Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Calls for papers: a weekly round up

Nineteenth-Century Studies on the Move: A panel at the 34th Annual Conference of the Nineteenth Century Studies Association
Fresno, California, March 7-9, 2013

In recent years the field of public humanities has created new ways of building connections among scholars, arts and cultural heritage institutions (libraries, historic sites, archives, museums, etc.), and individuals who have a shared interest in preserving, creating knowledge about, and studying people or cultures.  Some are turning to social justice causes or environmental reform as an outgrowth of their scholarship, while others are collaborating with local museums or communities to educate and preserve the cultural institutions they write about in their work.

This panel will look at the movement of our field out of the tower and onto the street, to address the intersection of scholarship and civic engagement.  Papers might consider any of the following:  How has public humanities moved interdisciplinary nineteenth-century studies in new directions?  How might nineteenth-century scholarship transform, reform, preserve, or better serve the world in which we live?  How might our collaborations with non-academic institutions and people help to reinvigorate the humanities and/or nineteenth century studies scholarship for the 21stcentury?

Please submit 300 word abstracts for 20 minute papers and a short CV (2 pages) to Heidi Kaufman no later than 6 September 2012.

Re-Visioning the Brontës: a University of Leeds conference in conjunction with the exhibitions `Wildness Between the Lines' and `Visions of Angria', 29 January 2013

Recent adaptations and interpretations of the Brontës' lives and works through film, art, literature and theatre raise questions about the continuing fascination with these literary figures, as well as highlighting the wider potential for artistic intervention or collaboration between artworks and audiences. Similarly, it is through innovative contemporary arts programmes that organisations like the Brontë Parsonage Museum and the Brontë Society seek to move beyond simple `caricatures' of the family and encourage diverse audience engagement.

This one day cross-disciplinary conference will explore the recent `re-visioning' of the Brontës through critically examining artistic responses and interpretations of their work. The conference will address ways in which the legacy of the Brontës is exerting an influence in a range of creative fields, and across a variety of media.

A collaboration between the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, the conference is taking place to coincide with two exhibitions. The first, `Wildness Between the Lines', at Leeds College of Art, brings together the work of a wide range of artists who have been influenced by the Brontës. `Visions of Angria', at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, showcases Brontë material from the University of Leeds Special Collections, accompanied by illustrations from students at Leeds College of Art.

This theme lends itself to a broad field of research and practice. Submissions are welcomed from academics, artists, research students and professionals, and the format is not restricted to formal papers. Topics for discussion might include, but are not limited to:

- The Brontës' influence in contemporary culture
- Creative adaptations or reinterpretations of the Brontës' lives and works
- Curatorial interpretations of the Brontës
- The myth and legacy of the Brontës
- Responses to exhibitions of Brontë material
- Representations of the Brontës in literary biographies

Please email submissions, including a title, 400 word abstract and CV, to: bronte.revision@gmail.com by no later than Friday, 28 September 2012. Successful applicants will be notified by the 30 November 2012. Further questions are welcomed at this address.

44th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
21-24 March 2013, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts

Three panels at the 2013 NeMLA conference may be of interest to scholars working in the long nineteenth century. The deadline for abstracts for all three is 30 September 2012.
More information on the conference, including a list of all panels, can be found here.

NeMLA panel: "Under Scott’s Shadow: Historical Fiction in the Nineteenth Century"

This panel seeks papers on nineteenth-century historical fiction and criticism. Most accounts of the historical novel emphasize the achievements of Walter Scott, and while papers on Scott are welcome, this panel also seeks papers on aspects of historical fiction that are often neglected or under-appreciated. How have different authors approached this genre? How have they critiqued or challenged the model of the historical novel created and popularized by Scott? Please send 250-500 word abstracts to Lesley Goodman.

NeMLA panel: "Victorian New Media"

How were 19th-century innovations in communication and information technologies experienced as ‘new media’? How were 19th-century new media represented in literature and culture? What were the effects on literary and cultural production? How can methodologies from new media studies be applied to examinations of Victorian technology and culture? Examinations of Victorian new media may include any form of print, screen, sound, or telecommunications. Send 300-400 word abstracts and a brief bio to Jessica Kuskey.

NeMLA panel: "Literature and Crime in the Early Nineteenth Century"

This panel will explore ways in which nineteenth-century British literature published before 1859 engages with issues of crime and criminality. Papers might examine social responses to this literature or situate issues of class and gender in relation to the broader theme of the panel, though a focus on these particular inquiries is not required. Possible texts include, but are not limited to, gothic fiction, Newgate novels, penny 'bloods,' and works by G.W.M. Reynolds. Please send 300-500 word abstracts to Elizabeth Stearns.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Blogging from the Jerwood Centre: 'the thing-ness of things'

At the local history group meeting I attended on my first morning at the Jerwood Centre, a debate broke out over the proposed use of the word 'things' in the title. Curator Jeff Cowton defended the term against those who felt it was too vague and sloppy, saying that he was a great believer in 'the thing-ness of things'. A 'thing' can be, well, anything, but I think Jeff was thinking of things that have a material presence: 'thing-ness' can be understood as an object's presence in the world, its capacity to be apprehended by the senses.

