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Weird Scholarship: From Curious to Rare

Of the many cross-disciplinary and topical strands that have emerged from nearly forty years of Representations in print, one stands out: a kind of research that perhaps originated here in our pages and remains difficult to find elsewhere--what might fondly be called “weird scholarship.” We invite you to dip into a virtual issue featuring some of the most representative examples in this vein, available free of charge for a limited time.

It used to be that a Representations article could be positively identified by its opening anecdote, on the one hand, and the discovery of the weird or microscopic detail that turns out to explain everything, on the other. Bracketing the early years of Representations in this way is tempting, but the journal’s enthusiastic embrace of nonstandard lines of inquiry, both topically and methodologically, have long set it apart from other scholarly periodicals. When, in the words of Stephen Greenblatt and Catherine Gallagher, the journal came to express our interest in contingency, spontaneity, improvisation; our urge to pick up a tangential fact and watch its circulation; our sense of history’s unpredictable galvanic appearances and disappearances,”[1] they were making way for such now-iconic essays as Carol Clover’s “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film” (1987) and Michael Rogin’s “’Democracy and Burnt Cork’: The End of Blackface, the Beginning of Civil Rights” (1994). This strain of “metaphysical wit, in which academic method and deep research are yoked with unsanctioned subject matter,”[2] remains a through-line.

The essays selected for this virtual issue highlight examples from the early years of Representations, by which the contours of New Historicism became known, and many examples from more recent issues, which show how the conversation among disparate discourses has born strange and wonderful fruit.

Table of Contents

Terry Castle. The Female Thermometer, no. 17, 1987

István Rév. In Mendacio Veritas (In Lies There Lies the Truth), no. 35, 1991

Nathaniel Mackey. Other: From Noun to Verb, no. 39, 1992

Elaine Scarry. On Vivacity: The Difference Between Daydreaming and Imagining Under-Authorial-Instruction, no. 52, 1995

Michel Zink. Nerval in the Library, or The Archives of the Soul, no. 56, 1996

Jessica Riskin. Eighteenth-Century Wetware, no. 83, 2003

Sue Waterman. Collecting the Nineteenth Century, no. 90, 2005

Phil Ford. Taboo: Time and Belief in Exotica, no. 103, 2008

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby. Negative-Positive Truths, no. 113, 2011

Carolyn Steedman. Cries Unheard, Sights Unseen: Writing the Eighteenth-Century Metropolis, no. 118, 2012

D. Vance Smith. Fallacy: Close Reading and the Beginning of Philosophy, no. 140, 2017


[1] Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt, Practicing New Historicism (Chicago, 2000), 4.

[2] Wendy Steiner, review of “Monumental Histories,” special issue, Representations (Summer 1991), Times Literary Supplement, November 22, 1991.

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