Monday, 17 December 2012

Reading Group Report: Edward Lloyd's 'The Christmas Log' and Victorian Christmas Stories

Led by Sarah Lill (Northumbria)

Northumbria University, 10 December 2012.

Our December reading group focused upon a short story by Edward Lloyd, whose festive title, ‘The Christmas Log’ soon proved to be deceptive in both tone and intent.  In contrast to the Dickensian Christmas story involving goodwill to all men, members found themselves reading an altogether different tale centred upon inheritance, illegitimacy and a desire to gain wealth.  The story concerns the efforts of a rich elderly gentleman to judge whether the beneficiaries of his will are worthy of their inheritance, a test which they fail miserably.  In contrast to Dickens’ emphasis upon Christmas as bringing out kindness and morality amongst all social classes, we thus considered why it was that Lloyd focuses instead upon their immorality, greed and selfishness.

An early observation was that there is little evidence that this is a Christmas story at all, with the title seeming anomalous to the plot.  Sarah was able to shed light on this by commenting that Lloyd often recycled successful stories that earned him profits, and that unlike Dickens, he wrote primarily from a pecuniary, rather than moral perspective.  Furthermore, it was suggested that Lloyd was more journalistic in intent, as opposed to Dickens’ preoccupation with being a great writer of novels.  However, despite the differences we observed between Lloyd’s and Dickens’ agendas, we could not help but wonder whether Lloyd’s attempt at a Christmas story was a deliberate marketing ploy to compete with the well-established Dickensian yuletide tale.

We found it interesting that Lloyd had a longstanding feud with Dickens, after plagiarising many of the latter’s works, and even managed to win a legal battle on the grounds that only ‘the stupidest of people’ could confuse the two writers.  By the late 1840s Lloyd’s interest in producing fiction was secondary to his attempts to establish a newspaper for the working classes.  Nevertheless, we discussed the ways in which he forged an identity as a writer, and to what extent his techniques were meant to subvert the wholesomeness of Dickensian Christmas stories.  It is perhaps no coincidence that it was during the 1840s that contemporary concepts of Christmas were born, such as the practice of giving gifts, Christmas trees and Christmas entertainment.  We considered whether Lloyd could be seen to capitalise upon these developing traditions, as ‘The Christmas Log’ seems to belong in music hall culture, and the rising phenomenon of the Christmas show.

In addition to discussing the way that Lloyd’s story fits into changing notions of Christmas, we also considered the extent to which the narrative, with its caricatures of unpleasant protagonists, outcast orphans and lone moral voice, belongs to an older Christmas tradition.  In particular, we related the plot to the telling of Christmas ghost stories, and considered whether in this context, the story is as alien to Lloyd’s usual tales of horror and criminality as it initially appears. We also wondered whether stories like it were intended to appeal to a wider social readership than Dickens’ writing, especially in terms of the way that a working class reader could enjoy the downfall of the social-climbing Jarvises, and the triumph of the orphan Marianne.  In this respect, we considered whether Lloyd’s work could be read as containing a moral message, and whether the theme of good punishing evil at Christmas time simply worked in a different way in his writing.

We found it significant that this is Lloyd’s only known Christmas story, a fact explained by his financial ambitions, and that his publications were steered by their ability to make a profit.  Nevertheless, we identified Lloyd’s commitment to developing an unusual literary style, which cannot solely be attributed to these monetary motivations.  In particular, there seems to be a distinctive journalistic tone to his published works that recalls his efforts to reach a working class readership.  We were interested by the fact that Lloyd hired others to write for him, yet at the same time, seemed to exercise an extensive creative influence over the works he published.  Certainly, his founding of mock newspapers with thinly-disguised attempts at delivering genuine news, implies that he was concerned not only with the medium in which he published, but also the content and form that his writing took.

Overall, members enjoyed reading an unconventional Christmas text, and discussing the wider issues it raised in relation to Victorian readership, society and print culture.  Although Lloyd would later distance himself from his early identity as a writer of fiction, we found this tension between his stories and his journalistic ambitions to be a rich and rewarding discussion point. 

Leanne Stokoe, Newcastle University.      

Monday, 3 December 2012

North East Forum meeting Friday 7 December

The next meeting of the North East Forum in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies will take place on Friday December 7th from 3-5 pm in Space 7 at Culture Lab, Newcastle University. Culture Lab appears as building number 7 on the campus map.

In the first hour, NENC member Beatrice Turner (Newcastle) will be talking about parents, teachers and pupils in Mary Shelley and Godwin.

After the coffee break, Christopher Donaldson (Lancaster) will give a paper entitled ‘Down the Duddon: Wordsworth and his Literary Pilgrims’.

We hope to see many of you there.

Calls for papers: a weekly round up

British Society for Literature and Science Conference 2013
Cardiff University and the University of Glamorgan

The British Society for Literature and Science invites proposals for papers and panels to be delivered at its eighth annual conference to be held in Cardiff, 11-13 April 2013.

The BSLS Conference does not have a theme (as it its usual practise) but especially welcomes proposals on the state of the field of literature and science as well as its relation to other fields. This year we would be particularly interested to receive proposals that reflect upon the interdisciplinary study of literature and science in the context of the debate about the present position of the humanities in academia. However, the Society remains committed to supporting proposals on all aspects of literature and science across all periods.

Proposals for papers of 15-20 minutes should be sent in the body of the email text (no attachments, please), to with the subject line ‘BSLS 2013 abstract’. Submissions should include the title of the paper, an abstract of no more than 300 words, a maximum of 3 keywords (placed at the end of the abstract), and the name and contact details of the speaker. The closing date for submissions is7 December 2012.

Contributors interested in organising a panel or other special session, or who have suggestions for alternative forms of conference presentation, are warmly encouraged to contact the conference organisers. The organisers would welcome, for example, workshops on teaching literature and science, or on specific themes in literature and science that cross period boundaries, or on specific published works with considerable influence in the field. Please email the organisers on, using ‘BSLS 2013 Panel’ as the subject line in email correspondence.

A bursary of £150 will be awarded to a graduate student on the basis on the paper proposals. The student must be registered for a masters or doctoral degree on 9 January 2013. The conference fee will be waived for two further graduate students in exchange for written reports on the conference, to be published in the subsequent issue of the BSLS Newsletter. If you are interested in being selected for one of these places, please mention this when sending in your proposal.

Further information can be found here.

Mary Russell Mitford: Local and Global
British Women Writers' Conference 4-6 April  2013, University of New Mexico

Panel Proposal:
Mary Russell Mitford: Local and Global

Papers are welcome on any aspect of Mary Russell Mitford’s long and prolific literary career spanning the 1810s to the 1840s, and including her poetry, drama, and prose fiction. The influential Mitford, her friendships, her popularity in England and America, her wide reading, her correspondence, her unwanted but real rivalry with Lord Byron, her politics, her successful negotiations with editors and theatre managers, her approach to the local and the global and to gender and genre all invite attention to expand our view of this professional woman of letters and of the transitional decades of the 1820s and 30s in nineteenth century literature. One goal of this panel is to bring scholars together interested in a collaborative effort to plan a digital scholarly edition of Mitford's complete works and letters.

