Study Days

Study Day – Victorian Popular Collaborations

Co-hosted by Victorian Popular Fiction Association and Manchester Metropolitan University

Deadline for CFP: 20th January 2017

Conference date: 22nd April 2017

Location: Manchester Metropolitan University, Cheshire Campus

Keynote: ‘Collaborating with the Dead: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Borrowed Prestige’ Patricia Pulham (University of Portsmouth)

Roundtable: ‘Teaching Victorian Popular Collaboration’ led by Study Day Organisers Kirsty Bunting, MMU, and Janine Hatter, Hull

“Collaboration is one of the literary features of our age, and at the present rate of progression there seems to be some prospect of it attaining alarming proportions in the future” (Walter Besant, ‘Guide to Matrimony’ in the St. Valentine’s edition of Home and Hearth, 1892)

This VPFA Study Day asks whether it is possible to understand the full complexity of the nineteenth-century literary tradition without acknowledging that, as the result of the expansion of the literary marketplace, there was a marked proliferation of collaborative modes of writing. Across the century co-authorship, multiple authorship and networks of collaborators of all kinds became increasingly common and visible.

Nineteenth-century commentators like Besant, as well as recent critics, have argued that the literary marketplace underwent a re-evaluation of its inherited constructs of authorship, testing the idea of the ‘Romantic’ mode of Authority, which valorised writing as a solitary endeavour and celebrated the Author as the Genius-Proprietor of their text.

What is it about the surrender of the idea of the lonely, predominantly male, garret-writer which Besant, himself a prolific collaborator with co-author James Rice, found so ‘alarming’? How do we account for the growth of collaborative writing or for its popularity with readers? What problems did reading multiple authorship raise for readers? What were the benefits of writing in partnership? What were the different methodologies of shared authorship in the period? How did writing with a long-term literary partner differ from contractual or casual collaboration, say for a serial? How did serial publication, with artists and illustrators as collaborators, effect reading popular fiction? How do notions of shared, split or joint literary identities interact with the notion of the popular?

We welcome proposals for 20 minutes papers that respond to these, or other topics, which may include, but are not limited to:

  • Popular Literary and Artistic Collaboration
  • Collaboration in the Periodical Press
  • Networks of authors
  • The salon as collaborative space
  • Cross genre collaboration
  • Gender and shared writing
  • Anonymous/secret collaborators
  • Influence and collaboration: the residual echoes and effects of other authors
  • Interrupted or infiltrated Authorship
  • Posthumous collaboration/the unfinished text
  • Neo-Victorian re-writings
  • Collaborative/shared/family/group reading experiences
  • Shared life-writing
  • Correspondence as collaboration
  • Intergenerational collaboration
  • Juvenilia/sibling/nursery writing
  • Mentorship
  • ‘The muse’ as collaborator
  • Impropriety/propriety and textual ownership
  • Textual/sexual: erotic merger on the page

Please email proposals of 300 words and 50 word biography in Word format to both Kirsty Bunting and Janine Hatter


Study Day with vegetarian buffet lunch and refreshments: £16.50

Optional Afternoon Cream Tea at The Brasserie, Crewe Hall Hotel, 5-7.30 pm (transport with 7.45pm Crewe train station drop off, included): £27

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 and 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 (Central St Martins)

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 for further details. For updates you can follow us on Twitter @Drood_Inquiry or visit

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.