Seminars

Thank you to all seminar participants for submitting position papers, which are available to all members of a seminar through a Dropbox folder. You should have received information about accessing the folder and the papers are available for you to read.

Led by eminent scholars of the long nineteenth century, the seminars are limited to 15 people each; each seminar presenter will pre-circulate a 5-page (double-spaced) position paper related to the topic (and ideally, related to some aspect of your research). These seminars are first come, first served, and participants’ names will be listed in the program; priority will be given to those who are not presenting a paper elsewhere at the conference. This is a unique opportunity to have your work read and discussed by a cohort of faculty and graduate students from across the country.

Seminar titles and leaders:


Circulating Images (NOW CLOSED)

Kate Flint (USC)

This panel calls for five-page position papers that will examine the means and the implications of circulation, and the attendant connections, nodes, and breakages. How do images circulate – whether in their original form, or in reproduction? On what kinds of networks (of print, exhibitionary practice, or capital) do such circulations depend? Do images, for example, circulate independently of texts? How does the different positioning or display of images affect the texts that do accompany them or that are stimulated by them? What do we learn from the responses of different audiences to the same image, and what conclusions may we draw about networks of ideas from such responses? And what of images that seek to represent modes of circulation – from the workings of the Post Office to maps showing the lines of the telegraph system to diagrams of the body’s arterial system? How are flows in circulation, and impediments to this circulation, imagined and represented? In what ways does the discussion of circulation build networks between today’s disciplinary practices?

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Evolutionary Networks (NOW CLOSED)

Jules Law (Northwestern University) and Lynn K. Nyhart (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Darwin’s evolutionary tree diagram, the sole illustration in his Origin of Species, provides a powerful figure for the integration of diachronic and synchronic networks constituting evolutionary thinking. The tree extends upward in time (and in general, complexity), while its cross-sections indicate closeness or distance of relationships. This seminar will be devoted to an examination and discussion of places where diachronic and synchronic networks exerted a pull on each other in the Victorian period. We are interested both in theorizations of this problem and in empirical contributions to it. How does a text or image bear the traces of both its historical lineage and its “adaptation” to a particular setting? (And how should we analyze this?) What are the invisible root-stocks that connect apparently independent phenomena of Victorian culture, reaching either back in time or, rhizomatically, under the surface? We hope to solicit five-page position papers on topics as diverse as the international circulation of art objects, translations of texts and their accompanying transformations, the O.E.D., and the “family of man.” Other headings and questions to consider: ontogeny and phylogeny; vertical and horizontal monopolies; the politics of immigration; eugenics; and “survivals.”

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Global Networks in the Victorian Age (NOW CLOSED)

Tanya Agathocleous (Hunter) and Lauren Goodlad (Illinois)

This seminar will gather five-page position papers exploring global networks of exchange and circulation in the Victorian period. While the content of such networks might be political, cultural, aesthetic, literary, intellectual, or philosophical, their “global” purview might be construed as transnational, international, cosmopolitan, trans-imperial, trans-oceanic, transatlantic, black Atlantic, or postcolonial.  Specific topics might consider aesthetic movements (e.g., decadence, impressionism, symbolism), political movements (e.g., “free” trade, republicanism, “Greater Britain,” federalism, socialism, anti-colonialism, pan-Africanism, pan-Asianism), geopolitical structures (e.g., the “United States of Europe,” the Balance of Power, the Great Game), literary structures (e.g., the “republic of letters,” the Literary Channel, “world literature”), or religious and spiritual movements (e.g., Evangelicalism, Mormonism, theosophy, Zionism, Islamism).

Although we hope participants will consider specific historical examples, we are also interested in overarching questions of methodology. For example, what happens to our theoretical lenses once we move from national to global frameworks conceived through spatial metaphors such as the network, matrix, or tree? Do networks ask us to historicize differently? To focus on surface rather than depth? On distant rather than close reading? On actor-network theory? On alternative and plural modernities rather than singular or universal conceptions?

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Networked Thinking: The Circulation of Books and Prints (NOW CLOSED)

Elizabeth Helsinger (Chicago) and John Plotz (Brandeis)

This seminar invites five-page position papers on how Victorian thinkers, writers, and artists conceptualized the network called into being throughout England and Greater Britain by the circulation of books and prints. Henry James imagined the character of John Halifax living in the skulls of thousands of readers; Carlyle saw Britain embodied in India by a collected edition of Shakespeare, Macaulay by a five-foot shelf of (largely classical) philosophical and literary masterworks. Constable’s landscape prints were said to carry the Idea of Home to the furthest corners of empire. But what they meant once arrived — or returned to the metropolis from after their travels — might be not at all the same.