Send 250-word paper proposals by 12 December 2012 (EST)  to Elisa Beshero-Bondar.

Robert Southey and Romanticism: The Lake School in Context
Keswick 29-31 July 2013

In 1813 Robert Southey accepted the Poet Laureateship—an act that, in the following years and in critical history, came to symbolise the divide between the ‘Lake poets’ Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge — once radical, now ‘reactionary’ —, and their disappointed admirers Shelley, Byron, Keats and Hazlitt. Two hundred years later, close by Greta Hall—Southey’s and Coleridge’s home—we shall explore Southey’s work and that of his allies, followers and enemies.

Papers on any aspect of Romanticism, Southey and the Lake School are welcome: topics might include: the politics of literary culture; the Romantics as reviewers and reviewed; prosody in Romantic poetry; Romantic biography; labouring-class writing; women writers in relation to the Lake School; Romantic locations; travel writing; colonialism and empire; genre; Romantic historicism; Romanticism and religion; Romantic science; Romantic networks and networking. We also welcome papers on individual writers.

Timed to run just before the Wordsworth conference in Grasmere, ‘Robert Southey and Romanticism’ will feature a visit to Greta Hall, Southey’s and Coleridge’s home (not usually open to visitors). The venue will be the Keswick school conference centre—right next to the churchyard where Southey is buried. There, we shall hold a wine reception to celebrate the publication of the new Collected Editions of Southey’s Poems and Letters. Keswick itself has many fine pubs and restaurants, some of which we shall visit. It also has an abundance of bed and breakfast accommodation at reasonable prices within walking distance of the venue.

The conference fee will be £150 (waged) and £120 (student/ independent scholar)

Conference organisers: Dr Carol Bolton (Loughborough); Professor Tim Fulford (De Montfort); Dr Ian Packer (Lincoln); and Professor Lynda Pratt (Nottingham).

The conference is organised in association with the Centre for Regional Literature and Culture, University of Nottingham; De Montfort English; the University of Lincoln; Loughborough University; and the Midlands Romantic Seminar.

Please send abstracts (200 words max.) to Tim Fulford by 1 January 2013 (stipulate if an early decision is needed for funding application purposes).

Resurrecting the Book: The Library of Birmingham, 15-17 November 2013

To celebrate the re-opening of the largest public library in Europe and its outstanding special collections,The Library of Birmingham, Newman University College, the Typographic Hub at Birmingham City University and The Library of Lost Books have united to host a three-day conference on the theme of Resurrecting the Book.

With e-book downloads outstripping the purchase of hard copies, with libraries closing and discarding books and with the value of the book as physical object being increasingly questioned, this interdisciplinary conference will bring together academics, librarians, publishers, artists, creators, designers, and users of books to explore a wide variety of issues pertaining to the creation, design, construction, publication, use, reuse, preservation, loss, and recovery of the material book, electronic and digitized books, and of collections and libraries.

Abstracts on the conference themes and their intersection and covering any historical period are invited. The conference themes include, but are not limited to:

BOOKS AS MATERIAL OBJECTS: the materiality of book creation, construction, production, use, reuse, and destruction; manuscripts and printed books; book-design, illustration, paratextuality and its manifestations; book-covers, bindings, clasps, vellum, parchment, paper, manuscript and printing and production processes;

COLLECTIONS AND LIBRARIES: book collectors, collections and their locations; missing, lost and found books; the creation, recreation, dispersal, sale and destruction of books and libraries; the movement of books and libraries; lost libraries; the impact of libraries on books; lost and revised editions;

THE ARTIST'S BOOK: altered books; book preservation and conserved books; books and material culture; books as art; books in art; illustration and illumination; woodcuts; engravings; marbled pages; book decoration; printmaking;

E-BOOKS: the creation, use and abuse of ebooks; neglected and lost ebooks; ebook readers; electronic libraries; books and collections and the impact of digital technologies;

PUBLISHING: publishers and publishing; the future of publishing; back-catalogues; print-runs; editions; archives; digitization and multi-media books.

Abstracts of no more than 400 words accompanied by a 50 word biographical profile should be sent to both Dr Matthew Day  and Dr Caroline Archer. The deadline for submission of abstracts is Friday 1st February 2013.

The conference will run in conjunction with The Library of Lost Books Project. This is an exhibition of 50 de-accessioned books which have been given a new lease of life as objects redesigned into works of art. The conference is also part of the Library of Birmingham's reopening festival. Event partners are: The Library of Birmingham, Newman University College, The Typographic Hub, Birmingham City University, Digital Ink Drop, and The Library of Lost Books. More information about the conference can be found here.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Calls for papers: a weekly round up

The Romantic Medium: Language and Lexicon
30th May 2013, University of Oxford

“The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible / Of that eternal language, which thy God / Utters”
                                                                                                  (Coleridge, Frost at Midnight, 59-61)

“the reason why I dislike it is that it does not describe the feelings of a rhyming peasant strongly or locally enough…”
                                                                                           (John Clare, manuscript marginalia 1821)

“Through sad incompetence of human speech”
                                                                                                      (Wordsworth, The Prelude (1850)


Stephen Gill (Lincoln College, Oxford) and Michael O’Neill (University of Durham)

The Oxford Romanticism Conference will seek to bring together academics and postgraduate students in a one-day event for discussion of the current study of 'The Romantic Medium: Language and Lexicon'. The conference takes its lead from the Romantic Realignments Seminars held weekly in Oxford and willseek to reflect advances in the past decade of Romantic scholarship. Language is to be considered in a broad sense, incorporating topics on genre to metaphor, translation to soundscape, through an awareness of the plurality of languages at play.

The Conference will be structured around three main branches of criticism—a historical approach to vocabulary and the nature of material text; theoretical approaches dealing with questions about the kind of medium language is and how it functions; and finally close readings exploring what Romantic writers were doing with language. The goal of the Conference is to unite what have historically been three separate critical approaches to the study of language in the period. We hope that in hosting this conference, these approaches can be viewed side by side and we can begin to assess Romanticism from a broader and more unified perspective.

Particularly welcome will be those papers considering the relationship between language and political and historical context, the failure of language as a medium, and how the tussle between primitive or vulgar and civilised or cultured language has characterised the new study of Romantic language.
Topics may include but are not limited to:

· Bibliography and/or Romantic vocabulary

· Language as a medium

· Metaphor, allegory and rhetoric

· Inadequacy of language an inarticulacy; need for language borrowed from other spheres

· Post-Romantic (Victorian, Modern, Post-Modern) appreciation and usage of Romantic language, including responses against Romanticism

· 'English Grammar''

· High/low, poetic/rustic, primitive/cultured language and what these constitute

· Classical and foreign influences on Romantic language

· Purity/chastity of language

· Musicality of language

· Linguistic authority

We welcome also other interpretations of the conference theme.

