Helena Michie (Rice University) and Robyn Warhol (Ohio State): "Love Among the Archives: Writing the Lives of George Scharf, Victorian Bachelor"

George Scharf, Victorian Bachelor
April 1, 2015
All Day
Denney 311

Part biography, part detective novel, part love story, and part meditation on archival research, Love Among the Archives is an experiment in writing a life. This is the story of two literary critics’ attempts to track down Sir George Scharf, the founding director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, famous in his day and strangely obscure in our own. After discovering Scharf’s scrapbook of menus and invitations from England’s most stately homes, the authors began their adventures in the archives of London, searching  Scharf’s diaries, sketchbooks, and letters for traces of the man who so loved dining out.  Addicted to Victorian novels, the authors looked for a marriage plot, but found Scharf’s passionate attachment to a younger man who had hidden from him a secret engagement; they looked for a Bildungsroman, but found that Scharf never left his beloved mother.  Always short of money, self-educated, talented, irascible, gregarious, prolific, and snobbish, this son of a poor immigrant artist was to become the right-hand man of an earl he called “my best friend.” The written record of his nightmares, debts, gifts, and dinner parties comes together to produce a rich Victorian character whose personal and professional lives challenge what we think we know about sex, class, and profession in his time. 

Helena Michie, Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor in Humanities at Rice University, is the author of Victorian Honeymoons: Journeys to the Conjugal (Cambridge UP 2006); The Flesh Made Word: Female Figures and Women's Bodies (Oxford UP 1987); Sororophobia: Differences among Women in Literature and Culture (Oxford UP 1991); and co-author, with Naomi R. Cahn of Confinements: Fertility and Infertility in Contemporary United States Culture (Rutgers UP 1997). She has published articles on feminist theory and on Victorian literature and has been an NEH and a Guggenheim fellow. She is the co-editor, with Ronald Thomas, of the essay collection Nineteenth-Century Geographies: The Transformation of Space from the Victorian Age to the American Century (Rutgers UP 2002). Professor Michie teaches courses in feminist theory, literary theory, and Victorian literature and culture.

Robyn Warhol, Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English at the Ohio State University, is a core faculty member of Project Narrative and was Director of Project Narrative in 2011-2012. Warhol studies the interrelations between gender and narrative forms and is the author of Having a Good Cry: Effeminate Feelings and Popular Forms (Ohio State UP, 2003) and Gendered Interventions: Narrative Discourse in the Victorian Novel (Rutgers UP, 1989); co-editor (with Susan S. Lanser) of Narrative 2.0: Queer and Feminist Narrative Theories (forthcoming Ohio State UP, 2015); and co-editor (with Diane Price Herndl) of Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism (1991, 1997) and its successor, Feminisms Redux (2009). Her recent work explores the construction of fictional space in Dickens’s Bleak House, the “reality effects” in The Office and The Real Housewives series, and the relationship between serial form and representations of addiction and alcoholism on long-form TV series.