Victorian Education: April 28-29, 2017

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the joint conference of the Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada and the Victorian Studies Association of the Western United States, whose theme this year was Victorian education. As the conference Storify attests, we gathered for two days of conversation about research and teaching on a wide range of associated topics, including Victorian food education and activism; the relationship between queer identity and instruction; representations of embodied learning; religious and imperial education systems; and the production of school textbooks. The great weather in beautiful Vancouver—defying forecasts for unremitting drizzle—made those two days even more delightful. Continue reading “Victorian Education: April 28-29, 2017”

Uses of Religion in Nineteenth-Century Studies: March 16-19, 2016

* The following is a guest post by Amy Coté, who is a PhD student at the University of Toronto studying theology and the Victorian novel. You can find her on Twitter at @amycote_ *

Uses of Religion in Nineteenth-Century Studies. Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Waco, Tx. March 16th-19th 2016.

As I write this, I am on a plane somewhere over Oklahoma, en route from Waco, Texas to Toronto. Writing on a plane may be an all-too-familiar experience for many of us, but this time, I’m writing not a frenzied paper, but a conference report, which is an altogether more pleasant experience. I’ve just had the great privilege to attend the Uses of Religion in Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference at the Armstrong Browning Library in Waco, Texas. This conference was organized by Joshua King and his wonderful team at Baylor University, and offered 24 panelists and 5 graduate student observers (of whom I was one) a unique and inspiring opportunity to come together and discuss the broad and sometimes fraught category of religion in the nineteenth century from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Continue reading “Uses of Religion in Nineteenth-Century Studies: March 16-19, 2016”

Victorian Bodies and Disability’s Centrality to Victorian Scholarship

* The following is a guest post by Kylee-Anne Hingston, who recently defended her dissertation on disability and narrative form at the University of Victoria *

In a 2006 article in Victorian Literature and Culture, Julia Miele Rodas lamented that, at that time, “disability [was] still generally regarded as an isolated concern, of literary or cultural significance only insofar as it may serve as a convention or an icon of affect” (378). The article, “Mainstreaming Disability Studies?,” reviewed two seminal works in Victorian disability studies (Martha Stoddard Holmes’s Fictions of Affliction and David Wright’s Mental Disability in Victorian England) and provided an overview of disability studies in the humanities for the journal’s readers. More importantly, however, it encouraged scholars to acknowledge disability’s centrality to Victorian studies and the humanities.

Continue reading “Victorian Bodies and Disability’s Centrality to Victorian Scholarship”

NAVSA 2014

Banner for NAVSA 2014, "Classes and Classifications, showing butterflies
The banner for NAVSA 2014,

Along with other Floating Academy bloggers, including Daniel Martin, I’ve just returned from NAVSA 2014 in London, Ontario.  It was a wonderful conference as always, and we all owe a huge thanks to Chris Keep and the conference organizers at Western.  I realized that I have now been attending NAVSA for ten years.  Where did that time go?  I attended my first NAVSA as a graduate student and observer back in 2004, when it was at the University of Toronto.  As a Canadian, I have to say that it’s great that NAVSA, the North American Victorian Studies Association, is in Canada every three years or so.  Little did I know in 2004 that NAVSA was a young organization at the time, founded in 2002.  This year, the presidency was handed over from the inimitable Dino Felluga to Marlene Tromp.  As I remarked to a grad school friend, we pretty much came of age in the profession as NAVSA did.  Now that I’m a few years out of grad school I value NAVSA not only for the intellectual exchange but also as an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and scholars I’ve met throughout the years.  Though, as I noted back in 2012, it’s a big conference, and if you want to make sure you see people it pays to make plans for coffee or dinner in advance!

A few trends that I noticed at this year’s NAVSA were many papers touching on animal studies (including Gillian Beer’s keynote), the great popularity of Dickens (even more so than George Eliot) and the increased presence of social media.  But, rather than trying to summarize the whole conference myself, I thought I’d do something different and make a Storify of all the tweets.  Enjoy!