Oxford University invites submission of 200 word abstracts to be sent, with name, address and affiliation,
to The deadline for submission is 15th December 2012.

Transgression, Trespassing and Taboos in the Long-Nineteenth Century Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference, Cardiff University, 10 April 2013

The long-nineteenth century (1789-1914) is a unique period for the study of transgression, and the multiplicity of genres and media in the long-nineteenth century emphasises the need to approach this period from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Capitalising upon current trends in historiography and literary studies, this one-day interdisciplinary postgraduate conference is organised by the School of English, Communication and Philosophy (ENCAP), and the School of History, Archaeology and Religion (SHARE). The conference will feature papers by postgraduate research students from multiple academic disciplines, reflecting current research trends and demonstrating the value of sharing expertise from different disciplines to further understanding in this area.

The confirmed keynote addresses will be given by Dr Harry Cocks (Nottingham) and Dr Heather Worthington (Cardiff).

We welcome papers from Postgraduate Researchers in English Literature, History, and other related fields. Abstracts of up to 300 words for 20 minute papers and a one-page CV should be sent to no later than Friday 21 December 2012. The full call for papers can be found here.

'Global Romanticism': Romantic Studies Association of Australasia biennial conference University of Sydney, 3-5 July 2013

Much of the recent scholarly activity in the area of Romantic studies has concentrated on ‘the four nations’: England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The second biennial conference of the antipodean Romantic Studies Association of Australasia would like to turn that on its head and to ask, again, about British Romanticism’s engagement with the rest of the world, and about the rest of the world’s engagement with British Romanticism. In the past twenty years, scholars like those who have agreed to share their thoughts and findings in keynote lectures at this conference have established the fact that Romanticism and the Romantic period need to be understood in global terms. Far from being a merely national or even European phenomenon, Romanticism – or the cluster of ideas and cultural forms and the structures of feeling associated with Romanticism – is shot through with the experience and imagination of the Americas, including the recently United States with whom Britain was briefly at war; of Africa, north, south, and central; of Russia and the Ottoman empire; of Persia, India, China and the far east; of the penal colony of New South Wales and beyond that the Pacific and its islands. Again, as with our first biennial conference on Romanticism and the Tyranny of Distance, we are inviting scholars from all over the globe to use the historical distance of the twenty first century and the geographical and cultural distance of the Great South Land to reconceptualise and remap the geographical and cultural field of Romantic studies. We encourage submissions covering the fullest possible range of meanings of ‘global Romanticism’ – including but not limited to

• Romantic exploration, real and imagined: ‘We were the first, that ever burst, into that silent sea’

• Romantic places, real and imagined: imaging the exotic and the remote in art and literature

• Romantic cosmopolitanism

• Romanticism, empire, and informal empire

• The globe writes back: Romantic correspondence

• The globe writes back: the global interpretation of British Romanticism, then and since

• The world as subject: colonialism

• The world as specimen: colonies of knowledge

• The world as convert: missionary activity

• The world as convict: penal colonies

• Expanding the canon: foreign literature in translation

• Trading goods: company ships, country ships, and pirates

• Trading places: transportation, migration, settlement, and repatriation

• Trading forms: the global circulation of literature, music and art

• Trading people: slavery and the slave trade

• ‘Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red’: Romanticism and race

Scholars interested in proposing 20-minute papers, or full panels of three speakers and a chair, should submitabstracts of between 250 and 400 words and a 150-word bio by 28 February 2013 through the RSAA’s website. For further enquiries, please contact Will Christie or Angie Dunstan.

Gendering the Book
University of Leeds, 13 July 2013

Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers for Gendering the Book, a one-day conference to be held at the University of Leeds on 13 July 2013. The conference will close with a keynote address from Professor Richard Cronin (University of Glasgow).

This conference aims to connect recent scholarship in the areas of book-history and material culture to work on Romantic constructions of masculinity and femininity by considering how men and women in the long eighteenth century imagined their relationship to textual objects. How did cultures of production, consumption, and exchange contribute to the construction of gendered identities? Did these practices and identities change over time, and how far was the book itself a gendered object?
Topics might include, but are not limited to:

· Gift books, anthologies, miscellanies, and collected works
· Men and Women of Letters
· Circulation, conversation, and communities
· Book-history and the book-as-object
· Textual production and consumption
· Authorial identity

Please send abstracts of 250 words and any other queries to Cassie Ulph and Alys Mostyn at Deadline for submissions: 1 March 2013.

'Yorkshire Tourism': one-day workshop

Members may be interested in attending this one-day workshop, entitled 'Yorkshire Tourism', on the practice and representation of tourist travel in Yorkshire in the long eighteenth century. The workshop will take place on Saturday 8 December 2012 at the University of York's Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, King's Manor, York.

Travel for pleasure or health in Britain and Ireland first became widely available to the affluent middling classes in the eighteenth century. For much of the period 1700-1830 Britain was at war with at least one of its continental neighbours; possibilities for European travel were severely restricted, and tourism within Britain and Ireland flourished. What did this newly accessible and eagerly grasped freedom to roam mean to the domestic tourist; how did the pictorial and/ or textual representation of journeys or sites shape their sense of themselves or of the country in the crucial period of its transition to becoming a modern and united kingdom?

The workshop is a follow-up to last year's successful event, The Grand Tour in Britain and Ireland. Each speaker will consider an image or series of images, a short text or extracts from a longer piece, and offer a brief exploration of the possibilities of this material before opening the floor to discussion.

Confirmed speakers include:
Ann-Marie Akehurst (York), 'Broken stones, decayed buildings, and old rubbish': genealogy of place, imagination, and identity in early modern York(shire)';

John Bonehill (Glasgow), 'Fairfaxiana: J.M.W Turner at Farnley';

Oliver Cox (Oxford), 'Back in the summer of (17)69: domestic tourism and the Yorkshire Petition';

Mary Fairclough (York), 'Infidel Missionaries: Robert Taylor and Richard Carlile in Leeds';

Harriet Guest (York), 'A Trip to Scarborough';

David Higgins (Leeds), 'The Wordworths visit Yorkshire';

Emma Major (York), 'Sibyl, Yorkshire, and the Two Nations'.

The registration fee for the day is £12 (£5 for students and unwaged). To register, please email Further information is available here.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Reading group report: the Great Exhibition

 ‘Joined together in love and trade, like one great family’: The Great Exhibition of 1851

Led by Beatrice Turner (Newcastle)
16 November 2012, Newcastle University

Deviating slightly from the usual format of reading groups led by individual members, this session encouraged participants to bring along and be prepared to discuss a text, artefact or other object related to the Great Exhibition of 1851. The title of this session, ‘joined together in love and trade’, placed emphasis upon the ways in which the Exhibition cultivated a sense of shared interests, both in terms of the wide-ranging implications of its commercial aims, and its impact upon national identity. The items brought to the session thus centred around these themes, as well as reflected the group’s interest in exploring intersections between the objects themselves.

