Study Days

Study Day – The ‘Heart’ and ‘Science’ of Wilkie Collins and his Contemporaries

Co-hosted by Victorian Popular Fiction Association and Wilkie Collins Journal

Deadline for CFP: Friday 17th June 2016

Conference date: 24th September 2016

Location: Barts Pathology Museum, London

Keynote: Dr. Tara MacDonald (University of Idaho)

‘“Why can’t I look into your heart, and see what secrets it is keeping from me?”’

The protagonist of Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science (1883), surgeon Ovid de Vere, laments the difficulty in deciphering hidden emotions and secrets. Yet, the language suggests his medical background, striking a note with the novel’s supposedly anti-vivisection message and highlighting contemporary debates into the nature of experimental medicine, observation and epistemology. What is the best way of uncovering secrets, and what part does knowledge of the body play in this? Can medical training benefit from a thorough understanding of emotion? And does gender play a part in this? Issues of ‘heart’ and ‘science’ reverberate across Collins’s work, from the Major’s collection of women’s hair in The Law and the Lady (1875) to Ezra Jenning’s solution to the crime of The Moonstone (1868). This conference takes as its focus the proliferation of “heart” and “science” throughout Collins’s work.

We welcome proposals on, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science (1883) and/or any of Collins’s work
  • The Body: As a scientific subject, as a site of emotion, bodily representations, and the body in forensics, news reportage and the home.
  • The Victorian origin of disciplines: Collins as an interdisciplinary figure, the divide (or not) of “heart” and “science”, the definition of sensation in literature and/or science.
  • Medicine and anatomical science: vivisection, taxidermy, anatomical atlases and the nineteenth-century doctor and/or scientist.
  • Psychology and psychiatry: the physicality of mental illness, hysteria, the asylum, treatment and therapeutics.
  • Gender: the gendered body, representations of gender, the gendered connotations of “heart” and/or “science”.
  • Sensation: As genre, as sense or emotion, as subjective.
  • Detection: forensics, interrogation, the body as clue, the science of detection, and crimes of the heart.
  • Relationships: Romantic, familial, or otherwise.
  • Neo-Victorian Approaches to “Heart” and “Science”
  • Work by other contemporary sensation writers

Submissions are not limited to papers on Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science (1883) but to “heart” and “science” at work in the full range of Collins’s fiction.

The WCJ and VPFA are also interested in related authors and ‘sensation fiction’ more broadly, hence papers on authors such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Charles Reade, Charles Dickens, Ellen Wood, Florence Marryat and other sensation writers will also be considered. Interdisciplinary perspectives are welcome.

Email abstracts to jo.parsons@falmouth.ac.uk and V.Burke@pgr.reading.ac.uk by 17th June 2016.

Study Day – Dressed to Kill: Fashion in Victorian Fiction and PeriodicalsVPFA - Dressed to Kill Fashion Plate

Co-hosted by Victorian Popular Fiction Association and Liverpool John Moores University

Saturday 19th March 2016, Aldham Robarts Library, LJMU

Keynote Speaker: Royce Mahawatte

Featuring The Liddell Hart Collection of Costume (LHCC)

Read the Conference Programme

Study Day: Sensational Men: Victorian Masculinity in Sensation Fiction, Theatre and the Arts

Co-hosted by the Victorian Popular Fiction Association and Falmouth University

18th April 2015, Falmouth University, Cornwall

Keynote Speaker: William Hughes, Bath Spa University 

Keynote Speaker: Andy Smith, University of Sheffield

Sensational MenVillainous, feminised, weak and wanting; men in the sensation genre are often seen as lacking. Critical readings of the genre, moreover, have tended to focus on its constructions of femininity, largely neglecting representations of men and masculinity. Examining the under-explored subject of Victorian men, masculinity and sensation, “Sensational Men: Victorian Masculinity in Sensation Fiction, Theatre and the Arts” represents a timely and important intervention in the field.

This one day symposium at Falmouth University provides a point of focus and intellectual exchange for scholars working in many different fields such as: popular fiction studies, theatre studies, Gothic studies, art history, early photography and film, theories of gender, sexuality and nation in nineteenth century studies.

Read the Conference Programme

Study Day – The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Solutions and Resolutions

20th September 2014, Senate House, London

Keynote: Prof. Don Richard Cox

Charles Dickens’s last novel, unfinished as it is, has become a call to arms to a legion of fans, academics and authors to solve the mystery and complete the uncompleted. In the early years after Dickens’s death, passionate discussions of Drood formed the vast bulk of criticism of his works, while later scholars have looked back upon this formative period with a mixture of bemusement and embarrassment. In 2014 The Drood Inquiry will investigate and celebrate the many weird and wonderful responses to Dickens’s story, exploring the ways in which these solutions reflect upon the authors’ attitudes to Dickens and his legacy, and how Dickens’s story and characters exist both within the boundaries of the original text and without in the numerous spin-offs that have arisen.

This one-day conference commemorates the launch of The Drood Inquiry, playing upon some of those themes as well as allowing the opportunity to consider Edwin Drood afresh, not purely as a puzzle to be solved but as a work of literature to be analysed and celebrated in its own right.

Read the Conference Programme. Contact peter.orford@buckingham.ac.uk for further details. For updates you can follow us on Twitter @Drood_Inquiry or visit http://cloisterhamtales.wordpress.com/.

Study Day – The Life and Works of Wilkie Collins

9th November 2013, Senate House, London

Keynote Speaker: William Baker

Tickets are £10 and are available online. Please note that lunch will not be provided.

Read the Conference Programme. If you have any questions about this event, please contact Janice Allan OR Joanne Ella Parsons.