Papers and Responses from the Third Annual Conference of the North American
Victorian Studies Association, held jointly with the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism annual meeting.
Hardy, Thomas, 1840-1928 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir, 1859-1930 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Lewes, George Henry, 1817-1878 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Butler, Samuel, 1835-1902 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Myers, Frederic William Henry, 1843-1901 -- Criticism and interpretation.
In late-Victorian literature and psychology, memories were frequently thought to transgress mental boundaries, drifting from one mind to another or assuming a spectral existence. Objects with powerful—and often traumatic—associations acted as an especially potent conduit by which memories could pass between people who were distant in time and space. Examining literary, psychological, and parapsychological writings by Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Henry Lewes, Samuel Butler, and F. W. H. Myers, this essay argues that these works provide a distinctive set of narratives about the potential displacement and uncertain ownership of memory. By offering a range of speculations about how emotions, memories, and experiences adhere to the material world, such narratives dramatize the permeability increasingly attributed to memory, consciousness, and individual identity at the end of the Victorian period.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1772-1834. Biographia literaria.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1772-1834. Rime of the ancient mariner.
Mind and body.
Acknowledging Samuel Taylor Coleridge's familiarity with the photochemical experiments that would later result in the invention of photography, this paper traces how Coleridge uses the language of photographic process to critique mechanical and materialist theories of the mind in Biographia Literaria and in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Coleridge's references to the camera obscura throughout his critique of David Hartley in Biographia suggest a connection between Hartleian associationism and photographic picturing that sheds light on Coleridge's dramatization of the fate of a subject whose "I" is subordinated to the regime of the "eye" in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Critiquing the agent-less mind's creation of "a something-nothing" that is very like a photograph in Coleridge's conception, the poet offers in its place an active poetic imagination capable of unfixing the dead image.
Blake, William, 1757-1827. Songs of innocence and of experience.
Wordsworth, William, 1770-1850. Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey.
Considered together, William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience and William Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" suggest how the romantic lyric anticipates photography. Offering up imagery deployed both graphically and typographically, these songs provide a model for the photographer's work of capturing inner states, thereby exploring what printed media up to 1810 could not. In thematizing the loss of sound, both poems produce a sense of psychological depth in the figure of a seer struggling to hear. Physical marks—whether printed texts or graphic images—are unified into a human perspective as (absent) phonology becomes associated with (present) morphology. These lyric poems teach us, in other words, to warm up cool graphic marks by anthropomorphizing them into a "voice," the voice that in subsequent decades will be conveyed by figures in photographs or photographers' ways of seeing.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1772-1834. Biographia literaria.
Maturin, Charles Robert, 1780-1824. Bertram.
This essay brings Samuel Taylor Coleridge's critical writing into dialogue with his theological thought in order to argue for a latent theory of engaged but critical reception of dramatic performance in Coleridge's famous phrase "the willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith" from Book XIV of the Biographia Literaria. However, the politics and social strife surrounding the romantic stage render Coleridge's theoretical position vexed and ambivalent. After suggesting that "poetic faith" allows for a deep encounter with a work of art that can potentially reach across ideological divides without surrendering the capacity for intervention and social critique, the essay examines how Coleridge's anxiety over his own past and politics cause him to fail in implementing this new critical theory in his embittered review of Charles Robert Maturin's Bertram.
Colman, George, 1762-1836. Blue Beard, or, Female curiosity.
Curiosity in literature.
By the mid-eighteenth century, curiosity cabinets were evolving from private, amateur collections into public, professional demonstrations that were at once scientific, commercial, educational, and sensational. The "quack" sexologist Dr. James Graham's Temple of Health and Hymen offers one example of the curiosity cabinet as public demonstration. The Temple whetted spectators' curiosity and theatricalized peeping in the same way that two contemporary plays by George Colman the Younger, The Iron Chest and Blue-Beard; or, Female Curiosity!, do. Like Graham's pseudoscientific performance, Colman's plays foreground the satisfaction of curiosity through visual inspection, making a theatrical display of the mysterious or the forbidden a type of curiosity cabinet in itself.
Browning, Robert, 1812-1889. Blot in the 'scutcheon.
Browning, Robert, 1812-1889 -- Friends and associates.
Macready, William Charles, 1793-1873 -- Friends and associates.
Male friendship in literature.
Attuned to the homosocial tension evident in the relationship between Robert Browning and William Macready, this essay considers the personal politics surrounding Macready's production of Browning's play, A Blot in the 'Scutcheon. The complex financial, aesthetic, and interpersonal reasons for Macready's reluctance to mount Browning's play on the affective complexities of English family honor caused a rupture in the relationship between the two men that exposes the discourses underwriting each man's artistic practice and their tenuous social bonds. The rift between Browning and Macready, aggravated by differing artistic intentions and models of dramaturgy, reveals how the relationships and institutions on which the Victorian theater rested could be disrupted by conflicting stylistic commitments and personal interests.
Attempting to correct, in small part, the invisibility of women participating in nineteenth-century science, this article brings to attention the work of the scientist, artist, and writer Mrs. Sarah Bowdich. Bowdich employed the vehicle of biography to overcome the obstacles that discouraged women from entering scientific disciplines, publishing her biography of the French scientist Georges Cuvier and her report of T. Edward Bowdich's explorations in the Gambia to international acclaim. Through these publications, Bowdich succeeded in disseminating her own scientific contributions in field-based research, gaining respect in both English and French scientific communities.
The Sydenham Crystal Palace Dinosaur Park articulated a spatial model of deep time that both supported and subverted social and racial hierarchies. Intended to point visitors toward Creationist conclusions about history predicated on man's central role in God's scheme, the park thematized a divinely ordained progress of civilization of which Victorians were the final heirs. Yet despite such attempts at rigid hermeneutical control, the park nevertheless presented profoundly disturbing evidence of degeneration and extinction, thereby denying the verity of human progression and suggesting that the primitive and the civilized—the ancient and the modern—were intimately related.
This essay, which reads Walter Bagehot's Physics and Politics alongside the economic theories of its day—most notably, William Stanley Jevons's Theory of Political Economy—suggests how the term "instinct" affords Bagehot a means of distinguishing "civilized," self-determining subjects from their "savage" others by providing an account of agency outside of a liberal framework committed to rational willfulness and individual character development. In Bagehot's usage, savage actors governed by "instinct," supposedly insensible to any knowledge of the relation between means and ends, are deprived of any association they might be thought to have with either lengthier horizons of aspiration or the anxious deferral of pleasure, ideas valued as cornerstones of the liberal subject.