The session began with an overview of the origins of the Exhibition. The brainchild of Prince Albert and rising inventor Henry Cole, it was opened on 1 May 1851 as a celebration of British invention, trade and scientific discovery. Founded partially as a response to the 1844 French Industrial Exposition, one of its key aims was to present Britain and its empire as the leader of global industrialisation, its official title being The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations. The icon of the Exhibition, the Crystal Palace assembled in Hyde Park to display the vast array of attractions, became our starting point for discussion. Opening the session with the idea that the Crystal Palace was an independent space, as well as a building that enclosed the Exhibition, members became interested in contemporary accounts of the structure. Engaging with the reactions of a range of writers, economists, industrialists and mathematicians, we considered to what extent the preoccupations of such individuals coloured their accounts of the Palace, or whether the building itself inspired a specific kind of allure.

Our first account was a letter by Sara Coleridge, daughter of the poet and by 1851 a writer herself. We were struck by Sara’s description of the Crystal Palace as transcending its connection to the Exhibition, with its ‘freshness of atmosphere’ and ‘freedom of walking about’ appearing at first inimical to other accounts of the business and compactness of the attractions. Although she acknowledges the immense crowds, it is the Palace itself that dominates her narrative. This focuses upon moving through different kinds of spaces, from the ground-floor view of the glass panes, to the galleries from which she could ‘look down’ upon the masses. It was suggested that Sara’s sickness at the time could have influenced her descriptions. At this point aware that she was dying of breast cancer, it is revealing that she focuses upon the calming effect of the Crystal Palace upon the invalid, rather than the individual’s relation to the exhibits at large. Certainly her favourable description of the structure’s openness in contrast to indoor spaces like the Royal Academy, implies that Sara prioritises the individual’s relation to their surroundings, rather than what they can discover through the Exhibition.

Developing the theme of how literary figures reacted to this celebration of industrial power, our second set of extracts were letters written by Charlotte Brontë to her father, following her visits to the Exhibition in June 1851. We were struck by her aestheticised descriptions of the Crystal Palace, ranging from a ‘mighty bazaar’ and ‘genii palace’, to more subtle allusions to Romantic poetry. For example, Charlotte’s suggestion that the multitude was ‘subdued’ by an ‘invisible influence’ recalls Shelley’s description of poetic inspiration in both ‘A Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’ (1816) and A Defence of Poetry (1821). It was remarked by some members that Charlotte’s sense of the ‘rolling’ tides of spectators also recalled Wordsworth’s vision of humanity in Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey (1798). Finally, her description of the throng of visitors as a ‘living tide’ that ‘rolls on quietly, with a deep hum like the sea’ is reminiscent of Byron’s veneration of the ocean in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto the Fourth (1818), specifically the lines:

                    Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean— roll! 
                    Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; 
                    Man marks the earth with ruin—his control 
                    Stops with the shore (CLXXIX).

This Byronic reference is interesting when one considers that Charlotte’s awe towards the aesthetic value of the Crystal Palace contrasts with her distaste for the ‘ruinous’ industrial aspects of the Exhibition itself. Although she admires the infinite potential of the Palace in its resemblance to a train station, a church and a temple, Charlotte distrusts the secular rationale behind the Exhibition and its appeal to the masses. In particular she seems to fear the universalisation of knowledge, a popular concern amongst the middle-classes of that time, which embodies the themes of unity and fragmentation that the Exhibition inspired. We noted that, notwithstanding her admiration for the beauty of the Palace, Charlotte remarks that she much preferred attending Thackeray’s lectures on eighteenth-century literature around the same time. We considered what this reveals about contemporary anxiety, as well as excitement, about industrialisation and national growth.

Our third item was an it-narrative from Dickens' magazine Household Words in which an Exhibition catalogue relates the history of its construction and composition. We discussed to what extent this tendency to ‘collect’ industrial developments embodied the growing belief that objects themselves had both a history and an identity. It was also suggested that this method of cataloguing was a means to accumulate knowledge in a ‘safe’ and methodical way, and that this was a trend specific to the mid nineteenth century. An interesting contrast was made between this household-friendly mode of cataloguing and the attempts to catalogue scientific knowledge during the 1790s, which in the hands of Rousseau and Diderot became a means to subvert political institutions.

We then discussed how the Great Exhibition could be compared to similar events concerned with national identity that took place during the nineteenth century. Our fourth item, for example, was a photograph of ‘The Greek Slave’, a statue that was lambasted by British critics for the artist's apparently unconscious gesture to the slave trade in America. We also considered whether its classical style undermined the desire to portray American identity during this period. Finally, we remarked upon the contrast between this derivative style of art and the innovations in firearms and technology displayed in America at this time.

Our fifth area of focus was John Stuart Mill, the famous Victorian political economist and friend of the organiser Henry Cole. We considered to what extent the reaction against utilitarianism in the 1840s shaped the Exhibition’s attitudes towards industrial and artistic innovations. Educated according to the systematic precepts of Jeremy Bentham, who sought to transform economics into a narrow discipline based upon calculation, Mill experienced a nervous breakdown at the age of twenty-one brought about by his reaction against such values. In his recovery phase, he turned increasingly to Wordsworth’s poetry, and as a result began to redefine utilitarian ideology in a way that encompassed more cultural concerns. We considered whether this more nuanced approach to art and industrialisation shaped the way the Exhibition was publicised. In particular, the focus upon art as quantifiable and labour as morally and philosophically useful can be seen to have shaped many of Cole’s objectives.

Developing this theme of redefining what was ‘useful’ in a cultural, as well as commercial context, we considered our sixth item, which was an extract from Charles Babbage’s essay on the limitations of a purely industrial society from 1851. Notwithstanding his characteristically mathematical thought processes and writing style, Babbage engages with this idea of redefining utility, particularly in relation to his belief that the ‘fine arts’ and the ‘industrial arts’ could be seen as interrelated. Most revealing is his comment that the ‘union’ of both arts would enlarge ‘the utility of both’. This was due to the fact that the mass-production of art would allow its positive effects to be wide-ranging, whilst the industrialist would be able to regard his advances as products of ‘the highest beauty’. We found these comments to be fascinating in relation to Mill’s determination to redefine Bentham’s narrow assessment of pleasure and pain, and refute the latter’s rejection of the utility of art.

Our final item was a recent postcard from the South Kensington Museum, which took for its design a contemporary steam engine motif from an exhibition of 1922. This object shared parallels with several charming designs that we looked at from Punch magazine, which reinforced a sense of shifting gender, social and class identities. We considered that the Great Exhibition can thus be seen as sparking the museum phenomenon in Britain and beyond. In later decades this can be seen as taking a more sinister turn, with the increasing rise of colonialism in Africa and Asia, and the desire to accumulate increasingly exotic objects. Nevertheless, we concluded that the Exhibition’s effects can be regarded as largely positive, prizing invention, intellectual inquiry and a certain kind of egalitarianism in an age of empire and Victorian patriarchy.

