Thinking from Below

Event Recap of An Underground History of Early Victorian Fiction, 2/13/18

Multiple generations of Victorian Scholars assembled on Feb. 13 to discuss Greg Vargo’s newest book  An Underground History of Early Victorian Fiction: Chartism, Radical Print Culture, and the Social Problem Novel, among them Anne Humpherys, Lauren Goodlad, Jonathan Franklin, and MC Hyland, who did a a printing demonstration.

Vargo opened his remarks by showing an image of the Masthead of the Victorian-era radical periodical The Poor Man’s Guardian. Underground and illegal publications such as this sought the freedom of press by advocating and boycotting against the stamp tax.

Vargo contextualized the image by discussing the political and civil movements of the milieu such as Chartism, worker’s rights, and anti-colonialism. British law enforcement waged a “War of the Unstamped,” jailing over eight hundred journalists, printers, and manufacturers of radical periodicals, one publication even bragging that their editor-in-chief was currently imprisoned.

Humphreys added that the book offers a new approach in Victorian studies because it provides an underground viewpoint, focusing on working class culture, political thought, and understanding the time period through the Social Problem Novel and other fiction work published in radical periodicals. This sentiment was echoed by Lauren Goodlad, who said “Victorian Studies needs to think from below.”

The event concluded with audience members having the opportunity to use an early 20th century table top press to print the masthead of The Poor Man’s Guardian.

Hear the full event below.