Event – Detail

Speaker Series
March 16 at 6:00 PM
Encounters with Ouida: The Liminal Epistemologies between Literary Criticism and Entertainment Journalism
Jesse R. Erickson, Astor Curator of Printed Books & Bindings

Biographical and journalistic accounts of the Victorian period novelist and essayist, Ouida (born Marie Louise Ramé), often include anecdotal encounters of her varying from the chance sighting to multiple visits in published conversations. These stories, which circulated in published form, would be repackaged, cited, and drawn upon in reviews of her work. Yet, scholarly conversations that both rely upon and interrogate the veracity of such anecdotes have produced a paradoxical binary in which, on the one hand, historical methodology rooted in documentary evidence must distance itself from hinging truth claims upon these anecdotes in the absence of supportive records, and on other the hand, the stories, which in some cases have developed their own canonicity through various repeated iterations, are inevitably woven into arguments as part of the historical record. In this paper, I argue that given Ouida’s complicated relationship with the press coupled with her resistance to the archival preservation of her personal life, the published anecdote cannot be disentangled from our understanding of the author, more as a celebrity spectacle than as an intimately-known literary figure. By looking closely at the relationship between published reviews and published accounts, I will show that the epistemological binary that divides the empirical from the speculative has always been messy, porous, and based more on our investments in advancing a claim to the historical truth than our ability to separate, definitively, fact from fiction.

Jesse R. Erickson is the Astor Curator of Printed Books and Bindings at the Morgan Library & Museum. Along with Sarah Werner, he is co-editor of the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. He worked previously in a joint appointment as Coordinator of Special Collections and Digital Humanities and Assistant Professor in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Delaware.  He served as the Vice President for Programs for the American Printing History Association from 2017 to 2019 and has served on the editorial boards of the University of Delaware Press and Birmingham City University Centre for Printing History and Culture’s journal, Publishing History. His research specializations are in ethnobibliography, alternative printing, non-canonical textuality, Black print culture, and the transnational publishing history of the works of Ouida.

Non-member price: $15.00
This event is free to Athenaeum members.