Consuming (the) Victorians

2016 Annual Conference of the British Association for Victorian Studies

Category: Bursary Blogs

BAVS 2016 Conference Reports (Part Four)

'Scrooge's Third Visitor' from Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. Illustration by John Leech, c1843.

‘Scrooge’s Third Visitor’ from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Illustration by John Leech, c1843.

Happy Holidays, Victorianists!

We hope you’ve enjoyed re-living BAVS 2016 through our coverage of the numerous conference reports. If you haven’t yet seen what our bursary bloggers have been up to, you can find parts one, two, and three of our reporting at the links. Before we begin a new year, and switch gears to BAVS 2017, we wanted to leave you with one final roundup.

In our last post, we shared Madeleine Emerald Thiele’s full conference report. This time around, she takes a deeper look at the conference theme, ‘Consuming (the) Victorians’, to analyse both academic life and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s consumption of Sandro Botticelli:

Reception and revival are key tenets of the images I consume as part of my research. I labour my hours upon tiny small details which are like visual conversations between artists across time. I consume the gentle bend of a foot painted in John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s, Love and the Maiden (1877, MFA, San Francisco), and I realised he too had also been a consumer: for when he admired the turn of Venus’ foot in Botticelli’s Venus and Mars (1485, National Gallery) he knew it sought a new life, and out from the tiniest detail bursts a new one. The chain is long and the details small but the meaning is often great.

For this final roundup we also have a fantastic series of vlogs (video blogs) for your holiday viewing pleasure. You may remember when Kirstin Mills interviewed international BAVS delegates for her first vlog. Now, you can watch her full video report, which includes footage from the Cardiff Castle and Arcade tours. Catch both videos below:

Beth Gaskell has also produced two fantastic vlogs for BAVS 2016, which are designed to help those new to the conference circuit. In ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Academic Conferences’, Gaskell offers useful how-to tips for navigating a major academic event. In ‘The Unexpected Conference’, she shows us why the best moments of a conference are the ones you can’t really prepare for:

Finally, Karita Kuusisto offers an insightful post on ‘how the mode of publication affected the way the author and the illustrator worked together’ in Victorian England, which expands on the workshop she offered at BAVS 2016:

The relationship between author and illustrator in the Victorian era is a complicated one – or that is the impression one gets when reading about it. Many of the author-illustrator teams seem to have arrived at a disagreement that brought an end to the collaboration. The relationships were further complicated, and perhaps intensified, by the particular publication process that the two were engaged with – by this I mean the original method of publication, be it the short story or serialized novel in a periodical, for example, with its strict deadlines and restrictions on image sizes and numbers. Sometimes the illustrator and author would work quite closely together.

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

BAVS 2016 Conference Reports (Part Three)

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.

BAVS 2016 Conference Reports (Part Two)

“Horror and Agony”, from a photograph by Guillaume Duchenne. Figure 21 from Darwin’s Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Picture in public domain.]

“Horror and Agony”, from a photograph by Guillaume Duchenne. Figure 21 from Darwin’s Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Picture in public domain.]

Following up on last month’s list of 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.

Emily Turner writes about ‘Darwin, Photography, and the “Screaming Victorians” of Anthony Rhys’s Visual Biofiction or; Whose Biofiction is it Anyway?’:

If you attended the BAVS conference held in Cardiff earlier this year, you may have had time to explore the gallery of screaming Victorians adorning the walls of the registration room. If not, it is worth taking some time to get acquainted with the fascinating legion of howling, devastated, vindictive and enraged men, women and children that populate artist Anthony Rhys’s collection of work.

Lindsay Wells has penned a response to two BAVS 2016 conference papers by Camilla Adeane and Kumiko Tanabe, on John Everett Millais:

What I enjoyed most about both Dr. Tanabe and Adeane’s papers was the thoughtful insight they offered into the latter half of Millais’s professional life. The Boyhood of Raleigh, The North-West Passage, and Bubbles constitute an important facet of the artist’s career that, like his Pre-Raphaelite endeavors of the 1850s, is intellectually rich and innovative.  In their arguments, both Dr. Tanabe and Adeane called for a reexamination of our preconceived notions about Millais’s mature work.  They each offered a refreshingly perceptive interpretation of their selected paintings, all of which touch upon sentimental and aesthetic themes beyond their literal subject matter.

