Professor Regenia Gagnier (University of Exeter)
Professor Philip Davis (University of Liverpool)
Plenary: “The Reader Cure”, hosted by the Reader Organisation of the University of Liverpool
Call for Papers:
In Past and Present (1843), the author and social commentator, Thomas Carlyle, perceived modern crisis as an impossible riddle and posed the question: “This English Nation, will it get to know the meaning of its strange new today?” Nineteenth-century perceptions of crisis were informed and shaped by unprecedented change in the social and economic climate of Victorian England. Awareness of crisis stimulated intellectual enquiry in new disciplinary directions: in history and geology, archaeology and classicism, evolutionary biology, economic and social theory, in literature and culture, and in personal and psychological narratives. Professor Philip Davis in The Victorians identifies the realist novel as a ‘holding ground’ for the complex emotional and psychological concerns which emerged from rapid industrial and
social change. Through literature, and the public nature of the periodical press, authors and thinkers found a new medium of expression – reading and writing became remedial aids in times of difficulty. Such intellectual productivity, coupled with the desire to explore new emotional, social and psychological territories, caused these dramas of discovery to be played out in the very hearts and homes of the public.
The commemorations of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and the returns to Marx for explanations of the current economic crisis exemplify a revival of interest in how thought from the nineteenth century lives on in the contemporary world. Victorian literature continues to enrich and comfort the lives of people today as shown by the success of the bibliotherapy outreach work of the Reader Organisation of the University of Liverpool. The status and future of Victorian Studies has been identified by Professor Regenia Gagnier, in her address ‘Whither Victorian Studies’, to be giving rise to emergent formalisms, and new collaborative projects with strong interdisciplinary focus and international involvement (Victoriographies 2011).
This conference explores the significance of crisis in how we read and interpret Victorian literature, and what that might mean for the future of Victorian Studies. How did Victorians perceive the state and future of society, and in what ways did different disciplines seek to respond to these questions? How might contemporary scholarship, itself experiencing uncertain times, learn from or emulate Victorian responses? What forms of advice or consolation can Victorian literature offer to the contemporary reader? How might Victorian Studies – in their wide embracement of interdisciplinary concerns - help us grasp “the meaning of our strange new Today”?
Possible topics might include, but are by no means limited to:
- Crisis and resolve
- Crisis in scientific thought and theory
- Crises in history and the interpretation of history
- Crisis in the understanding of time, space or place
- Crisis in Victorian Studies
- Individual and society
- Literature and change
- Personal, family and psychological crisis
- Public and private selves
- Social or cultural crisis
- The realist novel
- Religious crisis
- The role of the public forum in Victorian literature and culture
- Therapeutic responses
- Victorian literature as aid
Postgraduates and early career researchers are invited to send proposals (of approx. 250 words) for 15 – 20 minute papers to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than July 15th. Any queries regarding the conference can be directed to the same address.
This event is held in collaboration with the Reader Organisation – a bibliotherapy outreach initiative that has brought about an international ‘Reading Revolution’. The organisation will contribute to the conference by highlighting the significance of Victorian literature as both informative and remedial for working through social, cultural, and psychological crises.
The Southwest Victorianists team
University of Exeter
Conference web page: http://strangenewtoday.wordpress.com/