Collecting, Collections, and Collectors in the Long Nineteenth Century

deadline for submissions: 
April 15, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Literature Compass
contact email: 

Call for Papers

Literature Compass | Nineteenth-Century Networks

Collecting, Collections, and Collectors in the Long Nineteenth Century

Almost two decades ago, Literature Compass was conceived as “a navigational aid for finding your way across the living map of a discipline.” From the outset, the journal’s disciplinary map regarded the fields of Romanticism and Victorianism as two separate terrains. In the journal’s recent redrawing, the new section designated “Nineteenth-Century Networks” reflects a desire for broader conversations responsive to the collaborative, global, boundary-crossing work that has reshaped both fields and expanded their shared terrain. To celebrate (and survey) these fields and their dynamic scholarly output, we seek to commission a cluster of short essays on collecting, collections, and collectors in the long nineteenth century. 

For Walter Benjamin, collecting was a process of renewal. We’re interested in how an engagement with collection, broadly conceived, continues to drive renewal in Romantic and Victorian studies. Collection is both an intellectual practice and an object of investigation. To query the multifarious life of collecting in the nineteenth century is to think anew about consumption and classification, desire and discipline, trend and taxonomy. It is to contemplate the material traces of a global empire brought home, but also to plumb the private realm of idiosyncratic expression and self-fashioning. The organization inherent in collection almost always carries an affective charge.  

If collection points forward to renewal and revivification, its practices also speak to the fact of history and the limits of a rearward gaze. In Susan Stewart’s terms, “the collection replaces origin with classification, making temporality a spatial and material phenomenon.” As such, the power of collection has been vital to new work that expands the remit of methods like book history, material culture, media studies, speculative realism, critical imperial studies, and literature and science. New reappraisals of the canon stand as a reminder that our own collective practices and the institutions that mediate them must also be constantly reappraised, and new imperatives to describe and display underline how the methods of collection might be reanimated in the present.

Our hope is that the essays in this cluster will be as diverse and dynamic as the field itself. Some essays might focus on the idiosyncratic lives of physical objects and the movements that attended their collection and arrangement by, for instance, material, genre, format, or audience. Further, we imagine essays that might consider individual collectors and their distinctive practices, from connoisseurship and cataloging to hoarding and cultural theft. Other essays might approach collection in broader, more methodological terms, offering fresh takes on characteristic nineteenth-century obsessions in taxonomy, classification, and tabulation, or inquiring into how the praxis of collecting—then and now—intersects with gender, class, and race. Still others might meditate on the archives, institutions, and infrastructures that make scholarly reappraisals of collections and collecting possible, from nineteenth-century museums to twenty-first century digital repositories. Looking ahead to the future of Literature Compass and “Nineteenth-Century Networks,” we are interested in the plural assemblages that have replaced unitary narratives.

Proposals for short (3,000-5,000 word) essays should be submitted to Section Editors Jake Risinger ( and Daniel Williams ( by April 15, 2022. Solicited essays will go through peer review. Literature Compass submission guidelines can be found here.