CFP for a Special Issue of Victorian Review on “Victorians and Risk”

Victorian Review seeks proposals for articles for a special issue on “Victorians and Risk,” to be published in Fall 2014 and guest edited by Dr. Daniel Martin.

Since the publication of Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society (1992), sociologists and historians have interrogated the frequency of risks of all kinds in modern life: railway accidents, colliery explosions, natural and industrial catastrophes, spills, fires, and collisions, among countless others. However, the emergence of risk as a sociological and economic reality of everyday life in the nineteenth century still lacks significant scholarly theorizing in the humanities. Current scholarship about Victorian contributions to a modern “risk society” requires a sustained dialogue about how the Victorians conceived of accidents, disasters, catastrophes, and risks of all kinds beyond the limited scope of the local. For this issue, we seek papers that address such a dialogue through analysis of Victorian culture’s fascinations with and anxieties about risky activities, behaviors, industries, legalities, philosophies, and forms of expression. Continue reading “CFP for a Special Issue of Victorian Review on “Victorians and Risk””


On Stuttering and Fatherhood

On July 5th, 2012, my wife and I welcomed our son into the world. He has completely changed the way we live our lives, but some old habits die hard. In particular, I’ve found myself scrutinizing his every movement, expression, and utterance for signs of stuttering. I’ve been reading and writing about Victorian narratives of stuttering for a few years now, and I’m continually fascinated by how many of the Victorian’s ideas about language development persist in our culture today, and in ways not always welcome in my own thinking about stuttering. Continue reading “On Stuttering and Fatherhood”

Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada 2012 Conference

The following call for papers seems ideal for all of us here at the Floating Academy, and to many of our readers as well. I hope to see you all there next April.

CFP: VSAWC Conference, “Victorian Media,” (Victoria, British Columbia, April 2012)

The Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada invites proposals for a conference on Victorian Media. The conference, hosted by the University of Victoria, will be held from 26-28 April 2012 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

We seek proposals for papers that focus on the theme of media in relation to Victorian culture and knowledge: that is, the relation of Victorian media to the culture of the period and the relation of new media to the study, dissemination, and archiving of Victorian materials. In particular, we invite proposals on topics related to three main threads: Continue reading “Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada 2012 Conference”

“Novel Forms of Immanent Death”

“Novel Forms of Immanent Death”

My thoughts on accidental phenomena in Victorian material culture have been a long time coming, so I apologize for my inability to sit my butt down and write. Having done so, finally, I want to focus on a peculiar, but actually quite commonsense, aspect of Victorian social theories of accidents and catastrophes, namely the period’s realization that new forms or types of accidents could have significant future payoffs with regard to accident prevention. Our own “risk society” is so preoccupied with the travesties of large-scale industrial or environmental disasters that it sometimes seems, especially if we compare ourselves to the Victorians, that we have lost any sense of forward thinking. Perhaps, rightfully so, because it’s a hard sell suggesting that major catastrophes and disasters can teach us something about how to prepare for future accidents, or even teach us something about living in a industrial-capitalist economy. We’d rather believe, perhaps naively, that there won’t be any future industrial catastrophes, that it can’t happen here, whatever “it” is. Continue reading ““Novel Forms of Immanent Death””

Accidents in Victorian Visual and Material Culture

For the next month or so, the Floating Academy has decided to focus our collective blogging efforts on the topic of the Accident in Victorian visual and material culture. I’ve volunteered to write the opening rationale for our upcoming explorations of this topic because I’ve been thinking and writing about Victorian narratives of accidental phenomena for a few years now, and it has always occurred to me that the topic deserves more attention in literary, historical, and cultural criticism. One of the realizations that comes from any sustained interrogation of all things accidental is how truly uncomfortable we (post)moderns are with the very idea of accidental events and phenomena. In response to large-scale technological and economic disasters, we find it difficult to accept the accidentality of living with technology because the industrialization of everyday life since the nineteenth century has trained us to look for causes and place blame when technologies don’t do what they’re supposed to do. The very idea of something accidental tends to go against everything we like to believe about order, design, meaning, and justice in the universe. Someone or something must be at fault when industrial catastrophes happen, something or Someone must be the true cause of such economic, environmental, or industrial catastrophe. Continue reading “Accidents in Victorian Visual and Material Culture”