Working at the Jerwood Centre is to be surrounded by things with physical presence, most obviously the manuscripts themselves, as I've already discussed. But of course there are other kinds of objects here too, in Dove Cottage (above) and the museum just down the lane, that can be 'read' just as the manuscripts can. Dove Cottage is itself such an object.

To the left above is Dorothy's room. It's on the ground floor and, because the cottage is built into the hillside, partly underground. It's low-ceilinged and very, very dark, even in the middle of the day. The room, and its position in the house, sheds light (or rather, doesn't shed light) on all those hundreds and hundreds of pages of Dorothy wrote out for William. Dorothy's labour is all the more difficult to comprehend in this gloomy space. The room next door, where she carried out household duties with Mary and Sara Hutchison, has the same dark walls and low light. The rooms upstairs, including William's sitting room (on the right) and the master bedroom, are much brighter, with light-coloured walls, and this, too, might tell us something.

The past ten days at the Jerwood Centre, which has included much time wandering around Dove Cottage and the museum, has made me think (somewhat inconclusively) about what the value of the object is to academics. Does looking at Wordsworth's shaving kit aid or occlude understanding of his texts - or is it beside the point, a completely separate kind of experience? Is it possible to visit places like Dove Cottage, or Nether Stowey, or Haworth as academics, or should we approach them as enthusiasts?

Dove Cottage is, like many restored 'former residences of', a hybrid space, part time capsule, part museum cabinet. Enormous care has gone into ensuring furniture, fittings and light levels are all as they would have been when the Wordsworths lived there. Some of the furnishings are those that belonged to the family. There's almost no signage because visitors are expected to take a guided tour, which means that the cottage is without any intrusive twenty-first century interventions. Compared to, for example, Coleridge's recently restored and re-opened cottage at Nether Stowey, Dove Cottage feels, to use a problematic term, 'authentic'. It is, almost, frozen in at the turn of the nineteenth century. But not quite: because it's decorated and furnished with personal items, memorabilia and portraits of its famous inhabitants and their friends. Cabinets in two rooms display objects owned by the family, with handwritten notes establishing provenance. It's as much a record of nineteenth and twentieth-century collecting practices as a period restoration. This creates a disjunct: the cottage certainly looks and feels the part, but it's filled with things that, relating directly to the inhabitants, paradoxically confirm that we are looking at an artificial construction of the past: a painting of Coleridge done in London years after the Dove Cottage period, William's framed passport, a chair with 'Wordsworth's Chair' carved into the back by some Victorian trophy-hunter.

Furthermore, heritage sites are completely inauthentic because the intervening years have been removed, and this is the challenge and the strange duality of all period artefacts. In fact, the more successful these spaces are as time capsules, the more we think, stepping in, that they are 'as they were', the more obscured time and history are. There's something slightly untruthful, I think, about the feeling of direct access to a very specific point in the past that an object gives us. Here, for example, are Wordsworth's socks and his tinted glasses:

These are personal items that bridge the gap between Wordsworth the wearer and us the viewers in an almost tangible way. Wordsworth wore those socks, and then two hundred years passed, and here they are now, in the Wordsworth Trust Museum, as if that time had never passed. Because Wordsworth's trouble with his eyes towards the end of his life is well-known, the glasses are even more an object unique to him, an object that graphically illustrates a biographical detail. They are Wordsworth's glasses, and if someone now were allowed to handle them, they could put them on and they would be sharing something of Wordsworth's visual experience, imaginatively erasing time.

These everyday items have a meaning conferred on them far in excess of their practical value, because they have been touched by a famous poet. In all these cases, and in Dove Cottage itself, and in the status we afford manuscripts, what is being valued is an imagined connection with the authors' bodies, a way to reach across the centuries physically and make contact. The covert presumption is that we want to get as close as we can to them, to touch them, to dig them up.

None of this is to say that properties like Dove Cottage aren't meaningful to academics. They are places where the 'thingness of the thing' is celebrated, which in itself can afford unique research opportunities. As Dorothy's room illustrates, artefacts can allow for new perspectives on how texts are affected by the material circumstances of production. More broadly, however, I think heritage sites and collections of this nature, because of the very issues they present, throw into relief some of the tensions between text, author and biography that might otherwise be avoided. They force us to think about what material history means, and what we think objects are standing in for when they are selected to become part of history.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Blogging from the Jerwood Centre: why should we visit archives?

Yesterday I was thinking about what archives can offer us as researchers that more easily accessible and standardised scholarly editions can't. Today I want to consider the second part of that question: why should we visit archives and why should we value the original manuscript or object?

