Victorian culture

Visiting speaker, 28 Oct 2014: Ian Haywood on radical medievalism in Victorian Britain

Ian Haywood (University of Roehampton) will be presenting his paper, ‘Illuminating Propaganda: Radical Medievalism and Utopia in Victorian Britain’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 28 October 2014. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 0.36.

We usually credit William Morris with the first significant vision of a radical, medievalized Utopia. However, almost half a century before News from Nowhere a Chartist wood engraver named William James Linton produced a remarkable illuminated poem which both textualized and visualized the radical tradition of ‘merrie England’. I will argue that Linton acts as a bridge between the Romantic radicalism of William Cobbett and the socialist revival of the arts and crafts movement. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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’. (more…)

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.