The Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada conference, Victorian Humanity and its Others, has come to a close. It was held at Coast Hotel in Vancouver, a location that has, ladies and gents, left me feeling a little nostalgic. I attended my first VSAWC meeting at the Coast in 2009 — my first visit to Vancouver. Fellow Floating Academician Daniel Martin gave me a tour of Stanley Park over a lunch hour and was kind enough to introduce me to the Victorian Studies who’s who of Western Canada.
Since then Daniel has moved east and I’ve moved west. It was great to have mini FA reunion at the conference: Daniel, Jennifer Esmail, and I all gave papers this year. Daniel shared his most recent work on speech disfluency. Victorian culture, he argued, created a double bind for stutters: either accept the annihilation of self demanded by quack physicians’ regimes or accept the melancholic disposition of the stutterer who refused to accept such spurious interventions. Jennifer shared her work on assistive companion animals, situating blind men’s dogs in the context of the different kinds of assistive, economic and affective work they performed and using Ivan Krielkamp’s notion of “anthroprosthesis” to show how Victorian descriptions of blind men’s dogs often elevated the non-human animal over the human. I had the pleasure of sharing my students’ collaborative encoding of Dracula and (with great pride) their editorial interventions in the text at the level of code. Textual editing and data modelling, I’d argue, are the on each side of the same proverbial coin and thus the humanities is perfectly situated to train thoughtful future curators of our cultural heritage.
The Western Canadian focus notwithstanding, VSAWC has become quite international. With luck we’ll be able to reunite with even our farthest flung Floating Academy member at the next VSAWC meeting in Banff.