Digital archives are transforming how we carry out research for the better. Not only are they providing access to a far wider academic community, but through innovative digital cataloguing and search features they can significantly reduce time spent trawling collections, and it could be argued that in some cases they've rendered the physical archive obsolete. Personally speaking, my PhD project would have been near-impossible and prohibitively expensive if I could not rely on digital archives. So the point of this post is not to argue for a return to using physical archives, but to think about how the two kinds of archive complement each other, and to ask whether just as digital archives have the edge over physical for access, convenience and cost, there are areas where physical archives are better.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, digital archives will be the norm. Costly research trips to archives to spend days poring over material for something useful will no longer be necessary for most of us. We will instead go to an archive website, call up a collection, enter search terms and receive a list of results in return - some of us may already do this. When this happens, we won't no longer need the physical archive, but our relationship to it will change.  We'll use the physical archive to instead think about texts in different ways, perhaps in some of the relational ways I've tried to suggest below. Physical archives, in order to remain relevant and attract researchers, will have to be open to new modes of scholarship and new uses for their collections.

In the case of Sara's letters, they've been digitized as part of the Wordsworth Trust's Life, Literature and Landscape digital archive, and as my school has a subscription to that resource, I could have just looked at high-resolution images of the letters. So why am I here? Beyond issues of the cost of some of these resources (some are free, many, including this one, are not), there is a value in dealing with the physical objects in research, especially in literature. Practically speaking, we can (very gently!) hold them, examine the paper, work out if it's cheap or expensive. We can look at how and where a text was was written down: in a notebook, or on a loose scrap of paper? Alongside other writing, or on a page of its own? We can feel the weight of books and look at their bindings, and observe how items in a collection relate to each other. In the Jerwood Centre, part of one wall is occupied by Wordsworth and Southey's personal libraries. I can stand in front of it and see what they thought worth owning. These kinds of relationships can be lost in even the very best and most thoughtful digital archives.

The second advantage is one that might be unique to the Wordsworth Trust and its collection. This is the relationship between literature and location. Many of the documents in the collection were composed within a thirty-mile radius of the Jerwood Centre; some items in the Dove Cottage Manuscripts were written out by Dorothy or Mary Wordsworth twenty metres away in Dove Cottage itself. Wherever possible the link between writing and place is emphasised. Here you can connect the descriptions in Dorothy's Grasmere Journals with the surrounding views, and to stand in her half-underground parlour and appreciate the difficulty of writing in near darkness, or to walk up a path behind the Centre and work out where the 'Evening Star' cottage of 'Michael' might have been. When Sara writes to Edward Quillinan how annoyed she was that her daughter Edith was allowed to climb Skiddaw, or Dorothy that they've walked to Keswick to visit the Southeys, it's possible to both walk the twelve miles to Keswick and climb Mount Skiddaw. There is a direct connection between the material in front of me in the Jerwood Centre reading room and the hills I can see through the window that gives me some understanding of how the local geography shaped their lives and their literature. Considering the central importance of nature and the landscape to Romantic literature, the location of the Trust's archives provides for more than imaginative identification with the Lake Poets - it materially affects how we interpret their work.  

Archives are a reminder, finally, that every text has an original physical existence, that despite the editions and versions and reprints it's been through, it began a tangible existence when someone scribbled it down on a piece of paper. This isn't to say necessarily that we should privilege the original manuscript as in some way 'the best' or the 'correct' version (as anyone who's familiar with Wordsworth's practice of constant revision will know), but that handling original documents can bring us up against the beginning of their life in a way that even the very best digitisations can't: a digital copy of a manuscript, for all its usefulness, is yet another version. The great value of the archive, and why we still should value the physical document, is that it allows us to get at the origins.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Blogging from the Jerwood Centre: why use archives?

Why should we, as academics, students and researchers, use archives, and in particular, what is to be gained from looking at original manuscripts 'in the flesh'?

The answers might seem obvious but in an age where digitised archives are becoming increasingly common, opening up (in some cases without any charge) material to scholars anywhere in the world with a broadband connection, it bears thinking about why or if we should still go to the expense and effort of visiting archives. What started as a relatively brief post has swollen to large proportions so I'm going to address this in two posts. Firstly, I want to think about why we might look at original manuscripts and other archive material.

For the past few days I've been looking at Sara Coleridge's letters here at the Jerwood Centre, so I'll take them as my example. There are of course, some very easy answers to my question in Sara's case. Because her work has only very recently begun to receive critical attention, I don't have the luxury of scholarly editions of her work. Her daughter published a highly edited memoir and selection of letters in 1874, but this text comprising about a hundred letters constitutes about a tenth of all known existing letters. None of Sara's poetry was published until a Selected Poems appeared in 2007. For those of us who are working on non-canonical, marginal and downright unknown material, archive holdings can often be the only way to access the texts we need to look at.

Even when working on authors well-known enough that the majority of their remains have made it into print, however, there are practical reasons for archival work. Archives often (but not always) maintain collections as they receive them, preserving the context in which they were originally kept. Some of Sara's letters, for example, are in the Trust's Moorsom Collection – named after the family who bequeathed the collection – alongside letters and documents from friends and acquaintances of the two families. The collection provides an illustration of one extended social group she belonged to and how one family viewed and preserved her within that social web.

