Many Victorians worried that democratizing reforms would upset social stability by empowering a growing middle- and working class, and critics have long argued that these concerns are also manifest in the form and content of the Victorian novel. For many, the Victorian novel has become synonymous with middle-class ideology. D. A. Miller and Mary Poovey have argued that the Victorian novel promulgated a politics of confinement that defined the limits of the individual subject; more recently, Fredric Jameson has highlighted democratic impulses within the form of the novel itself, such as a de-emphasizing of protagonists to also give minor characters interiority.
This workshop seeks papers that think about the Victorians participation in, and representation of, a democratic imagination. How do Victorian texts imagine the popular public and their social and political participation? How do novels give marginal characters representation in the space of the novel? What are the limits of the Victorians¹ ability to depict democratic processes? How is the novelistic form influenced by democratic or undemocratic ideas of political representation? How can we see democratization in the ways the Victorian novel was distributed and read, at home and abroad?
This workshop will take place on 13-14 May 2016, and is organized and hosted by the School of English at the University of Hong Kong. The plenary lecture will be delivered by Isobel Armstrong, Emeritus Professor of English at Birkbeck University, University of London.