Posts Tagged Victorian culture

Visiting speaker, 1 Apr 2014: Jim Mussell on Dickens and media

Jim Mussell (University of Leeds) will be presenting his paper, ‘Moving Things: Media and Mediation in Dickens’s Mugby Junction’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 1 April 2014. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48.

2013.07.mussellMedia move things, but media are also things that move.  This paper focus on the mediating bodies of nineteenth-century print culture and the effects that they had on the human bodies they mediated.  My focus throughout is on repetition, the characteristic movement of industrial print culture.  Repetition puts into play a gothic pattern of return and my paper draws upon this tradition to account for repetition’s cultural effects.   In a sort of repetition of my own, I will keep coming back to Mugby Junction, Dickens’s Christmas issue of All the Year Round from 1866. The frame narrative tells the story of Barbox Brothers, who haunts Mugby Junction as he does not know which line to take. I argue that Barbox’s decision to stay is similar to the way periodicals like Household Words and All the Year Round mediate through repetition. Just as Barbox Brothers moves on by becoming part of Mugby, so the Christmas number of All the Year Round becomes part of the archive, part of a space called the past, on the appearance of the January number.  From the steam engine to the heart, my argument is that until we take repetition seriously we cannot understand the print culture of the past.

About the speaker
Click here to visit Jim Mussell's staff page.Dr James Mussell is Associate Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds.  He is the author of The Nineteenth-Century Press in the Digital Age (Palgrave, 2012) and Science, Time and Space in the Late Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press (Ashgate, 2007).  He is the one of the editors of The Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (ncse 2008) and W. T. Stead: Newspaper Revolutionary (British Library, 2012).  Since 2009 he has edited the Digital Forum in the Journal of Victorian Culture.

Download a flyer for the talk (PDF).

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The experiment: Engaging undergraduates in advanced university research


It started out as an experiment. We took the brains of a dozen undergraduate students and carefully placed them into the flailing bodies of several research projects; we fired up the electricity (well, actually, set up a webpage) and … the Project Management and Research module was born.

I have become very fond of what we have all created this year. Anthony and I have worked together on projects for over a decade now (hard to believe, I know) and it seemed like a good idea to share some of what we have learned along the way and pass on our genuine enthusiasm for project-based work. In an academic environment that is increasingly stressing employability and the transferability of skills, this module ticks all the boxes. I hope that it has given our first cohort of students a taste of research in an academic context and the opportunity to exploit the talent they have and bring out new talents they never knew they had. Read the rest of this entry »

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Visiting speaker, 25 Feb 2014: Angie Dunstan on the Victorian afterlives of the Romantics

Angie Dunstan (University of Kent) will be presenting her paper, ‘Romantic Literary Societies and their Victorian Afterlives’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 25 February 2014. The talk will take place in Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48.

2013.04.dunstanIn 1889, Andrew Lang bemoaned the rise of literary societies devoted to Romantic poets, complaining ‘They all demonstrate that people have not the courage to study verse in solitude and for their proper pleasure; men and women need confederates in this adventure’. Lang’s was only one voice in a lively debate as to the purpose and usefulness of Romantic literary societies at this time, particularly as the movement towards single-author societies coincided with rising suspicion towards cults of celebrity. The 1880s saw the formation of the Wordsworth Society, the Shelley Society and the Lamb Society, and each rapidly acquired authority through the membership of prominent literati. Taking the Wordsworth and the Shelley Societies as case studies, this paper explores the role of Romantic literary societies in the Victorian era, questioning whether members of such literary societies were meaningfully influenced by the politics and poetics of their Romantic figureheads, or whether such societies were, as one critic expressed it, merely places of ‘congregational enthusiasm’. Read the rest of this entry »

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Visiting speaker, 12 Nov 2013: Alice Jenkins on Euclid and Victorian deductive fiction

Alice Jenkins (University of Glasgow) will be presenting her paper, ‘Nineteenth-Century Euclid: Storytelling and Deductive Reasoning’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 12 November 2013. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 0.31, and is co-hosted by the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research and the Collaborative Interdisciplinary Study for Science, Medicine and the Imagination (CISSMI) research network.

‘Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner.  You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a lovestory or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.’

Holmes’s expostulation to Watson in The Sign of Four embodies a conventional Victorian view of the purity of mathematics as utterly distinct from the flim-flam of fiction.  Does an attempt to read Victorian mathematics in the context of literary culture carry the principles of literature and science studies too far?  Had the period’s mathematics any significant relationship with affect, rhetoric, poetics, ambiguity, those qualities we think of as basic to literature?  In particular, what kinds of relationship can a deductive science have with narrative?  In this paper I explore some of the ways in which Victorian writers grappled with mathematics and tried to tell deductive stories.