Flore Janssen’s conference report explores ‘Consuming Beings, Being Consumers: Consumption and Identity in the Victorian Period’:

In his introduction to The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption, Frank Trentmann described how, since the 1970s, scholars in the social sciences ‘have studied the creative, ambivalent nature of consumption and reclaimed it as a fertile ground for subcultures, hybridity, self-fashioning, and transgressive identity politics’.[1]In other words, consumption functions as an expression of identity, and studying habits of consumption can reveal a great deal about the ways in which people choose to present themselves. The theme of this year’s BAVS conference, ‘Consuming (the) Victorians’, provided a helpful way in to two major questions surrounding material culture in historical research: how did the Victorians build a sense of self through material culture and consumer goods, and how do these objects determine our understanding of the Victorians today?

Last but not least, Kirstin Mills recorded a video blog during the conference, in which she interviews a series of international delegates to find out where they’ve travelled from and why they decided to come to BAVS in Cardiff:

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.

BAVS 2016 Conference Reports (Part One)

csth-yvvmaal0gw-jpg-largeIf you enjoyed Katie Bell’s reflection on BAVS 2016, be sure to stay tuned for more conference reports from our PG and ECR bursary winners. These will appear on the Victorianist, the official British Association for Victorian Studies postgraduate blog.

Earlier this week, ECR and (neo-)Victorianist Barbara Franchi reflected on the conference through an analysis of ITV’s hit miniseries Victoria (2016). She asks: ‘to what extent is the figure of Queen Victoria (and her representation in the show) Victorian, and therefore a later cultural construction?’

Below is an excerpt of the full post, which you can find over on the Victorianist:

In order to be neo-Victorian, a narrative notably ‘needs to be critically engaging with nineteenth-century fiction, culture and society’.[vi] With its intertextual references to literary classics, its serialised form and its self-reflexive tones on the epoch taking its name from the series’ protagonist, Victoria is a feast of nineteenth-century literature and culture brought to our screens. One could hardly find a more apt place to reflect on the contemporary fascination for the nineteenth-century past than the fictionalised story of the woman who, with her name alone, has made consuming the Victorians possible.

Read more at the link.

Image © ITV

Image © ITV

Hannah Greenstreet, a graduate researcher in theatre at the University of Oxford, gave an overview of the conference plenaries, as well as a more in-depth look at the music and theatre strand of panels.

Below is an excerpt of the full post, which you can find over on the Victorianist:

One of the things that surprised me as a BAVS novice was the interdisciplinary nature (and the sheer scale) of the conference, spanning literature, history, history of art, musicology and many others. It is sometimes easy to confine oneself to one’s discipline and forget that the nineteenth century was so much more than its literature. I found it immensely refreshing and exciting to have people with so many different perspectives and areas of expertise participating in the conversation.

Read more at the link.

Imitation or Homage?

img_4902University of Leicester PhD researcher Katie Bell has written a reflection on the Dickensian capsule exhibition and the ‘My Dickens Project’ panel that took place at BAVS 2016. She takes Dr Holly Furneaux’s argument that Dickens fan fiction (such as Dickensian) can function as literary criticism – since ‘[w]hat contributes to the memorable quality of his characters is that his works have been reimagined numerous times, and perhaps due to this, his characters can easily be extracted from their original works and viewed as part of our families’ – and unpacks it.

Below is an excerpt of the full post, which you can find over on Victorianist:

Charles Caleb Colton made the famous assertion ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, to which Oscar Wilde cunningly added, ‘…that mediocrity can pay to greatness’.  Wilde’s addition gives a new take on the term ‘reboot’ and he more than likely would have applied his addendum to the modern film market whose current muse appears to be the never ending superhero chronicles.  Do film and television adaptations cross the line from creatively exploring a new way of seeing a well-loved story, such as Colton surmised, or are they merely rehashing old plot lines as a way to avoid bringing a new story line to the market, as Wilde suggests?  Further, is this act of recycling truly creative or is it merely imitative; if the former, how far can we, as well-read writers, move from imitating those authors who truly inspire us?

Read more at the link.

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