the life of a Victorian subject, but also the way Victorianists imagine the past. They turn what would seem to be the most unpropitious of materials, the spottily documented life of a not-so-eminent Victorian ("the most boring man in the world," as they dub him), into a searching, moving study. They interrogate, and ultimately refuse, traditional biographical categories. Any story of Scharf's life, they insist, must include not just his professional achievements (he was the founding director of the National Portrait Gallery) but also his love of eating and his social climbing. Michie and Warhol show us—persuasively, wittily, sometimes breathtakingly—how urgently we need new ways of comprehending Victorian subjects. Readers can also enter into Michie's and Warhol's own two-decade search for Scharfian information, as they search through thousands of pages of diaries, letters, and menus. In their imagination, originality, tenderness, and skill, Michie and Warhol teach us all how to rethink the archive. They make their love (for Scharf, for the archives, for each other) ours as well.
Helena Michie is the author of Victorian Honeymoons: Journeys to the Conjugal (Cambridge UP 2006); The Flesh Made Word: Female Figures and Women's Bodies (Oxford UP 1987); Sororophobia: Differences among Women in Literature and Culture (Oxford UP 1991); and co-author, with Naomi R. Cahn, of Confinements: Fertility and Infertility in Contemporary United States Culture (Rutgers UP 1997). She has published articles on feminist theory and on Victorian literature and has been an NEH and a Guggenheim fellow. She is the co-editor, with Ronald Thomas, of the essay collection Nineteenth-Century Geographies: The Transformation of Space from the Victorian Age to the American Century (Rutgers UP 2002). Professor Michie teaches courses in feminist theory, literary theory, and Victorian literature and culture. She also teaches classes and workshops on professional writing. Professor Michie has served over the years in a number of administrative positions, including English Department Chair, director of the Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and the founding Faculty Advisory Board Chair for the Program in Writing and Communication.
Robyn Warhol is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English at the Ohio State University, where she is Interim Chair of the Department of English and a core faculty member of Project Narrative. Her most recent publications include Narrative Theory Unbound: Queer and Feminist Interventions, co-edited by Susan S. Lanser (Ohio State UP 2015) and Love Among the Archives: Writing the Lives of George Scharf, Victorian Bachelor, co-authored by Helena Michie (Edinburgh UP, 2015). Her work in Victorian studies includes Gendered Interventions: Narrative Discourse in the Victorian Novel (Ohio State UP 1989) and chapters on affect and on seriality in Having a Good Cry: Effeminate Tears and Popular-Culture Forms (Ohio State UP 2003); she is also co-author of Narrative Theory: Core Concepts and Critical Debates (Ohio State UP 2012). She has created a website called “Reading Like a Victorian” (victorianserialnovels.org), making it easy to read installments of Victorian serial novels synchronically, alongside other serials and volumes that appeared at the same time.
Talia Schaffer is a professor of English at Queens College CUNY and the Graduate Center CUNY. She is the author of Romance's Rival: Familiar Marriage in Victorian Fiction (Oxford UP 2016); Novel Craft: Victorian Domestic Handicraft and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Oxford UP 2011); and The Forgotten Female Aesthetes; Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England (UP Virginia 2001), along with editing several special issues, scholarly editions, and collections. Her articles focus on Victorian familial, domestic, and marital norms, with particular attention to women’s writing and disability studies, and her current book project explores using the theory of "ethics of care" as way to read social relations in Victorian fiction. Reading the books for the NAVSA prize showed her how varied, imaginative, and impressive Victorianist scholarship is today.
Cannon Schmitt, Professor and Associate Director of the PhD program in English at the University of Toronto, is the author of Darwin and the Memory of the Human: Evolution, Savages, and South America (Cambridge UP 2009; paperback reprint 2013) and Alien Nation: Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fictions and English Nationality (U Pennsylvania P 1997) and co-editor of Victorian Investments: New Perspectives on Finance and Culture (Indiana UP 2008). His essays have appeared in Representations, Victorian Studies, ELH, Genre, and elsewhere. He is (still) at work on “The Literal Sea,” a book about the ocean in Victorian fiction and the possibility of literal reading. As he read the more than thirty books nominated for this year’s best book prize, he found himself astonished at the diversity and excellence of his colleagues’ work.