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Call for Papers: Rethinking the Nineteenth Century, Sheffield 24 Aug 2013

The University of Sheffield
School of English

Rethinking the Nineteenth Century

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Keynote speaker: Professor Mark Llewellyn
(University of Strathclyde: Director of Research at the AHRC),
‘On Reciprocity, Trust and the Gift’

This one day conference will address a central question: what constitutes nineteenth century studies today? Recent years have witnessed significant shifts in the historical range and content of the long nineteenth century as the result of emerging critical approaches, historiographical debates, and the advancing claims of interdisciplinary analyses. The conference will provide a forum for taking stock of where we are now and trace possible future developments within the area. It will explore how specific engagements with a range of critical theories have developed an understanding of the nineteenth century as well as examining how the development of new cultural forms, including contemporary adaptations of the nineteenth century (on stage, film, and television), have conditioned public perceptions of the period. The conference will also address the challenges (and possible limitations) of discussing the nineteenth century as opposed to the Victorian period as well as exploring the distinctions and continuities between Romanticism and Victorianism. The conference will also reflect on how recent developments in the neo-Victorian novel have contributed to new debates about the relationship between the Victorian novel and contemporary culture, and how this enables us to reread and rewrite the Victorians.

We thus invite contributions which reflect on how texts, approaches, and concepts have enriched our understanding of the nineteenth century. We also welcome contributions which consider future developments for nineteenth century studies by plotting ways of ensuring a positive and vibrant future for our past.

Discussions are underway with a University Press with a view to publishing a collection based on extended versions of a selection of papers.

Papers might wish to address topics such as:

  • Rethinking the parameters of the nineteenth century – The Romantics and the Victorians.
  • New interdisciplinary approaches.
  • Recovering the lost: voices, texts, artefacts.
  • Theorising the nineteenth century.
  • Keywords – then and now?
  • The international context and transnational approaches
  • Representing the nineteenth century – TV, film, galleries and museums, the neo-Victorian.
  • Where next for nineteenth century studies?
  • Canon formation in a digital age.
  • The Digital Humanities and Social Media.

Please submit 250 word abstracts for 20 minute papers to the conference organizers (Dr Andrew Smith, Dr Anna Barton, Dr John Miller and Dr Amber Regis) at by March 18th.

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Julia Thomas, Shakespeare’s Shrine: The Bard’s Birthplace and the Invention of Stratford-upon-Avon published

The latest book by Dr Julia Thomas, Director of Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, has recently been published by the Penn Press. Titled Shakespeare’s Shrine: The Bard’s Birthplace and the Invention of Stratford-upon-Avon, the book considers the Victorian reconstruction of Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley Street. Here’s the blurb from the book’s webpage over at Penn Press:

Anyone who has paid the entry fee to visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon—and there are some 700,000 a year who do so—might be forgiven for taking the authenticity of the building for granted. The house, as the official guidebooks state, was purchased by Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, in two stages in 1556 and 1575, and William was born and brought up there. The street itself might have changed through the centuries—it is now largely populated by gift and tea shops—but it is easy to imagine little Will playing in the garden of this ancient structure, sitting in the inglenook in the kitchen, or reaching up to turn the Gothic handles on the weathered doors.
     In Shakespeare’s Shrine Julia Thomas reveals just how fully the Birthplace that we visit today is a creation of the nineteenth century. Two hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, the run-down house on Henley Street was home to a butcher shop and a pub. Saved from the threat of an ignominious sale to P. T. Barnum, it was purchased for the English nation in 1847 and given the picturesque half-timbered façade first seen in a fanciful 1769 engraving of the building. A perfect confluence of nationalism, nostalgia, and the easy access afforded by rail travel turned the house in which the Bard first drew breath into a major tourist attraction, one artifact in a sea of Shakespeare handkerchiefs, eggcups, and door-knockers.
     It was clear to Victorians on pilgrimage to Stratford just who Shakespeare was, how he lived, and to whom he belonged, Thomas writes, and the answers were inseparable from Victorian notions of class, domesticity, and national identity. In Shakespeare’s Shrine she has written a richly documented and witty account of how both the Bard and the Warwickshire market town of his birth were turned into enduring symbols of British heritage—and of just how closely contemporary visitors to Stratford are following in the footsteps of their Victorian predecessors.
     Julia Thomas is author of several books, including Pictorial Victorians and Victorian Narrative Painting, and is Director of the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research at Cardiff University.

More details can be found here. 

