In his landmark study of scientific revolutions (1962) Thomas Kuhn describes the moment of paradigm shift as one when a profession can no longer evade the anomalies that disturb existing practices. They have to be abruptly abandoned in favour of a new way of looking at and investigating things. We propose that Victorian Studies as an academic discipline has arrived at such a moment. The key anomaly built into ‘normal’ Victorian studies – the disproportionate focus on the cultural, material and historical textures of one nation (Britain, and arguably, on one country that dominated it, England) at the expense of the others that existed in relation to it in a thoroughly ‘globalised’ world-system – now demands we build a properly comparative methodology to situate whatever we designate as ‘Victorian’ in its full spatio-temporal dimension.
Calls for such a paradigm shift have been growing recently in Victorian Studies. To take just two examples, the V21 collective has called for abandoning of positivist historicism in favour of “politically astute and intellectually supple formal analysis” (2014); while Franco Moretti has proposed “we should extract Victorianism from the course of British History, and place it in the comparative context of nineteenth-century Bourgeois Europe”. We take neither of these recommendations to be exhaustive, and seek to bring these and various other methodological and analytical practices together to test out their suitability for a reconfigured Victorian Studies.