The seminar aims to take stock of the way that the composition, publication, distribution, storage, and “consumption” of books and prints functioned, for Victorian thinkers, as a materialization of the virtual network of thinking and feeling by which metropolis, provinces, and empire were knit together in both cosmopolitan and parochial ways.

We certainly invite papers that address the material aspects of the global Anglophone print culture.  However, we also are strongly interested in exploring the intellectual and aesthetic roles played by that imagined or conjectured realm of dispersed readers and viewers. How visible was the Victorian “virtual public network” of circulating print? Was it understood as a cosmopolitan glue? A site of semi-detached attention? A system for articulating ethnically distinct identities, individual or social? An arena for “walking the city” — in De Certeau’s phrase — on a global scale? How did Victorians imagine the speed and reach of print networks affecting the distinctiveness and particularity of users, or the artifacts themselves? Participants interested in exploring poetic, fictional, nonfictional, or dramatic texts or visual imagery where such issues are highlighted, explored, or formally implicated are very welcome.

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New Approaches to Serial Networks (NOW CLOSED)

Linda Hughes (Texas Christian University) and Mark Turner (King’s College London)
We seek five-page project descriptions, articulations of key problems or issues, and/or descriptions of innovative methods for Victorian serials and seriality. What counts as a serial (fiction, poetry, prose, periodicals, newspapers, theatrical adaptations etc.) and as a network? What is the proper unit of study in approaching a serial? Do we conceptualize serial networks differently when we shift from print to digital forms? What relationship between digital and print seems most productive or essential? How should we conceptualize serial networks in relation to ephemera and/or archives and knowledge? Are readers as or more important than production of texts in serial networks? How do we conceptualize print production in relation to time (news cycles, rhythms, durability)? In relation to materiality? In relation to ideology and/or ideological forms? How might networks of people help us to understand the processes of serialization? What might ‘network theory’ add to our study of serialization?

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Poetic Networks (CLOSED)

Jason R. Rudy (University of Maryland) and Meredith Martin (Princeton University)

Nineteenth-century poets wrote, published, and circulated their works in an increasingly networked world. Recent work in transatlantic and global Victorian studies has begun to suggest the ways nineteenth-century British poetry reached far beyond the boundaries of the United Kingdom. Scholars have likewise looked to new technologies as connecting nineteenth-century poets, literally and figuratively, to a wider world around them. This session invites five-page position papers on all aspects of networking in British and American nineteenth-century poetry: technological, scientific, imperial, colonial, communicative, and more, and also invites inquiries about how we might best present, represent, track, or analyze these networks in the digital age. How did the Victorians understand poetry as a networking technology? In what ways did Victorian poetry participate in other networking structures? What might contemporary technology learn from Victorian poetic networks, and vice versa?

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Public Networks (NOW CLOSED)

Jonathan Grossman (UCLA) and Kate Thomas (Bryn Mawr)

This seminar invites five-page position papers that engage with any aspect of the networking of Victorian public space and life. We aim to bring together scholars working on the history, theory, and literary implications of the Victorian revolution in communication and transport systems. What were the cultural consequences – and precursors – of these new transport and communication systems? Rail and mail came to be seen as invaluable infrastructural facilities: what kinds of interplay between public and private did they involve? What kinds of threats and pleasures did they promise? What purposes did they serve? What metaphors did these networks inspire and how were they themselves shaped by metaphor? Participating scholars might be working on the kinds of relationships that evolved between literary form and transport and communication networks; they might be interested in the history of media and its circulation or in industrialization’s freight routes; they might wish to take a position on the theoretical differences between ‘networks’ and ‘systems’. This seminar welcomes all kinds of ideas related to the public networking of the Victorians, and it aims to offer a place to discuss them.

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Victorian Psychical Messaging (NOW CLOSED)

Jill Galvan (Ohio State)

This seminar will address Victorian psychical practices as acts of message-sending, whether deliberate or accidental, unequivocal or contested. Isolating the spiritualistic, mesmeric, telepathic, or clairvoyant event as a discrete message will allow us to study not only its meaning, but also its transmission and its operation within networks of people, places, and other events. Who sends, who receives, and under what conditions? Besides considering how factors of cultural identity (race, class, gender, etc.) may have shaped transmission or reception, we might ask, for instance, what light new formalist criticism can shed on the linguistic or aesthetic properties of the message or on the structure of the psychical circuit or network. Recent work on Victorian materiality can help us to think broadly about psychical messages—about the range of occurrences as well as things that qualified, say, in the séance, and how they worked as messages. Some other questions to consider: What was the place of affect in psychical messages? How did attitudes like grief, longing, joy, or derision influence their content or reception? In what different ways were messages theorized in psychical research? What role did contemporary technologies play in determining ideas of transmission? How can we think critically about our own ideas of these messages as they differ from the Victorians’? Approaches from any point in the long nineteenth century are welcome in five-page position papers.

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