More importantly, perhaps, the original manuscripts tell us things about the text, about the author, and about the context in which it was written that even a well-edited and thoroughly footnoted scholarly edition cannot. Envelopes, paper, ink, addresses, postmarks and other visual traces all carry meaning. Grammar and especially punctuation are often 'corrected' for modern scholarly editions, in ways that can significantly alter the emotional tone of a text, and looking at original manuscripts is one way back into that tone.

The most graphic example is handwriting. An author's handwriting gives us the feeling of a direct connection with the hand that held the pen and the eye that scanned the page; although we need to be wary of assuming such connections handwriting can nontheless reveal far more than the printed text. Here is a letter Sara wrote to someone she hoped would become a friend in 1818, when she was sixteen years old:

Courtesy of the Wordsworth Trust
The excessively formal, slightly gauche, flowery language, a mixture of teenage intensity and the rules learned from letter-writing guides tell us something about the girl who's writing this, and her relationship with the addressee. Looking at the handwriting tells us even more. The letter has been written using a rule of some sort to keep the lines straight and evenly spaced - if you look closely, there's a couple of points where her pen has hit the rule and run along it. It's clearly her 'best' hand but it's still somewhat unformed and effortful- the handwriting of someone who hasn't yet developed her handwriting style.  When the letter is read in manuscript like this, it has much more information to yield about sixteen-year old Sara and about what this letter was intended to achieve.

Here's another example, again by Sara, but written in 1851, the year before she died of breast cancer:

Courtesy of the Wordsworth Trust
This letter was sent to Edward Quillinan, by this time the widower of Dora Wordsworth. Sara developed a close friendship with Edward and they exchanged letters frequently until his death in 1851. Sara's handwriting in this case can be read in two ways. The first is the hand of someone writing to a very close friend for whom the formalities of spacing and neatness need not be upheld - the signature running up the side of the paper, for example, would  be bad manners in a letter to a polite acquaintance. The second way to read this is as the writing of someone suffering through the later stages of terminal cancer. Although I'm aware of the possibility of over-reading, I think that last line in particular bears the evidence of a shaking hand, a reminder of the extreme physical discomfort she spent her last years in. Again, her handwriting gives us much more than the words alone. Between those two examples lies almost an entire life, illustrated quite poignantly by the contrast between the schoolgirl-ish copperplate and the shaking hand of the cancer patient. Looking at handwriting also reminds us that narrative is not just carried through words, but constituted in the words themselves, in this case quite literally: we miss part of the story if we can't see the writing. 

In part two of this post, I want to address perhaps the more tricky question: amidst the rise of the digital archive, what can we get out of visiting archives, and what is the value of the physical object?

Monday, 20 August 2012

'Moving Towards Science' symposium: registration open

12 September 2012, The Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle upon Tyne

Guest speakers:
Dr Peter Garratt (Northumbria University), Professor David Knight (Durham University), and Professor Jennifer Richards and Dr Anne Whitehead (Newcastle University)

The North East Postgraduate Research Group for the Long Nineteenth Century (NENC) is pleased to announce that registration is now open for this postgraduate symposium held on Wednesday 12 September 2012.

The theme of the symposium reflects two parallel ‘moves’ towards science. First, it references the rise of the ‘natural sciences’, the scientific method, and the professional scientist across the long nineteenth century. Second, it recognises moves in contemporary arts and humanities scholarship towards a more nuanced disciplinary relationship with the sciences and the possibility of ‘one culture’.  Adopting an exploratory methodology, the day will allow delegates to think widely about how literary culture of the period approached, adapted, and rejected emergent scientific, technological, and medical discourses and methods. More broadly, we will consider how and why literature and science might move together in the contemporary academy.

Ranging across the early modern period to the end of the long nineteenth century in their areas of specialisation, our guest speakers will consider in particular how they have approached or made use of scientific discourses in their own research. This will provide delegates with an opportunity to gain insight into some of the methodological and theoretical benefits and challenges of a turn towards science. 

The symposium is free to attend, and all are welcome. To register your place, please email:
movingtowardsscience@gmail.com with your title, name, institutional affiliation, any dietary or access requirements, and whether you would like to reserve a place at the conference dinner, to be held in Newcastle city centre after the event. Registration will close on Saturday 8 September.

The full programme can be viewed here.

The symposium will be held at Newcastle upon Tyne's Literary and Philosophical Society, the largest independent library outside of London, which dates from 1825. The Lit & Phil is situated in the city centre, a five minute walk from the central rail station.