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A true collector of the Kelmscott Press

Originally posted on Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau:

As I was happily working away on some of our Kelmscott Press books, I discovered this wonderfully detailed bookplate in a copy of William Morris’s Theroots of the mountains. Although we have yet to learn the identity of Robert Hall, the plate certainly suggests that he was an enthusiastic collector of Kelmscott publications.

On the library table are copies of several well-known Kelmscott works, including  William Morris’s The glittering plain and his 1895 translation of Beowulf. All the books are clearly bound in the distinctive Kelmscott full limp vellum tied with silk ribbons; The wood beyond the world is open to show a Morris-designed woodcut border and frontispiece.

Leaning against the bookcase is a copy of the 1896 edition of Chaucer, the most important publication from the Kelmscott Press and arguably the greatest of all the private press books. If this delightful bookplate provides us with an accurate glimpse into Robert Hall’s private library, then he was indeed a true collector of Kelmscott.

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Visiting speaker, 15 Nov 2011: Paul Schlicke on Dickens’s Sketches by Boz

Paul Schlicke will be presenting his paper, ‘The Topicality of Sketches by Boz’, at 5.15pm on Tuesday, 15 November 2011. The talk will take place in the Cardiff Humanities Building, Room 2.48.

Sketches by Boz is saturated with topical detail, as Dickens casts his journalist’s eye on the sights, sounds, smells, people, and events of contemporary London. His attention to ‘every-day life and every-day people’ aligns him with Reform, which was challenging elitism with democratic principle. His revisions removing indelicacy in later editions reflect changing attitudes as Victorian propriety replaced Regency raffishness, and his most extensive alterations to the sketches, for the 1850 edition, impacted on the journalism he was then writing for his new periodical Household Words.

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Visiting speaker, 1 Nov 2011: Brian Maidment on early 19th-century print culture

Brian Maidment will be presenting his paper, ‘Print Culture in the Marketplace, 1820–1840: The Percy Anecdotes in Context’, at 5.15pm on Tuesday, 1 November 2011. The talk will take place in the Cardiff Humanities Building, Room 2.48.

(Please note the change of title for this talk.)

While this paper takes as its subject an obscure and half-forgotten publication from the early 1820s, the aim is to use The Percy Anecdotes as a way of trying to describe and assess the volatility, experimentation, and entrepreneurial energy that characterised print culture in the Regency and early Victorian period. Central to the development of print culture into a mass circulation medium in this period were changing concepts of information and its social utility. The Percy Anecdotes represents many of these important historical shifts both through its physical presence (a serialised, illustrated compendium of anecdotes organised thematically into forty part issues before republication in volume format) and in its appropriation of the anecdote genre as a significant form of cultural discourse. This paper seeks to examine the intersection in the 1820s between developments in the ways books were being produced and emerging debates about the social consequences of mass circulation educative and ‘informational’ literature. It is built round an illustrated account of the range of informational literature produced as miscellanies in the 1820s. As well as powerpoint images, copies of several of these publications will be available to help with discussion.

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DMVI schools workshops

On Thursday 13 October, we held two workshops with local schools to explore the potential use of the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration as a teaching and learning tool. The fact that the database is full of images that illustrate literary texts and contain a wealth of historic detail makes it significant for a range of humanities subjects, including English literature, history and religious studies.

The morning workshop consisted of staff and students from Stanwell Comprehensive School in Penarth. The first exercise involved giving the participants 25 illustrations and asking them to arrange them in order, with the aim of analysing how pictures can create narratives. Anthony had spent a considerable amount of time cutting the images out with great precision and they looked impressive spread along the desks. Some interesting stories emerged, a few of which came near to recreating the actual source text (Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). We then gave out the captions to see if that would help or hinder the creation of the story. The exercise was a very valuable one both for the participants and for us because it made us think about the relation between word and image in illustration and how these Victorian pictures can be ‘read’. The second half of the session involved a demonstration of the database and the new social networking features, which the students seemed to particularly enjoy. They were given the chance to try it out for themselves before a very hearty buffet lunch was served.

We had just about demolished the chocolate éclairs when the next school arrived for the afternoon session: St David’s College, Cardiff. We tried out the same exercises again with similar interesting results. This group were slightly older and managed to work out that the pictures were from Coleridge’s poem. After another demonstration of the database, tea arrived, so we forced ourselves to eat more plates of sandwiches and crisps.

The day provided us with lots of ideas of how to go forward with the education strand of the project and convinced us that this was really something worth doing. The feedback from the students suggested that the workshop had made them think differently about illustration and its value, so our job was done. Now all that was left was to do was to finish off that plate of muffins …

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