Carla Manfredi is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Winnipeg, where she teaches courses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature. Her research focuses on Victorian literature, photography, and the history of colonialism in the Pacific Islands. Carla’s book, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Pacific Impressions: Travel and Photography, 1888-1894, appeared in Fall 2018 with Palgrave Macmillan. Her book tackles photography’s role during Stevenson’s travels throughout the Pacific Island region and is the first study of his family’s previously unpublished photographs. Cutting across disciplinary boundaries, the book integrates photographs with letters, non-fiction, and poetry and includes much unpublished material. Central to this study is the notion that Pacific history and Pacific Island cultures matter to the interpretation of Stevenson’s work, and a rigorous historical and cultural contextualization ensures that local details structure literary and photographic interpretation.
What is the most pedagogically transformative moment you have experienced in teaching the nineteenth century? I taught George Gissing’s The Odd Women (1893) in an upper-year Victorian literature course last year and staged a student debate about the “Woman Question.” Students impersonated various historical figures, including Grant Allen, Eliza Lynn Linton, Mona Caird, Sarah Ellis, John Ruskin, and Coventry Patmore. Watching as students discussed these figures’ stances on topics such as celibacy, marriage, domestic duties, and (un)employment solidified my belief that not only does the nineteenth-century social novel still matter, but that the cultural impact of “The New Woman” still resonates with students today. Furthermore, the experience inspired my inclusion of Gissing’s The Nether World (1889) and The Workers in the Dawn (1880) in this Fall’s Victorian literature seminar.
If you could eat or drink anything from the nineteenth century, what would it be? As a vegetarian interested in nineteenth-century social-reform novels, I’m very curious about Victorian vegetarian restaurants! I recently read a review of Brenda Assael’s The London Restaurant: 1840-1914 (Oxford UP, 2018) in the London Review of Books that describes the plethora of options available to London diners in the second half of the nineteenth century, including vegetarian restaurants (in the 1890s there were at least 30 in London). I’m not sure, however, that the common side order of porridge is much to my liking…
If you could go on a weeklong road trip with anyone from the nineteenth century, who would it be? Where would you go? And what would you do along the way? My traveling companion would have to be Robert Louis Stevenson. By donkey, canoe, train, or yacht, Stevenson was an insatiable traveler. My preferred destination would obviously be the Pacific Islands. I would love to have heard first-hand his trenchant criticism of Americans in Honolulu and wonder what he would make of the current demonstrations at Mauna Kea.
If you could own a business in the nineteenth century, what would it be? A refurbished umbrella shop! Maybe it’s because of actress Catherine Deneuve in the film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), but there’s something about the everyday romance of an umbrella. My shop would sell all the latest in umbrella technology including the integrated flashlight, watch, pill box, and compass.