The symposium is generously supported by the British Society for Literature and Science (BSLS) and by the three host Universities (Newcastle, Durham, and Northumbria). 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Blogging from the Jerwood Centre: public engagement and local history

I am currently visiting researcher at the Jerwood Centre, the archives which hold the Wordsworth Trust collection, through a pilot scheme run by the Trust and Newcastle University. For the next ten days, I'll be carrying out a mixture of archival work relevant to my own research on the Coleridge children, gaining some insight into curatorial practice and what's involved in running heritage sites and museums,  learning about archive management, and helping the Trust to think about ways in which their collection can be brought to a wider academic and public audience. This is the first in a series of posts in which I'll be reflecting on some of my experiences while I'm at the Jerwood Centre.

Curator Jeff Cowton invited me to sit in on a meeting this morning with some members of the local Grasmere community, so I could get some idea of ways museums can engage with their communities. One of the Trust's more recent bequests was the scrapbook collection of a Grasmere librarian. The scrapbooks cover the post-war years up until the later part of the 1970s and so provide a highly personal insight into a period of unprecedented social and economic upheaval in the Lake District and Grasmere in particular. The Trust, in partnership with a small group of Grasmere residents, is planning an exhibition on the scrapbooks and the wider social and cultural context of the period, and the purpose of the morning's meeting was to plan for this.

The local residents who were involved with the project included long-standing 'locals', newcomers from outside Cumbria who were referred to as 'off-comers' (many of whom had in fact lived in Grasmere for over twenty years!), and those with public roles that seemed to refer back to an older, perhaps less prevalent iteration of the English village: the rector, the school teacher, the local historian. The meeting, as perhaps can be expected when personal narratives of local history are at stake, was passionate, long and detailed. The Trust was providing exhibition space, materials, curatorial advice and archive access, but all of the research and the vast bulk of the decisions about the objectives and thematic structure of the exhibition was being undertaken by the residents' group. It perhaps reveals something about my prejudices as an academic researcher that I was struck not only by the sophistication of the exhibition proposed, but also the understanding common to all of the group that this was about far more than local history for history's sake.

As the meeting  progressed, it became clear that what the scrapbooks signified was not just what they could reveal about the Grasmere of the past and social changes in the Lake District, but some very fundamental questions about what a community was. Everyone round the table had a parallel understanding that this planned exhibition could not only say something about the nature of community and how it changed, but could potentially effect a genuine transformation in how the current Grasmere community thinks of itself. Deep-seated ideas about 'locals', 'off-comers' and tourists could be re-thought in the light of an exhibition that would show Grasmere had been a village in flux for a long time; sectors of the local community who had felt isolated could be sought out to share their stories and connections between different parts of the village society could be mended or strengthened.

Working in academia, I've become so accustomed to fielding accusations of existing in the ivory tower sequestered from the 'real' world, that I suppose I've made assumptions that this is how most people view us: disastrously disconnected from political, cultural and social realities. It certainly is how academia is often represented in the media. One of the more heartening aspects of today was meeting a group of people who were outside the academy and who understood absolutely that scholarship, even of a past theoretically out of the way and beyond us, affects, for want of a better phrase, 'the real world'. They could envision how their research might act as a catalyst for discussions that could create a more inclusive and flexible community.

If it sounds like what I'm describing is successful public engagement of the kind to make the AHRC weep with joy, well, I suppose I am, but with some important caveats. I, like many academics and students, am suspicious of the public engagement and impact model as set out in  current HE policy and in the assessment criteria of the upcoming REF. Applying a top-down model indiscriminately across all research fields purely for the purposes of meeting government policy objectives does not make for a worthwhile experience, either for academics or the public.

This partnership between the Trust and the Grasmere community on the other hand seems to me to exemplify an example of public engagement that is working. The group involved are genuinely invested in their research and the exhibition and they know that their community stands to benefit – this is an opportunity they've actively embraced. The Trust, in providing expertise and support, and allowing a local group to use that expertise to shape and present their own understanding of local history, are acting as stewards of knowledge in a way that is welcoming, open, and meaningful to the public. It's the first time I've seen a really successful example of the public and the academy working together in a mutually beneficial way. From what I observed today, the reason lies in the project's fitness for for the local community, their sense of having real buy-in, the potential for meaningful outcomes and, most importantly, the feeling that this meant something far more than a policy box-ticking exercise.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Summer Speaker Series 2012 - Thanks

We would like to thank everyone who presented at and attended the first  NENC Summer Speaker Series. This series of seminars took place over the 2012 summer break and gave postgraduates working on the long nineteenth century the opportunity to share their research and receive feedback from peers in a supportive and friendly environment.