Leanne Stokoe, Newcastle University.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Calls for papers: a weekly round up

Interiority in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain: Beyond Subjectivity
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., 12 April  2013

The potential for discovery of what is or was “interior” fires the curiosity of scholars of British history and culture, whether the subject of investigation is the parlor of a middle-class Victorian family or the emotional life of an eighteenth-century Methodist. The Rutgers British Studies Center will hold a one-day interdisciplinary conference on April 12, 2013 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey on interiority in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. Broadly understood, "interiority" might include any topic that concerns mental or material phenomena that are conceived to be interior, internal, inner, or inward, often but by no means always in explicit distinction from what is exterior, external, outer, or outward. Listed below are a number of such topics; the aim of this list is to be suggestive, not exhaustive. We encourage topics that in some fashion reflect on historical changes in interiority.

A great deal of excellent work has been done in these period fields on the idea of interiority as psychological subjectivity. We value this work. At the same time—and with no intention of proscribing papers that thoughtfully extend it —we especially encourage papers that go beyond this concentration and that allow relations and correlations to be drawn between different senses of interiority. In this spirit we also aim to bring together a range of interdisciplinary scholarship. We invite those interested to submit proposals of about 250 words by 15 December 2012 to Kathryn Yeniyurt.

Romanticism at the Fin de Siècle
Trinity College Oxford, 14-15 June 2013

Keynote Speaker: Professor Joseph Bristow (UCLA)

This conference places Romanticism at the core of the British Fin de Siècle. As an anti-Victorian movement, the British Fin de Siècle is often read forwards and absorbed into a ‘long twentieth century’, in which it takes the shape of a prehistory or an embryonic form of modernism. By contrast, Fin-de-Siècle authors and critics looked back to the past in order to invent their present and imagine their future. Just at the time when the concept of ‘Victorian’ crystallized a distinct set of literary and cultural practices, the radical break with the immediate past found in Romanticism an alternative poetics and politics of the present.

The Fin de Siècle played a distinctive and crucial role in the reception of Romanticism. Romanticism emerged as a category, a dialogue of forms, a movement, a style, and a body of cultural practices. The Fin de Siècle established the texts of major authors such as Blake and Shelley, invented a Romantic canon in a wider European and comparative context, but also engaged in subversive reading practices and other forms of underground reception.

The aim of this conference is to foster a dialogue between experts of the two periods. We welcome proposals for papers on all aspects of Fin-de-Siècle Romanticism, especially with a cross-disciplinary or comparative focus. Topics might include:

-bibliophilia and bibliomania
-print culture
-continuities and discontinuities
-Romanticism and Decadence
-Romantic Classicism
-European Romanticism and the English Fin de Siècle

Deadline for abstracts: 15 January 2013Please email 300-word abstracts to

Conference organisers: Luisa Calè (Birkbeck) and Stefano Evangelista (Oxford)

This conference is co-organised by the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies and the English Faculty of Oxford University with the support of the MHRA

Modern Walks: Human Locomotion during the Long Nineteenth Century, c.1800-1914
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 13-14 September  2013

The nineteenth century was a century of movement. Trains sped passengers across previously unimaginable distances, radically transforming our conceptions of time and distance. Steamboats chugged up rivers and across oceans, provided heretofore unimagined possibilities for travel, trade, and migration. Within cities, trams and subways redefined the urban experience and the urban landscape. Bicycles and – by the turn of the century—automobiles opened another chapter in the history of man and machine united in motion. Yet scholars have often overlooked a simple fact: people continued to walk. Indeed, this most basic of human functions arguably took on an increasing number of forms and meanings as the nineteenth century progressed. The window shopper, commuter, tourist, and trespasser made their appearances on the world stage. Stone-paved sidewalks, new rural pathways and public parks became available to the pedestrian. Old rituals such as the pilgrimage and the promenade adapted to the modern age. Newer practices, such as organized marching, rambling, hiking, and mountain-walking established themselves as important features of social and cultural life.

This conference seeks to explore the many various practices of walking that persisted and emerged around the world in the course of the nineteenth century, and into the early twentieth century. Our goal is not only to offer a new perspective on the history of movement but to ask what walks and walking might reveal about some of the major themes in nineteenth-century global history such as urbanization, industrialization, commodification, and imperialism. In short, how does our perspective on the nineteenth century change if we ask how people put one foot in front of the other, and for what purpose?

Proposals for 8,000-word, pre-circulated papers are invited, with comparative and/or interdisciplinary approaches being especially welcome. Please send a three-page c.v. and an abstract of not more than 300 words to by 15 January 2013.

The conference will be held at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on Friday, September 13, and Saturday, September 14, 2013. The organizers aim to publish the proceedings of the conference as an edited volume. Questions may be directed to Chad Bryant, History Department, UNC-Chapel Hill; Cynthia Radding, History Department, UNC-Chapel Hill, or Paul Readman, History Department, King’s College, London.

This conference is organised by UNC-Chapel Hill and King's College, London.

Romantic Imports and Exports: 2013 BARS International Biennial Conference
University of Southampton, 25-28 July 2013

Beware of the insipid vanities & idle dissipation of the Metropolis of England: Beware of the unmeaning luxuries of Bath & of the stinking fish of Southampton.
                                                                              - Jane Austen, Love and Freindship, 1790

            For the thirteenth BARS conference in 2013, we invite Romanticists to look beyond British Romanticism and towards cross-cultural exchange, at new media in the Romantic period, and on economics and related discourses. Papers and panels might focus both on literatures other than English in Britain (the market for translations and adaptations in the period, for example, or the importation of categories derived from Indian or Far Eastern originals by Hegel, Hölderlin or Shelley), and on the fate of British Romantic literature and thought on the Continent and in Canada and the United States.

Topics may include: cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary borrowings and exchanges; translation, adaptation and mediation; revolution as an import; exile and emigration; European and transatlantic exchanges and networks. These indicative topics are intended to be inclusive, and to offer opportunities for all Romanticists to participate, but we would also welcome proposals for panels and papers which interpreted the conference rubric more narrowly, and took inspiration from Southampton’s history as an ancient port: trading routes; marine nature and culture; travelling by water; exotic cargoes from home and abroad; trading places; storms and shipwrecks; pirates and piracy.

