I began Girls’ Literature and Culture in 2008, not long after completing my PhD at the University of Melbourne. While my scholarly work focuses on gender in nineteenth-century print culture, the freedom of writing a blog, where academic conventions can be flagrantly violated, has helped me to think more about how girls are situated in contemporary popular culture as well. The blog is therefore a melange of all things relating to girlhood from Victorian magazines and novels to recent debates about Lego for girls and child beauty pageants. The wonderful thing about taking the time to think and write about these texts and cultural phenomena in a different way than I would in an academic publication is that blogs are ideal for fostering connections. I’ve heard from other scholars and students around the world about their interests in colonial girlhood and obscure girls’ authors mainly as a result of blogging.
It’s also liberating, and revelatory, to start thinking about how Victorian literature and culture might interest readers outside the academy. Even when I’m writing about contemporary girlhood, I like to draw connections and comparisons using nineteenth-century examples. Writing about our period for people who are not Victorianists gives you a new perspective on the value and wide applicability of our research.
Michelle Smith: I am an ARC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Melbourne. My primary research interest is gender and empire/colonialism in nineteenth-century print culture. I am currently working on a project that compares girls’ novels and magazines in Australia, Canada and New Zealand from 1840-1940. With my grant colleagues, Kristine Moruzi (University of Alberta) and Clare Bradford (Deakin University), I am hosting a conference on colonial girlhood in Melbourne in June. More information can be found here. My first book, Empire in British Girls’ Literature and Culture: Imperial Girls, 1880-1914, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011.