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At the 2001 Victorians Institute conference, which took place just weeks after the September 11 attacks, Margaret Homans had rewritten her keynote address to leave plenty of open space. Instead of speaking about Queen Victoria, whose centenary prompted the conference's theme, Homans asked hard questions about the significance of Victorian scholarship in this new, changed world--and she wanted answers. Her keynote became a forum for the conferring valence of conference, a medium in which conferees could discuss our profession, our experiences with students, and our reactions and desires and doubts, in the wake of terrorism. As if academics were not already sufficiently insecure about the relevance of our work, the attacks stimulated a new urgency to do something that matters. Homans offered an opportunity to consider where Victorian scholarship might fit within that agenda. We came to no firm resolutions, and many of us have continued to speculate about the value of our teaching and scholarship in the months since September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, it feels risky to launch an essay on the future of Victorian poetic criticism from such serious ground. I am reminded of a review I read of Laurie Anderson's recent New York performance of "Happiness," a piece in which Anderson told stories, some musing, some funny, some poignant, about life after the towers fell. The reviewer writes that Anderson "opened with a nod to Sept. 11, describing 'nightmares of falling, of birds on fire,' and returned to the subject throughout the evening, but, to her credit, never let it overwhelm the proceedings." (1) The key line here seems to me to be "to her credit," for it suggests how easily the sense of "overwhelm" can dis-credit, or de-value, a performance. Such "nods" have become the stuff of a macabre mainstream marketing, of the sickeningly blunt nods of 2001 Superbowl spots and flag-waving advertisements. Now, anything more than a "nod" risks smacking of self-promotion or indulgence.