We invite proposals both for panels and for 20-minute papers relating to our theme. Either should be 250 words, and should be sent by email to by 31 January 2013.
For more information or to ask questions, please contact us at For more information please see the conference website.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Calls for papers: a weekly round up

At the edge of perception: Victorian conceptions of the unseen universe
A joint session for ACCUTE/NAVSA 2013, Victoria, British Columbia, 1-4 June 2013

We invite papers that engage with the congress theme “@ the edge,” especially as related to the Victorian conceptions of the unseen. We suggest papers related (but not limited to) the following themes:

-Victorians and ghosts, seers, spirits, the occult
-Victorians and ether, magnetism, energy
-Victorians and the edge of the “real,”
-Victorians and the limits of human perception
-Victorians and faith, agnosticism, atheism, unbelief
-Victorians and space
-Victorians and mapping/seeking the unknown

Please send proposals of 300-500 words, along with 100-word abstracts and 50-word bios, to Lisa Surridge. Materials must be received by 1 November 2012.

Victorian Poetry: Forms and Fashions
A Conference in Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Victorian Poetry
19-20 April 2013, West Virginia University

Papers on any aspect of Victorian poetry and poetics are invited, especially those devoted to: the reconsideration of poetic forms and formal innovations; fashions, trends, and modes in poetry; the publication and commerce of poetry; poetry book history; and Victorian prosody and stanzaic forms. Papers devoted to the "fashions" of scholarship on Victorian poetry for the last fifty years are also invited.

Please send 300-500 word proposals for papers and a 1-page c.v. via email to: by 15 November 2012.

Transatlantic Literary & Cultural Relations: the 9th Biennial Symbiosis 2013 Conference
Brunel University, London, UK, 27th June to  30th June, 2013

Keynote Speakers:

Prof. Paul Gilroy (King’s College, London); Prof. Peter Robinson (University of Reading); Prof. Robert Weisbuch (University of Michigan); Dr. Kathleen Wheeler (Darwin College, Cambridge)

Guest speaker: novelist Will Self on ‘My American Self’

‘My visit to this city has been exceedingly gratifying, on account of the freedom I have enjoyed in visiting such places of instruction and amusement as those from which I have been carefully excluded by the inveterate prejudice against color in the United States. Botanic and Zoological gardens, Museums and Panoramas, Halls of Statuary and Galleries of Paintings, are as free to the black as the white man in London.’
Frederick Douglass, to William Lloyd Garrison, May 23, 1846.

‘Of all the British painters, surely Hogarth was the only realist and the only man who knew his London. Lower London is exactly what it was when he studied it and hated it.’
—[1902] Willa Cather, Willa Cather in Europe.

The editors of Symbiosis, the Conference Directors, and members of the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing (BCCW) and the Brunel Gender, Sexuality Research Centre (BGSRC) and the University of Reading Modern Studies Research Group invite proposals for panels and individual papers of twenty minute length, which engage a wide variety of transatlantic and/or transnational topics in the literatures and cultural histories of the Atlantic world. The conference is certainly not limited to any local concerns, although papers that treat London (and particularly its suburbs) as a site of Atlantic cultural exchange and interrelationships are especially welcome, as are those examining the first twelve years of transatlantic literary and cultural responses to 9/11, from 2001–2013, and the significance of the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Pollyanna. Additionally as ever submissions are actively encouraged from all scholars and students of literary and cultural history and representation from every period from the earliest settlement right through to the present. Activities will include a literary event at the Keats House in Hampstead, London, which will incorporate a poetry reading and tour of significant cultural sites.

Submit 200 – 300 word abstract with details of your academic affiliation and contact details in Microsoft Word attachments by 31st January 2013 to the Conference Directors, Prof. Philip Tew (Brunel) and Dr. Matthew Scott (Reading). Add ‘Symbiosis 2013 Proposal’ to the subject line of your message, an essential detail since they will be sorted automatically using this search term.

Postgraduate bursaries: Creative Communities, 1750-1830

NENC members may be interested in the following funded training opportunity:

Creative Communities, 1750-1830 is an AHRC-funded Research Network based in the School of English at the University of Leeds, in partnership with the University of Southampton and University College London. Dr David Higgins is the Principal Investigator and Professor John Whale is the Co-Investigator. We are pleased to offer two bursaries of £300 to enable postgraduate students to participate in the network.

Recent scholarly work has begun to question the individualistic approach to cultural production by considering how social structures and relationships have encouraged creativity. Creative Communities seeks to advance our understanding of the relationship between creativity and community by focusing on key historical case studies. It will examine how connections between members of a community, and between different communities, can enhance creativity. At the same time, it will subject those key terms to rigorous historical investigation. The network will bring together established and early career researchers, as well as non-academic stakeholders, from a range of institutions, to debate a number of key questions about the relationship between creativity and community. How can a 'creative economy' enhance communal well-being? What is the balance of local and national in a successful creative community? How did communities of the past creatively interact? Above all, what lessons may be learned from understanding these past examples? What kinds of creative generosity can grow from this communal emphasis?

5-6 April 2013: Faith Communities (Leeds)This workshop, in association with the Priestley Society and the Thoresby Society, will seek to understand the significance of Dissenting communities in fostering creativity, and will also examine the under-explored creativity of other faith communities in the period, such as Anglicans, Catholics, and Jews.
20-21 September 2013: London’s Creative Institutions, 1750-1830 (UCL)We will investigate the connected communities generated by London’s cultural institutions and ask how did different stakeholders within them interacted in creative ways? To what extent did this lead to the production of a distinctive metropolitan identity? The workshop will also reflect on the continuing influence of these institutions in the twenty-first century city.
24-25 January 2014: Regional Networks of Creativity (Southampton/Chawton)How did regional networks – comprised of individuals such as publishers and patrons, or institutions such as periodicals and friendship groups – support creative endeavour? How far did the provinces offer a parallel culture or one running counter to the dominance of the metropolis? The workshop will reassess the nature of creativity in a context of contested civic and regional identities in order to learn from the example of late Georgian England.

We envisage that the bursaries will enable postgraduate students to participate in one or more of the workshops. Applicants must be registered for a PhD at a HEI in the United Kingdom. To apply, please send a two-page CV, and a covering email (500 words max) explaining how being part of the network would help your research, to the Network Administrator,
Cassie Ulph.

For enquiries about the project and/or applying for a bursary, please
email David Higgins.

The deadline for applications is 4pm on Monday 26 November 2012.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Colloquium: Writing Materials

Writing Materials: Women of Letters from Enlightenment to Modernity

Thursday, 29 November 2012, King’s College, London, and Friday November 30 2012, Hochhauser Auditorium, Sackler Centre, V&A

 Presented by The Elizabeth Montague Letters Project (an AHRC-funded research network), in association with King's College London and the University of Swansea, this interdisciplinary colloquium will explore the tools and environments of women’s writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It aims to create new connections between texts and material objects, linking intellectual history with its material medium – paper, quills, desks, letter-cases, ink and inkwells.