Conference Report: The Local and the Global in Venice

I’m just back from the NAVSA/BAVS/AVSA Conference in Venice, where I did see the William Morris painting that Eddy discusses in his post below (will add a comment this week, Eddy!). It was a really wonderful conference, with a wide range of papers. As a conference running over four days, with seven panels at any one time, it’s impossible to sum up just one or two specific threads that ran through the talks. What I can say, though, is that the joining of these three different Victorian Studies Associations – from North America, the UK (and the rest of Europe, if you include people like me), Australia, and Asia made for a very exciting, diverse group. It was a real pleasure to meet colleagues from Australia, many of whom remarked how isolated they felt from other Victorianists and what a treat it was to join forces in Venice. Continue reading “Conference Report: The Local and the Global in Venice”

April Conference Report: Methodologies in Victorian Studies

I attended two terrific conferences in April that have spurred me to think about methodological questions in the field of Victorian Studies. The first one, “The Victorianists Workshop: New Approaches to Archives, Methods and Pedagogy,” which took place at Western University, was the first conference I have attended where attendees were asked to think specifically about methods instead of presenting a conventional research paper. The CFP encouraged us to consider the “developments of new critical methodologies, archival resources and pedagogical practices [that have] radically transformed Victorian Studies” and then, at the conference itself, we presented short, 2-3 page papers on our own work as it intersected with these new developments. Continue reading “April Conference Report: Methodologies in Victorian Studies”


VSAWCThe 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 Continue reading “VSAWC”

THATCamp: Just Go!

I just attended my second THATCamp, a digital humanities “unconference,” in Boston.  And I have to say, even if you know nothing about the digital humanities, you should just go to one!  By nature, they are a lightweight conference that’s easy to organize, which means they are popping up everywhere.  Check here to see if there’s one near you…

This model of attending an academic conference in an area of specialization you have little to no expertise is quite different from other models in the humanities.  Before I presented my first Victorian studies paper at a national conference, there was a lot of preparation. I’d already been in grad school in my field for two and a half years, I’d read the key texts in the field, and I knew the major figures in Victorian studies.  I would never have thought of opening my mouth at an important Victorian studies conference if didn’t already know the difference between Isobel Armstrong and Nancy Armstrong. Continue reading “THATCamp: Just Go!”

NAVSA 2012

I’m a little intimidated to try and blog about this year’s NAVSA.  We’ve talked here about the pleasures of going to smaller conferences–two of my favourites are the CUNY Annual Victorian Conference and NVSA.  Posting about those is never too bad, because usually you’ve seen most of the panels, so you have some small claim to authority.  But NAVSA is huge!  This year I think there were around 500 participants and up to twelve consecutive panels over ten sessions, not to mention networking lunches and workshops!  So, my post here is a small snippet, feel free to chime in in the comments as it’s entirely likely that people experienced entirely different NAVSAs.

First of all, this year’s NAVSA was probably held in the most beautiful conference center I’ve ever been to, Monona Terrace, a Frank Lloyd Wright building overlooking Lake Monona.  And the late September weather was perfect in Madison–complete with an autumnal farmer’s market on Saturday morning.  There were a number of ways (as always) that people could take the networking theme.  I liked hearing about technological networks (the telegraph, the postal service), and how their forms might relate to literary forms, and was particularly drawn to work being done on kinship and publishing networks. Continue reading “NAVSA 2012”


I’ve just come back from this year’s NVSA at Columbia.  If you haven’t been, this is a conference I particularly like to attend just for the sake of attending.  There are no concurrent panels, so it really feels like a communal intellectual enterprise as the shared experience of seeing many papers as an audience builds up over the weekend.

