Troy J. Bassett has been with IPFW’s Department of English and Linguistics since 2007. Even as a young student he was drawn to British fiction, “I started researching the Victorian novel in graduate school where I wrote an article about the bestsellers of the 1890s,” he says. He was particularly interested in the popularity of Victorian novels because “so many of the books and characters still resonate today: Sherlock Holmes, Svengali, and Dracula.” Along with character and plot studies, Bassett is also well versed in Victorian novel publication history and economics, and these foci connect with an ongoing project of Bassett’s: At the Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901.
The bibliographic database, as Bassett explains in his video interview, is a wonderful resource for Victorian novel scholars around the world. “I get emails from people in different countries asking for more information about certain works, which is great,” and he adds, “I look forward to opening my inbox” because he never knows who he’ll hear from. The database is useful because Victorian fiction was published in many different ways: as three-volume novel sets, one-volume novels, or in serialized formats, for example. “We know the Victorians wrote a lot of novels,” Bassett says, “but now for the first time we have a sense of how many they wrote, who published them, and who wrote them”: Scholars, students, and the general public can use At the Circulating Library to learn more about their specific interests.
Just listening to Bassett talk about his research might be enough to put one in the reading mood. Until his upcoming book about the rise and fall of multivolume fiction in the nineteenth century comes out, here are a few of his more recently published articles:
If you’re new to Victorian fiction but want to learn more about some major themes that classify the time period, Bassett recommends starting with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (for themes like the gothic, feminism, and class) or Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (for themes like class, colonialism, and sensationalism).