Speakers and participants include:

Pamela Clemit (University of Durham)
Dena Goodman (University of Michigan)
Peter Stallybrass (University of Pennsylvania)
Karen Harvey (University of Sheffield)
Clare Brant (King’s College London)

The first day at King’s College, London is free and open to all. To reigister for this day please email The full day at the V&A costs £20 for adults or £10 for full-time students; please register here.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Reading Group Report: Fallen Women, Devotion and the Queer Salvific in the Work of Victorian Women Poets

Special session led by Caroline Baylis-Green (Manchester Metropolitan University), 18 October 2012

For the opening October meeting of the academic year, NENC were delighted to welcome our first guest speaker from outside the region, as well as several new members. We heard a paper by Caroline Baylis-Green on the subject of religion and sexuality in Victorian women’s literature, followed by a wider discussion amongst members.

Caroline began by providing us with a brief overview of her thesis and her research interests to date. These focus primarily upon a desire to extend and develop contemporary concepts of ‘queer theory’ by exploring the ways in which nineteenth-century women writers raised questions in their work relating to how sexuality is contained, confronted and subverted along gender lines. Authors of particular note include Christina Rossetti, Michael Field, Anne Lister and Adelaide Anne Procter, whose poem ‘A Legend of Provence’ (1864) was the focus of this session. Caroline read this work in conjunction with Rossetti’s poem ‘Goblin Market’ (1862) in order to explore the subjugation of female sexuality, the dichotomy between the ‘angel’ and ‘whore’ in Victorian society, and the possibility of alternative kin structures to the idea of ‘sisterhood’ favoured by religious readings of these poems.

A major theme in these discussions was the ways in which women poets of this era both faced prejudice by their male counterparts and society, and sought to overcome this in their writing and their preoccupations. In a patriarchal Victorian hierarchy, poetry was not seen as an appropriate vocation for a woman, and so female writers were forced to contend with social hostility, as well as respond to forms and metres that had been constructed by an exclusively male canon, a famous example being Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh (1856), which narrated the rise of a female poet and her place in society. Caroline suggested that Rossetti and Procter reacted against the popular concept of the ‘fallen woman’ in Victorian society. By volunteering in refuges for former prostitutes as a result of their involvement with the Oxford High Church Movement, both writers gained an insight not only into how women could ‘fall’ from grace and society, but also how they could be redeemed.

Both Rossetti and Procter came from artistic backgrounds, and their writing can thus be viewed as indebted to, and seeking to subvert, male literary legacies.  Rossetti was overshadowed in her lifetime by her brothers Dante Gabriel and William Michael, who were prominent members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  Similarly, as the daughter of Bryan Waller ‘Barry Cornwall’ Procter, Adelaide Anne’s writing was associated with a poet whose verse was regarded as derivative ‘doggerel’ by his contemporaries Byron and Shelley. We considered how these connections to more famous male writers impacted upon Rossetti and Procter, particularly that the idea of a ‘brotherhood’ of artists could be equally applicable to a more subversive ‘sisterhood’.

Notwithstanding the obstacles brought about by this undeniably ‘male’ literary legacy, we discussed the ways in which Rossetti and Procter incorporated Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite imagery into their work. For example, the themes of fallen maidenhood and religious salvation in ‘Goblin Market’ can be seen as indebted to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poetry and art, in particular the blurred boundaries between sexuality and redemption. It was suggested that the protagonist Lizzie’s name and her character are reminiscent of the ill-fated Pre-Raphaelite model Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Siddal, who committed suicide following her marriage to Dante Gabriel and his many infidelities. Furthermore, the character of Jeanie, Christina's symbol of the irredeemable fallen woman, draws parallels with Dante Gabriel’s recurring prostitute figure - Jenny - in his poetry. Similar undertones are to be observed in Procter’s ‘A Legend of Provence’, which with its dream-like imagery and depictions of sexuality, are reminiscent of Keatsian poems like The Eve of St. Agnes (1820) and ‘La belle dame sans merci' (1819). An interesting point was made about Procter’s description of Angela’s vision of herself before her fall as being one of ‘sudden light’. This not only supported Caroline’s redemptive reading of the poem, but may also be seen as a direct allusion to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s short verse ‘Sudden Light’ (1863), which reflected on Lizzie Siddal’s death.

The latter half of Caroline’s paper focussed upon close-readings of ‘Goblin Market’ and ‘A Legend of Provence’. Whilst both poems debated the popular Victorian theme of sexual desire versus spiritual downfall, it was suggested that the erotic undertones and imagery of light and dark in both poems complicated readings of a secular or religious sisterhood as a platonic means for redemption. ‘Goblin Market’ in particular has its moments of fall and salvation taking place at twilight, the realm between day and night and between good and evil. This led us to consider whether the concept of a redemptive sisterhood, particularly Rossetti’s assertion that ‘there is no friend like a sister’, is quite as clear-cut and pure as it initially appears. We noted that there are no maternal figures in either poem, and that without this procreative function, could female sexuality be seen as straying into the erotic? Attention was drawn to the use of lilies as symbols of purity in each poem, but as Caroline pointed out, this was also a popular metaphor for female genitalia during the nineteenth century. We considered whether both poets were concerned, not only with the social liberation of women, but also with extending such emancipation into areas of sexual freedom and sexual choice beyond the heteronormative. Nevertheless, we recognised the dangers in trying to impose anachronistic gender perspectives upon Rossetti and Procter, and acknowledged that this is an interesting area worthy of further study.

A final point was made about the controversial use of the Virgin Mary in ‘A Legend of Provence’. The epitome of womanhood and motherhood, she appears to the fallen woman Angela, rather than the nuns in the poem, in order to raise questions about the ‘mystery’ of salvation. We wondered what Procter meant by this term at a time when Anglican ideas of redemption and devout behaviour were very rigidly defined. This led us to consider to what extent Procter intended to be subversive in a religious sense, and whether this was connected to her wider social aims. Is it really salvation itself she presents as a mystery, or the ways in which it is distorted by an unenlightened, prejudiced and patriarchal society? 

All of these questions inspired some fascinating discussion and extended the literary premise of Caroline’s paper into wider debates about nineteenth-century society, art and the relationship between Romantic and Victorian outlooks. The NENC Organising Committee would like to thank Caroline for her informative, rich and thought-provoking paper, and for introducing the research group to Procter’s work. 

Leanne Stokoe, Newcastle University.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Calls for papers: a weekly round up

'Affect and Environmentalism in the Nineteenth Century': Tenth Biennial Conference, Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE)
28 May - 1 June 2013, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Love plays a central role in the British Romantics' nascent environmentalism, from Erasmus Darwin's loves of the plants to William Wordsworth's love of nature (leading to love of humanity) to Percy Shelley's love of and secret correspondence with the natural world. But what exactly is the relationship between love, affect, and environmentalism during the Romantic period and throughout the nineteenth century? What shape do these relationships take in literature, theory, and experience? What can love and environmentalism in the nineteenth century tell us about current conceptions of environmentalism and ecology? Please email 250-500 word abstracts examining these issues in relation to nineteenth-century literature (British and/or American) to Seth Reno ( Please include your email address and institutional affiliation. The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2012. More information on the conference can be found here.