This year’s theme was “Clichés and Orthodoxies.”  Two papers I particularly liked were Aeron Hunt’s (U of New Mexico), “Methodological Orthodoxies and the Business of Victorian Character” and Sarah Maurer’s (University of Notre Dame), “Caring for Strangers: The Sketch Writer and the Parish Visitor”.  These papers looked at the development of narrative structures that we often see as novelistic–such as the representation of character, and the possibilities of sympathy–in character books kept by businessmen and parish visiting manuals respectively.  I had no idea that businessmen kept little black books on people’s characters–this pre-Facebook surveillance on potential employees and clients was fascinating material. Continue reading “NVSA”

CFP: Victorian Thresholds: Between Literature and Anthropology, 28 April 2012

The Victorian Studies Association of Ontario is soliciting paper proposals for its annual conference, which is happening on April 28th this year, at York University’s beautiful Glendon campus in Toronto.

The call for papers might be of interest to those working on or around 19th-century borders, boundaries, hybrids, peripheries, dusks, dawns, doorways, vestibules, amphibians, fringes, frontiers, ambiguities, or other similarly delicious ideas that relate to that of  “the threshold.” Continue reading “CFP: Victorian Thresholds: Between Literature and Anthropology, 28 April 2012”

Call for Papers: Neo-Victorian Networks: Epistemologies, Aesthetics and Ethics

I’m currently organizing a conference at the University of Amsterdam with a colleague and I hope it will be of interest to writers and readers of the Floating Academy.

Neo-Victorian Networks: Epistemologies, Aesthetics and Ethics

University of Amsterdam

June 13-15, 2012 Continue reading “Call for Papers: Neo-Victorian Networks: Epistemologies, Aesthetics and Ethics”

The Value of Victorian Studies: Papers from BAVS online

The Journal of Victorian Culture Online site recently published four papers given at the 2011 BAVS conference on “The Value of Victorian Studies.” I recommend the whole series of papers, by Shearer West, Linda Bree, Sarah Parker and Regenia Gagnier, on various aspects of the question of the value and impact of our field. While the papers engage quite closely with the particular situation of British academia, the issues involved – from rising tuition fees, the value of a University education, the imperative to demonstrate the “impact” of humanities research, or the bleak job market for graduate students – will certainly be familiar and of interest to a North American Victorian Studies audience.

I welcome your thoughts about these papers and their divergent claims and recommendations including:

  • West’s call for academics in the Humanities to contribute more to “policy making and public services”
  • Bree’s desire, as an editor, to see Victorian Studies books on subjects that are “more ambitious, bigger, and broader”
  • Parker’s description of the various economic and ethical worries of graduate students
  • Gagnier’s celebration not only of “the good society” but also her more specific appreciation for collaboration and her claim that “as we develop large interdisciplinary projects, often with teams of researchers and digital technicians, the expectation is for collaboration, and the generation of young Victorianists will find that it is becoming the norm”

CFP of Interest: ACCUTE/NAVSA Joint Session: Victorian Technologies and the Technologies of Victorian Studies

From railways to telegraphy, typewriters to telephones, Victorians were engaged with new, and developing, technologies of connection and communication. Innovations in technology over the course of the Victorian period influenced wider cultural ideas of connection, of scale and of human capacity. Like the Victorians, researchers in Victorian Studies are using new technologies of reading, writing, research and social connection that are changing the nature of our work and its dissemination.

This call is for papers that critically address Victorian Technologies and/or the technologies of Victorian Studies. Whether you are interested in the Blackberry or the trans-Atlantic cable, you are invited to submit a proposal for a 20 minute paper to be presented at the ACCUTE/NAVSA joint panel at the 2012 Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Waterloo, Ontario. Continue reading “CFP of Interest: ACCUTE/NAVSA Joint Session: Victorian Technologies and the Technologies of Victorian Studies”

Reading Postures

I attended the Harvard English Institute two weeks ago, and intended to blog about it immediately.  Better late than never I hope!

