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  • Forum:Keynotes: Key Victorian Texts

What are the key texts for Victorian studies now? Which canonical texts should we examine afresh, and which should we discover for the first time?

Taking our inspiration from John Lane's innovative late-Victorian "Keynotes" series, we invited scholars working in a broad array of areas (music, art history, museum studies, literature, history) to argue for the importance of a single text to contemporary Victorian studies. We asked them to interpret "text" in the broadest possible sense to mean any cultural product that can be read: a literary text, a historical document, a painting, a sculpture, a performance, or a piece of music.

The resulting forum sounds a note of change, demanding that we open the study of Victoriana to include Janet Hamilton's proud "Plea for the Doric," C. Hubert H. Parry's Darwinian Evolution of the Art of Music, and Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds's Sexual Inversion.

It also asks us to reconsider conventionally less valued texts: the Albert Memorial, sneered at in its own time for its gingerbread-like ostentation; the Victorian annuals, mocked as butterfly books and tawdry rubbish; and the long-forgotten letters between John Ruskin and his followers in Manchester.

Finally, our contributors call upon readers to see what are now canonical texts through new eyes: Oscar Wilde's "The Critic as Artist," Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and Henry James's "The Art of Fiction."

Just as Lane's "Keynotes" series provoked controversy and invited transformation, so too, we hope, will this forum prompt a re-evaluation of both treasured and neglected Victorian texts.

The Editorial Team [End Page 11]



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