“We Are Not Amused”: Victorian Comedy and Humour

Victorian Studies Association of Ontario's ACCUTE (Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English) member-organized panel: “We Are Not Amused”: Victorian Comedy and Humour
1-4 June 2013, University of Victoria, BC

Comedy is under-explored in Victorian literary criticism, but it is pervasive in the texts of the era, from brief moments—Dickens’ caricatures and Thackeray’s asides—to more extended treatments, in Lear’s nonsense verse and Jerome K. Jerome’s widely popular Three Men in a Boat.

This panel invites papers that explore comedy, humour and laughter in Victorian literature and cultural productions. What functions did comedy serve in Victorian texts? When is its humour riotous and anarchic, and when does it reinforce norms? How comfortably did comedy sit alongside the period’s idealization of moral and artistic solemnity? What effect does laughing at, or laughing with, texts and characters have upon our understanding of them? Why are the comic features of a scene or moment important?

Papers may consider such topics as:

-Parody, burlesque, farce and satire
-Ditties, jokes, word-play, wit and puns
-Black humour and the grotesque
-Clowning, the circus, and comic performance
-“Serious cheerfulness” and the mixing of wit and gravity
-Savoy Operas and the music hall
-Eminent Victorians and depictions of Victorian earnestness
-Failed humour or humourlessness
-Caricatures and stereotypes
-Comedy as social critique or subversive force
-Sentimental humour
-The science and philosophy of Victorian laughter

The date for submissions is 1 November 2012. Information on submission guidelines can be found here. The email address for submissions is

AVSA 2013: "The Victorian Environment"

Australasian Victorian Studies Association Conference: 'The Victorian Environment'
6-8 February  2013, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

With the pressures of industrialism and the clustering of workers in urban centres, the Victorians were acutely aware that their environment was changing. Torn between nostalgia for a countryside that was in jeopardy and exhilaration at the rapidity with which their surroundings altered, Victorian literature and culture reflects a world undergoing radical change. Colonization and assisted emigration schemes expanded the scope of the environment still further, pushing the boundaries of the home environment on an unprecedented scale. These untamed physical environments enabled new freedoms, but also posed hostile challenges that invited attempts to control the natural world.

We seek papers of no more than twenty minutes in length, which consider any aspect of how the Victorians engaged with or sought to retreat from their environment. Note that submission of an abstract signals an intention to attend the conference and that absentee papers will not be permitted.

Topics might include:

-Landscape/cultivation of the land
-Natural disasters and responses to them
-Pollution, industrialism and place
-The weather/climate
-The country versus the city
-The natural world
-Sanitation, health, and disease
-The colonial environment
-Science and the classification of nature
-Exploration and mapping
-Visualizing the Victorian environment
-Soundscapes and noise pollution
-Excavation and archaeology
-The environment of Victorian studies in the present
-Nostalgia/the sense of an elsewhere

Please email abstracts of 200 words maximum and a brief biographical note to by no later than 30 November 2012.

Further information about the conference can be found here.

Alternative Enlightenments: An interdisciplinary conference in the humanities
26-28 April 2013, Ankara (Turkey)

From Kant’s seminal essay “What is Enlightenment?” through the manifold critical responses of the twentieth century, the ambiguity of a term designating both a paradigmatic approach to human thought or autonomy, and a specific historical period, remains. How distinct is the concept of Enlightenment from the era of European history long taken to have discovered or invented it? This symposium proposes an examination of Enlightenments in the plural, welcoming both revisionary accounts of the Age of Enlightenment and explorations of Enlightenment in other times and places.

With an eye to translating the idea of Enlightenment, scholars have traced its many national and regional varieties. Discussions of an Ionian or an Athenian Enlightenment, of movements of Enlightenment in the medieval caliphate or the Ottoman Empire, share the contemporary intellectual landscape with debates on the continuing relevance of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment to the current global order. We are interested in the way the term has been borrowed and translated, creating a constellation of “Enlightenments” bound together by family resemblances. Is there still a singular project of Enlightenment (i.e. the critique of received ideas and inherited values, in particular religious ones; the promotion of rational or empirical methods; the creation of cosmopolitan and secular spaces), or has the term broken out of its historical mold to designate a more fluid set of cultural projects and practices?

Where do we stand today with regard to the Enlightenment? After all, the continuation of a politics and practice of Enlightenment may depend on the spatial and temporal translations we propose to explore. Such displacements give new life to the idea of Enlightenment, even as the term is contested, criticized and transformed.

Topics of interest include:

-Ionian / Athenian Enlightenment
-Secularism, materialism, the immanent frame
-Literatures of Worldliness in East and West: Renaissance, Tanzimat, Arab and
-Near Eastern Enlightenments
-Orientalism and Occidentalism
-Diplomacy, correspondence, the figure of the court philosopher
-What is Enlightenment: Kant, Foucault and beyond
-(The) Enlightenment in the Americas
-The public and the private: cross-cultural studies of an Enlightenment distinction
-Travel literature, satire, and utopian fiction
-Nineteenth century national Enlightenments, nationalism vs. internationalism
-Enlightenment and Empire
-The rhetoric of Enlightenment in geopolitics, the claims of the West
-Material culture, exchange, circulation, accumulation, dispersal
-Enlightenment and its others: mysticism, hermeticism and the arcane
-The metaphorics of Enlightenment: illumination, dawn, twilight and dusk
-Where do we stand today with regard to (the) Enlightenment? Critical theory / social and political practice

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to by 1 December, 2012.

A seminar at the Gothic Technologies/Gothic Techniques: Biennial Conference of the International Gothic Association, 5-8 August  2013, University of Surrey, United Kingdom:
“If Walls Could Scream: Gothic Houses Across Media”

As famously put by Roderick Usher in Poe’s masterpiece short story, Gothic houses have an influence on their dwellers, shaping their bodies and destinies to the point that not only the physique but also the life stories of the house and its inhabitants merge and intertwine. From “The House and the Brain” to The Cabin in the Wood, along an architectural route winding by castles, birthing houses, caves, and dens, attics and cellars, panic rooms and haunted apartments, via Bedlam Heights and the Overlook Hotel, dwellings are ubiquitous signifiers of Gothic across media. The convenors of the Seminar welcome proposals addressing the forms, significance and the multiple transmediations of Gothic houses and dwellings, from the Early Modern period to contemporaneity. Proposals systematizing the topic from transdisciplinary and theoretical standpoints are particularly welcome.

Please address proposals (max. 300 words) to both Francesca Saggini and Anna Enrichetta Soccio enclosing current position, affiliation, a brief bio-blurb, and a working email address. Proposals should indicate clearly texts discussed and the main argument pursued. Deadline for submission is 31 December 2012. Acceptance communicated in line with the 2013 IGA Conference schedule. For further information on the IGA Conference please see here.