During my graduate coursework in the late 1990s, Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction was revelatory for me. Published in 1966, it certainly wasn’t part of any hot, new direction in Victorian studies; it couldn’t even be described as canonical at the time. But it was vital for my own scholarly trajectory in its examination of our need for endings and how narratives play with temporality and shape our experiences both of reading and of living.
I’ve been thinking about endings a lot over the past year, prompted no doubt by the death of a parent and by my choosing to give up one of my administrative appointments, but also by our new realities in the post-pandemic academy. Perhaps it seems odd to consider endings just as we approach or anticipate the start of the new academic year—new classes, new students, new colleagues. But endings are bound up in beginnings, and to recognize their importance in our interpretive work brings vocational clarity. To begin anything is, paradoxically, to begin its ending.Continue reading