Friday 8 June, 4.00pm
Newcastle University - Seminar Room 1.19, Percy Building

Harriet Briggs (Newcastle): 'Playthings and Puritans: Pleasure and Coercion in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Walter Scott's Kenilworth'

Nicole Bush (Northumbria): ''Given up to Kalleidoscopism': Shifting the Vision of the Kaleidoscope in the Nineteenth Century'

Friday 6 July, 4.00pm
Durham University - Seminar Room, Hallgarth House

Naomi Carle (Durham): ‘Exploring Stevenson's Scottish Wilderness: 'Pavilion on the Links' and Weir of Hermiston

Beatrice Turner (Newcastle): '‘Bodily disorder’, inherited bodies and being ‘face to face’: Sara Coleridge edits her father and herself'

Friday 10 August, 4.00pm
Northumbria University

Andrew Hodgson (Durham): 'Edward Thomas and names'

Kate Katigbak (Durham): ‘The Legacy of Faust in Marx’s Mythology’

We heard some fantastic papers on a range of topics, and will look forward to the next speaker series!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Calls for papers: a weekly round up

Call for essays: essay collection on Thomas Hardy’s short stories

Hardy’s short stories have had little attention as compared to his novels and poetry. Therefore articles of 6,000 to 8,000 words are sought on any aspect of Hardy’s short stories which help deepen our understanding of his use of the genre, for a volume of previously unpublished essays. Proposals may address a story individually or the stories as collected in the volumes Wessex Tales (1888), A Group of Noble Dames (1891), Life’s Little Ironies (1894), and A Changed Man (1913).

Key themes and topics might include:

Implications of periodical publication
Readership of individual stories and/or collected stories
Use of sensationalism
Use of humor
Emphasis on class and cultural issues
Importance of music
Gender relations
Use of setting
Use of supernatural, mystery, mythical aspects
Use of religion
Emphasis on community relations and mores
Use of narrative form

Please send proposals of up to 500 words, for articles of between 6,000-8,000 words, by 7 September 2012 to Juliette B. Schaefer, Ohio Dominican University. Proposals should include the article’s working title, the author’s academic affiliation, and a 100-word biography.

Inquiries are welcome. Authors will be informed that they have been selected for the volume by the second week of October.

The local and the global: NAVSA/BAVS/AVSA Supernumerary Conference, Venice, Italy, 3-6 June 2013

 This conference, The Global and the Local, is a supernumerary conference sponsored by NAVSA (North American Victorian Studies Association), BAVS (British Association of Victorian Studies), and AVSA (Australasian Victorian Studies Association). For the first time, the three major conferences on the Victorian period, NAVSA, BAVS, and AVSA, will join forces for a conference in Venice Italy, to be held June 3 to June 6, 2013.

The conference theme is 'the local and the global'. Proposals could address such topics as:

Global Circulation
Geopolitical Commodities
Glocal Cities
Imagined Communities and Imaginary Places
Traveling, Tourism, Guide Books and Travel Writing
Trains and Speed, Spatialization and Temporality
Trade, Markets, and Dissemination
Empire and Rebellion
British Reception of Italian Music and Visual Arts
Art Collecting, Museums, Libraries, and Galleries
Dialect Literature
Victorian Roots
Victorians and the “Risorgimento”
Religious Difference
The Perception of Otherness
The Country and the City
The Local Artifact and Digital Networking

Proposals will be due October 4, 2012. Proposals should be sent to glocalvictorians@gmail.com. They should be two pages (500 words) with a one-page curriculum vitae and should be submitted electronically as an attachment in .doc or .pdf format. If a whole panel is proposed, please include a cover letter explaining the logic behind the panel. All participants must have paid 2013 dues to NAVSA, BAVS, or AVSA.

The Venice Professionalization Workshop

Running alongside the conference, this workshop is intended for graduate students and recently minted PhDs and will address such issues as grant-writing; postdoctoral fellowships; the writing of proposals; job letters and the market; the interview process and job talks; teaching portfolios; how to turn a seminar paper into a published article; the digital humanities, pros and cons; the differences among Canadian, American, British, and also Australian markets; and negotiating contracts. The workshop will occur on San Servolo every morning, May 27-31, June 3, and June 7.  A number of scholars have expressed their willingness to participate, provided they can arrange their schedule and funding, including Andrew Miller, Carolyn Williams, Alison Byerley, Barbara Leckie, Pamela Gilbert, and Kate Flint.  There will not be a firm list of visitors until the new year.

If you are interested in this workshop, please contact Dino Franco Felluga.

Questions about the conference should be directed to glocalvictorians@gmail.com, or visit the conference website for more information.

On Page and Stage: Shakespeare, 1590-1890, 8 December 2012

The Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies – Bangor-Aberystwyth, the British Shakespeare Association and the School of English, Bangor University, are pleased to announce:

On Page and Stage: Shakespeare, 1590-1890, 8th December 2012
A one-day conference at Bangor University
Conference Organisers: Stephen Colclough & Andrew Hiscock

Guest Speaker: Professor Andrew Gurr (Reading University), Shakespeare editor and author of Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London

This one-day conference focuses upon performances, interpretations and publications of Shakespeare in the pre-modern period in the UK and beyond. It is envisaged that delegates will be addressing this subject from a number of disciplinary perspectives and presentations on the following subjects would be particularly welcome:

Shakespearean Performances 1590-1890s and Performance Reportage
Shakespearean Theatre History 1590-1890
World Shakespeares 1590-1890
Critical Responses to Shakespeare 1590-1890: e.g. journalism, diaries, correspondence
Reading Shakespeare 1590-1890: e.g. criticism, education, annotated editions
Material Shakespeare 1590-1890: mise-en-scène and mise-en-page
Shakespeare as Political Icon 1590-1890

These and other related subjects will be considered for presentation at this conference. Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent to the conference organising committee at shakespeare@bangor.ac.uk no later than Friday 12th October 2012. All abstracts should include the proposer’s name, title, mailing address, email address, institutional affiliation, student/employed status.