The conference draws scholars from all around Boston as well as the U.S. and Canada, and makes me wonder if this is what a more local conference culture is like, rather than geographically spread out conferences North Americans often attend.  Of special interest to those of us who work on nineteenth-century literature and culture was a talk Patricia Crain (NYU) gave on “Postures and Places,” which was about children’s practices of reading in the U.S.–or, more literally, what nooks children in read or were depicted as reading in, and what physical postures they took up as they read.  Crane concentrated on the child curled up in the window seat (or sitting cross-legged in the window seat as Jane Eyre does); and on what I learned was a new practice of reading in the 1870s, the bed-time story, where a (middle-class) child is read to in bed.  This practice seemed so natural from my own middle-class childhood that it was fascinating to learn it had a history, though I suppose I should be used to that sort of revelation by now!  Crain’s talk also reminded me of Robyn Warhol’s discussion of the reading postures we take up now and the embodied experience of reading in Having a Good Cry.

Probably either of the postures Crain outlined is preferable to the way that I often read now—hunched up over my computer.  I’d be curious as to what postures and places others read in, and how it affects the experience.  Does it depend on what genre you’re reading?  Does fiction entail a more relaxed posture than criticism?

“Foundress of Nothing?”: Report from the annual Victorian Studies Association of Ontario Conference

Rubens, Teresa of Avila's Vision of the Dove, c.1614

Many of us from The Floating Academy attended the annual Victorian Studies Association of Ontario conference this weekend. The conference’s theme — “Manipulation: Victorian Variations on Hands, Handling, and Underhanded Behaviour” — was taken up in various illuminating ways by the day’s speakers (including our own Gregory Brophy) but one key thread that emerged through all the papers was a critical identification of hands with agency. In addressing this concept of agency, or, in some cases, control (as in the case of Thackeray’s puppetmaster, which Peter Capuano discussed in his interesting analysis of the relationship between text and image in Vanity Fair), the day’s speakers often highlighted the ambiguity inherent in the concept of agency.

I found James Eli Adams’s talk, “The Dead Hand: George Eliot and the Uses of Inheritance” particularly compelling in this regard because he added a new layer to my understanding of the image of Dorothea Brooke as a “foundress of nothing” in Middlemarch:

“Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering on some long-recognizable deed” (4). Continue reading ““Foundress of Nothing?”: Report from the annual Victorian Studies Association of Ontario Conference”

British Women Writer’s Conference

I just got back from the British Women Writer’s Conference in Columbus, Ohio, and I thought I’d take a second in the lull before the storm as the semester winds down to post about it.

I have long intended to go to this conference, but this was the first year I made it.  There are a few things that are truly great about it:

  1. It is completely organized by graduate students, which I didn’t know before.  This tradition stems from the conference’s beginnings as a grass roots newsletter about women writers sent around by graduate students almost twenty years ago. Amazing. Continue reading “British Women Writer’s Conference”

George Eliot and Spinoza; or, Felix Holt, the Marrano.

Lauren Goodlad’s paper at the latest NAVSA conference in Montreal, “The Mad Men in the Attic: Seriality and Crypto-Identity in Narratives of Capitalist Globalization,” got me thinking once more about the importance of detachment, unbelonging, and cosmopolitanism within Victorian thought. More specifically, Goodlad’s presentation inspired me to reconsider George Eliot’s novel Felix Holt, the Radical (1866).

In The English Novel from Dickens to Lawrence (Chatto & Windus, 1970) Raymond Williams called Felix Holt a turning point not just in Eliot’s work, but in the history of the novel for its sustained engagement with what Williams named “the crisis of the knowable community.” In the eponymous protagonist, Williams argues, Eliot represents the tension between individual and communal identity “as a problem of relationship: of how the separated individual, with a divided consciousness of belonging and not-belonging, makes his own moral history” (84). Continue reading “George Eliot and Spinoza; or, Felix Holt, the Marrano.”

NVSA 2010: What the h— happened to Darwin?

I’ve returned home from lovely Princeton and from a very rich and collegial conference experience at this year’s NVSA conference. As I mentioned in my first post about the conference, the topic this year was “Fighting Victorians,” which is a theme I’d like to respond to as I think back over the conference. I really enjoyed how the focused topic allowed all of the papers to build on each other another and thereby construct a larger, aggregate sense of what fighting meant to the Victorians (and the wide range of issues that they had to fight over). Continue reading “NVSA 2010: What the h— happened to Darwin?”