This interdisciplinary seminar meets three times per semester to hear and discuss work in progress on topics in Victorian literature, history, art, science, and popular culture. Both local and visiting speakers are featured. Papers are not pre-circulated, and everyone is welcome to attend. Contact us if you would like to be added to the Victorian Literature and Culture email list.


Upcoming Events

Nasser Mufti, University of Illinois at Chicago
Towards an Anticolonial History of Victorian Literature
Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 6:00pm
Room 133, Barker Center

What is an anticolonial theory of the nineteenth century? And how might such a theory recast how we understand nineteenth century British literature? Beginning with readings of C.L.R. James and W.E.B Du Bois, and ending with readings of Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad, this talk argues that there is a productive dissonance between the ideological effects of nineteenth century fiction and anticolonial thought.

Michael Tondre, Stony Brook University
The Invention of Oil: Charles Kingsley and the Victorian Petro-Encounter
Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 6:00pm
Room 133, Barker Center

Oil exists, strictly speaking, as a fiction. Unlike an elemental substance such as gold, oil appears as the nom-de-plume for a big umbrella of combustible, carbon-rich liquids. But historians of energy and the environment have yet to trace its invention as a master term of our fossil-fueled present. In redressing that lacuna, I show how writings by major novelists, scientists, and explorers invented oil as a new natural resource at the zenith of Britain’s empire, circa 1830-1870, doubly defined by its essential nature and myriad appearances across a grid of overseas extraction zones. These writings constituted oil’s initial field of legibility in the period before it was well-nigh scrubbed from view in the global North. Of particular note is Charles Kingsley’s haunting West Indian travelogue, At Last (1871). By drawing on older narratives set in the hydrocarbon frontier, Kingsley cultivates an arresting poetics of nostalgia for oil. Seeming to be neither invented nor found at all, it is rather re-discovered as an eternal artifact of national memory. Through this new imperial energetics, the fiction of oil begins to appear timeless, axiomatic, and real—in short, an elemental truth.

Allen MacDuffie, University of Texas at Austin
Talk Title TBA
Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 3:23pm
Room 110, Barker Center

Past Events 2019 - 20

Cornelia Pearsall, Smith College
War Scare
Alicia Mireles Christoff, Amherst College
Novel Relations: Victorian Fiction and British Psychoanalysis
Abigail Arnold, Brandeis University
Beth Leonardo Silva, University of Rhode Island
Lauren Wilwerding, Boston College
New Work in Victorian Studies: Graduate Student Panel

Past Events 2018 - 19

Supritha Rajan, University of Rochester
Temperament and the Art of Reading
John Kucich, Rutgers University
Political Melodrama Meets Domestic Fiction: The Politics of Genre in North and South
New Work in Victorian Studies
Mary Carpenter, Queen's University (Emerita)
From Treasures to Trash, or, the Real History of "Family Bibles"
Penny Ismay, Boston College
Redundant Women and the Problem of Self-Interest in Late Nineteenth Century Britain
Daniel Wright, University of Toronto
Olive Schreiner and the Underground of the Novel

Past Events 2017 - 18

Pamela Fletcher, Bowdoin College
The Belatedness of Work: Ford Madox Brown and the Problem of Realism
Elizabeth Miller, University of California, Davis
Extraction Ecologies and Victorian Literature
Graduate Student Panel
Sharon Marcus, Columbia University
The Drama of Celebrity: Imitation
Jade Werner, Wheaton College
David Livingstone and the Language of Cosmopolitan Sympathy
Susan David Bernstein, Boston University
Unpicking Aesthetics: Conceptual Art and the Brontës

Past Events 2016 - 17

Aviva Briefel, Bowdoin College
"Freaks of Furniture": The Useless Energy of Haunted Things
Benjamin Morgan, University of Chicago
Fin du Globe: On Decadent Planets
New Work in Victorian Studies
Jeremy Melius, Tufts University
Vivisection and the Visual Arts
Arianne Chernock, Boston University
The Right to Rule and the Rights of Women in Victorian Britain
Numbers in the Novel: A Roundtable

Past Events 2015 - 16

Marah Gubar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sending Up the Cult of the Child
Aeron Hunt, Boston College
Military Relics: Thomas Hardy’s Soldiers and Sailors at Home
New Work in Victorian Studies
James Najarian, Boston College
Matthew Arnold and the Rivalries of Central Asia
Elaine Auyoung, University of Minnesota
Reading for the World

Past Events 2014 - 15

James Buzard, MIT
"He Can't Bear His Name": David Copperfield and the Thresholds of Modernity
William Cohen, University of Maryland, College Park
Why Is There So Much French in Villette?
Graduate Student Panel
Debra Gettelman, College of the Holy Cross
Imagining “Otherwise": Middlemarch’s Counterfictions
Lauren Goodlad, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Victorian Studies and the Longue Durée

Past Events 2013 - 14

Ellen Ross, Ramapo College
The Sisters of the People and Interwar London
Simon During, University of Brisbane
Kafka's Middlemarch
Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, Northeastern University
Matthew Heitzman, Boston College
Marg Carkeet, Brandeis University
Graduate Student Panel
Rachel Ablow, SUNY Buffalo
Wounded Trees, Abandoned Boots: Thomas Hardy and the Homelessness of Pain
Anna Henchman, Boston University
Visualizing the Novel: Astronomy and Narrative Universes
Amy King, St. John's University
Seeing the Divine in the Commonplace: Seashore Natural History and Eliot’s Early Realism

Past Events 2012 - 13

Frances Ferguson
"Mill on Bentham and Coleridge (Again)"
Maia McAleavey, Boston College

"The Improper End: Aurora Floyd and Jude the Obscure"

Judith Pascoe
"Wuthering Heights, Japanese Style"
Graduate Student Panel
Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"A Touch of Class?: Hybridization, Breed, and Species in the Nineteenth Century"
Alison Byerly, Middlebury College
"Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism"
Rae Greiner
"Stupid Thackeray, or, Barry Lyndon"
David Kurnick
"Character in the Commons: The Case of George Eliot"

Past Events 2011 - 12

Karen Bourrier, Boston University
"Orthopaedic Deformity in the Nineteenth-Century Novel: Disability in *Madame Bovary*, *The Mill on the Floss*, and *Sir Richard Calmady*"
Graduate Student Panel: New Work in Victorian Studies
Yopie Prins, University of Michigan
“Metrical Discipline: Swinburne on The Flogging Block
Judith Plotz, The George Washington University
"Invisible Playmates: or Girl Ghosts and Adult Comfort in Ghost Stories by Burnett, Canton, and Kipling"
Matthew Rubery
“Canned Literature: The Book after Edison’s Phonograph”
Ivan Kreilkamp, Indiana University
"'Rare Forms:' Existlessness, Extinction, and Nonhuman Life in Hardy’s Lyrics"

Past Events 2010 - 11

Nicholas Daly, University College Dublin
"Bill Stickers Beware: The Frenzy of the Legible in the Victorian City"
Graduate Student Panel
Elaine Hadley, University of Chicago
"Partial War and Liberal Partiality in the Victorian Public Sphere"
Mary Wilson Carpenter, Queen's University
"Reviewing the Clinical Gaze: A Victorian Hospital Patient's Narrative"
Seth Koven, Rutgers University
"The Global Traffic in Matches and Match Girls"
Talia Schaffer, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
"Reorienting Victorian Families"