NVSA 2013 "1874", Boston University, 5-7 April 2013

All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee:
—Robert Browning

The Northeast Victorian Studies Association calls for papers from all disciplines on any aspect of 1874, the year in which The Way We Live Now was serialized in monthly numbers, John Tyndall delivered his “Belfast Address” on scientific materialism, Benjamin Disraeli was appointed prime minister for the second time, and red became the standard color for pillarboxes of the Royal Mail. We welcome submissions on any topic relevant to 1874, as well as papers that engage with the conceptual and methodological issues raised by taking a single year as a focus for study.

What are the consequences of thinking about Victorian works of art, texts, objects, and events in relation to their specific year in history? How is our perspective on the period—or on periodization itself—altered by this vantage point? What does the close examination of a single year—a year literally picked out of a hat by the program committee rather than chosen for its significance—reveal about the relationship between dates that “matter” in Victorian Studies and dates that do not? Is the calendar year a significant unit of time or useful organizational framework for our exploration of the Victorian period as a whole? How is our understanding of annual publications, commemorations, and other yearly events and forms changed when we concentrate on a single occurrence of each? In 1874 S. O. Beeton’s Christmas annual Jon Duan sold 250,000 copies in three weeks, vastly outperforming Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Which, then, is the “major” text under the rubric of our conference? How does our sense of the canonical and non-canonical shift as a result of such micro-periodization?

Other texts and events from 1874 worth considering:


M. E. Braddon’s Lost for Love
William Benjamin Carpenter’s Principles of Mental Physiology
Wilkie Collins’s The Frozen Deep and Other Stories published; The Law and the Lady serialized
John William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science
Amelia Edwards’s A Night on the Borders of the Black Forest
George Eliot’s The Legend of Jubal, Arion, and A Minor Prophet; first one-volume edition of Middlemarch
F. W. Farrar’s Life of Christ
John Forster’s Life of Charles Dickens, final volume
Francis Galton’s English Men of Science
W. S. Gilbert’s Charity
John Richard Green’s Short History of the English People
Thomas Huxley’s “On the Hypothesis that Animals are Automata”
G. H. Lewes’s Problems of Life and Mind, Vol. 1
Henry Maudsley’s Responsibility in Mental Disease
George Meredith’s Beauchamp’s Career serialized
Margaret Oliphant’s A Rose in June and For Love and Life
John Ruskin’s Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain, Vol. 4
Henry Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics
James Sully’s Sensation and Intuition
Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Bothwell: A Tragedy
James Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night
Anthony Trollope’s Lady Anna and Phineas Redux
Alfred Russell Wallace’s “A Defence of Modern Spiritualism”
Mrs. Henry Wood’s Johnny Ludlow


London School of Medicine for Women founded
Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge founded
Fiji Islands annexed by Britain
Ghana established as a British colony
Shipton-on-Cherwell train crash (and other notable train crashes)
David Livingstone’s body returned to England
Victoria Embankment opened
Astley Deep Pit disaster
Public Worship Regulation Act
Factory Act of 1874
1874 Transit of Venus
Wilkie Collins’s readings in America
Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease founded
First Impressionist exhibition, Paris

Proposals (no more than 500 words) by October 15, 2012 (e-mail submissions only, in Word format), should be sent to Professor Tyson Stolte, Chair, NVSA Program Committee.

Please note: all submissions to NVSA are evaluated anonymously. Successful proposals will stay within the 500-word limit and make a compelling case for the talk and its relation to the conference topic. Please do not send complete papers, and do not include your name on the proposal.

Please include your name, institutional and email addresses, and proposal title in a cover letter. Papers should take 15 minutes (20 minutes maximum) so as to provide ample time for discussion.

For information about NVSA membership and travel grants, please visit the NVSA website.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Conference report: Coleridge Summer Conference

Coleridge Summer Conference, Cannington, Somerset, 23-27 July 2012

After weeks of poor weather, the forecast promising sunshine and high temperatures for the week of the 2012 Coleridge Conference seemed too good to be true, and more than one rookie delegate made the mistake of packing for a damp English summer. Overhearing some complaints of this nature, conference director Tim Fulford was heard to observe that the sun can always be relied on to shine on this conference, which has a particular reputation for conviviality and a supportive atmosphere.

