The Blind Fiddler, 1880s, Bethnal Green

The Blind Fiddler, 1880s, Bethnal Green

As a follow-up to part one and part two of the conference reports from our PG and ECR bursary winners, here are the latest BAVS 2016 updates from the Victorianist, the official British Association for Victorian Studies postgraduate blog.

Kicking this post off with a conclusion, Sophie Raine writes about the tail end of the conference, and her experiences as an attendee on the last day:

For the final panel, I attended ‘Modes of Production, Consumption and the Case of Christmas’ and felt that I had made an excellent choice as both papers were riveting and explored critical issues regarding consumption that was both interesting and helpful in terms of my own research. The first speaker, Elizabeth Ludlow (Anglia Ruskin University) gave a paper entitled ‘Storytelling at Christmas: Elizabeth Gaskell’s contributions to the “Extra Christmas” numbers of Household Words and All the Year Round‘ which analysed Elizabeth Gaskell’s contribution to Dickens’ collection of seasonal short stories, in relation to the representation of migration and exile.

Briony Wickes takes the opportunity to reflect on the conference theme, ‘Consuming (the) Victorians’, by asserting that ‘Things Still Matter’:

The title of this conference report refers to a 1998 collection of essays, edited by Daniel Miller, in which scholars in the field of material cultures made a case for “Why Some Things Matter”. In the introduction to this text, Miller described the study of materiality as being a ‘two stage process’: “The first phase came in the insistence that things matter and that to focus upon material worlds does not fetishize them since they are not some separate superstructure…[the second stage] demonstrates what is to be gained by focusing upon the diversity of material worlds”.[1] Almost two decades later, this year’s BAVS conference on the theme of ‘Consuming (the) Victorians’ could perhaps be seen as part of a third stage in the study of material and consumer cultures, with many of the papers extending scholarly focus beyond the strictly human realm, to consider the possibility of nonhuman agency within nineteenth-century consumer cultures.

‘Nicholay; Furs’, photograph by Hugh Owen and Claude-Marie Ferrier, 1851, Rijks Museum Collection

‘Nicholay; Furs’, photograph by Hugh Owen and Claude-Marie Ferrier, 1851, Rijks Museum Collection

Briony also contributed an enlightening and related post on ‘Consuming Furs at the 1851 Great Exhibition’:

As Jeanne Cannizzo has argued, the Great Exhibition can be compared to a “cultural text” that may be read in order to better understand “the underlying cultural assumptions that have informed its creation, selection, and display”.[5] As with many of the showcases at the 1851 Exhibition, Nicholay’s display of skins in the North-West Transept participates in that event’s broader ideological agenda. Showcasing animal skins sourced from all over the globe in the heart of fashionable London, the display articulates a narrative of colonial domination in keeping with the triumphant rhetoric of the Exhibition.

Finally, Madeleine Emerald Thiele’s conference report puts the reader on the ground with personal anecdotes and engaging illustrations:

whether you were interested in how Victorians consumed the poisoned apple (Joanna Crosby), the queer consumption of the dead child body (Jen Baker), or the authenticity of the Muppet’s rendition of Dickens (Holly Eckersley) there was plenty to think about and discuss over champagne at the conference reception in the city’s Impressionist Galleries. Hard life isn’t it?

As always, be sure to check the Victorianist for more reports on BAVS 2016, and to read more about the exciting research BAVS postgraduates are currently conducting.