The tenth issue of Victorian Network (Summer 2015) will be guest edited by Professor William A. Cohen (University of Maryland) on the theme of Victorian Dirt.
Dirt – its causes, consequences, and control – obsessed the long nineteenth century, from the fuels and detritus of the Industrial Revolution, to the obscene books sold on London’s Holywell Street (which boasted fifty-seven pornographers by 1834). Technological advances brought increased pollution, while cities’ growth generated more dirt and the new urban workforce crowded together in sickness and in health. Meanwhile, public legislation and agitation tried to clean, civilise and purify the populace in both body and mind. Writers and cultural commentators debated the middle and upper classes’ responsibility to relieve the plight of the poor and dirty, but also drew on the metaphorical valences of dirt to explore cross-class attraction and repulsion. Rubbish mounds and the filthy, sewage-infested Thames are the iconic images of Charles Dickens’s exploration of class relations in Our Mutual Friend; Hannah Cullwick, diarist and domestic servant, documented her relationship with the barrister Arthur Munby – a secret connection based on the potential eroticism of dirt on the working-class body; and ‘slumming’ emerged as a term and practice in the 1880s, as well-to-do Londoners went on organized or individual tours of the East End. Recent scholarship and exhibitions have revealed the changing nature and status of dirt in the nineteenth century, taking an interdisciplinary approach to uncover (quite literally) the science and significance of the filthy, disposable or disgusting in Victorian life.
The conference organizers are inviting submissions of no more than 7,000 words, on any aspect of the theme. Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to, any of the following:
- Dirt in industrial processes and products: coal, smog, smoke or ashes.
- Dirty money: blackmail and corruption; smuggling; the sex trade.
- Filth: scandal, gossip, obscenity and pornography.
- Disgust and horror; dirt and the Gothic; dirt and the atavistic or bestial; dirt in the laboratory.
- The earth: dirt as life source; dirt as land; possession; burial ground and charnel house.
- Roads, woodlands, waysides and canals.
- Ashes to ashes: dirt and putrefaction; decay; decomposition and death.
- Dirt and disease: overcrowding, sanitation; refuge, dust and disposal; the relationship between dirt and poverty.
- Washing, cleanliness, purification; moral and physical dirt.
- Housework and domestic service
- The use of dirt in racialised imagery; dirt and the exotic; dirt and the colonial mission.
- The dirty body; sweat, grime, and other fluids; eroticised dirt.
All submissions should conform to MHRA style conventions and the in-house submission guidelines. Deadline for submissions: March 9, 2015.
Victorian Network is an open-access, MLA-indexed, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to publishing and promoting the best postgraduate and early career work across the broad field of Victorian Studies.