And so it proved. We were both nervous first-time attendees with rain-jackets and jumpers in our rucksacks; by the end of the five days neither items had come even close to being used, and we had been made to feel extraordinarily welcome at a conference characterised by lively academic discussion, great food and conversation, some memorably intrepid outdoor adventures and excellent papers ranging from Coleridge, Lamb and roast pig via Coleridge and Newtonian physics, Catherine the Great, and Wordsworth’s educational donkey to John Beer’s wonderful free-ranging speculations on the size of the Ancient Mariner’s albatross. Enormous thanks are due to the conference committee and the staff at the Cannington Campus of Bridgwater College for organising such a brilliant week.

One of the most interesting elements of the conference was seeing the range of ways in which Coleridge is taught, as well as the uses to which his broad thinking is put by scholars. In this latter respect, a panel of particular interest on the second day was Dometa Wiegand Brothers’ paper on Coleridge’s attempt to wrestle with Newtonian physics, and Allison Dushane’s on his anti-dualist understanding of the origins of life. Brothers argued that although Coleridge failed to understand the calculus, his belief that space and time are indivisible but that individual subjectivity creates the illusion of division foreshadowed Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Similarly, Dushane showed how Coleridge followed Priestly and Darwin in collapsing the difference between living and non-living material, attributing life to a spontaneous vitality that could animate any matter.

This panel unexpectedly linked to a later one on Wednesday, in which both Olivia Reilly and Joseph Donovan discussed Coleridge’s use of and influence by music in his poetry. Reilly’s suggestion that for Coleridge music is associated with the ‘inner’ ear, and its pre-linguistic, inchoate status must be transformed into the exterior and intelligible forms of language was wonderfully suggestive of other Coleridgean binaries, while Donovan convincingly argued that Coleridge used metaphors of dissonance and resolution in his poetry, displaying an instinctive understanding of harmonics theory. Both panels hinged on Coleridge’s polymath intellect and his uncanny ability to intuit and metaphorically articulate the central philosophical concern of fields the mechanics or rules of which he did not understand, a theme returned to throughout the week.

The conference provided an opportunity to compare different global approaches to Coleridge, and a second theme was Coleridge the theologian, a reputation much more established in North America than here, as Philip Aherne noted. Nicholas Halmi’s Tuesday plenary on ‘Coleridge’s Ecumenical Spinoza’, which traced the complex ways in which Coleridge sought to recruit the atheist Spinoza into Christian thought, was exemplary of this approach. Similarly, Michael Raiger’s Wednesday paper on Coleridge’s influence on Newman, and Joshua King’s discussion about how Coleridge imagined the clerisy’s role in an ideal education system might mirror the relation of the press and print media as mediators between the branches of public life, provided rich opportunities to think about his theological legacies.

There was also a distinct focus on Coleridge’s wider circle, including Joseph Cottle and Tom Wedgwood, but his daughter (and editor) Sara Coleridge received particular attention. David Ruderman’s compelling paper on Wednesday on the ‘becoming animal’ in S.T. and Sara Coleridge argued that both Sara and her father celebrate the infant’s in-between state, finding in its liminal animal-human existence a powerful mode of relating physically and ethically to their children.. On Thursday Jeffrey Barbeau’s paper situated Sara Coleridge’s religious educational beliefs and children’s verse within Evangelical and radical educational thought, prompting an interesting discussion about the contradictions between her own, excellent and unusually classical education, and her apparent belief that such an education should be restricted to boys. This paper complemented Tom Dugget’s paper, which explored Southey’s responses to educational reform in the 1810s. Robin Schofield, meanwhile, explored her brother Hartley Coleridge’s attitude to religion through his sonnets. His poetry reconfigured illness or inadequacy as a creative well of devotional acts and celebrated the domestic and the local, providing an interesting link to feminine Romantic poetics.

The other two plenaries, from Alan Bewell on Wednesday and Karen Swann on Friday, helped to unite these broad themes. Both explored Coleridge as communicator, and captured the expansive nature of that term. Bewell explored Coleridge’s failed communications, his torrents of words that become liabilities, in examining how Coleridge engaged with Berkeley’s concept of nature as not a book but the visual sign system of God. Swann, on the other hand, interrogated contemporary accounts of Coleridge’s conversation, noting that these accounts shared a diction of magic and sorcery in their descriptions of Coleridge’s ability to spellbind an audience. Noting that accounts of his talk all emphasised the impossibility of recording specific examples of what he actually said, she posited that hearing Coleridge speak was something akin to hearing the process of human thinking, rather than discrete thoughts.

Swann reminded us too that Coleridge is a poet to be read aloud, and this was illustrated in appropriately spellbinding fashion by two midnight readings by torchlight. On Tuesday night, precariously atop the ruins of Stowey Castle, David Fairer read the final verse of ‘Fears in Solitude’ as we looked out over the ‘burst of prospect’ of the surrounding sea and land that the poem celebrates. On the final night an impromptu crowd gathered in the dark after the conference dinner with purloined wine and flaming torches to take turns reading ‘Christabel’. It was a fitting way to end a week which testified to Coleridge’s enduring ability to captivate an audience.

                          --report by Jo Taylor (Keele University) and Beatrice Turner (Newcastle University)