Previous Study Days

Study Day – Victorian Animal EncountersVictorian Cats

Co-Hosted by the University of Portsmouth, the Liverpool John Moores and the Victorian Popular Fiction Association

Friday 4th May 2018, University of Portsmouth

“I went to show my friend Pigott the grave of the illustrious Shelley. Approaching the resting-place of the divine poet in a bright sunlight, the finest black Tom you ever saw discovered at an incredible distance that a catanthropist had entered the cemetery—rushed up at a gallop with his tail at right-angles to his spine—turned over on his back with his four paws in the air, and said in the language of cats: ‘Shelley be hanged! Come and tickle me!’ I stooped and tickled him. We were both profoundly affected.” (Wilkie Collins, letter to his mother, 1866).

Read the Victorian Animal Encounters – Booklet here. Email the organisers, Christopher Pittard ( and Nickianne Moody ( for more details. Twitter hashtag: #VPFAnimals

Study Day – “A Sudden Swift Impression”: Re-Examining the Victorian Short Story

Co-hosted by the Victorian Popular Fiction Association and the Short Story Network

Saturday 27th January 2018, University of Brighton

Keynote: Dr Emma Liggins, Manchester Metropolitan University

Scholarship is increasingly recognising the short story as a form that, far from being the inferior relation of the novel, has its own distinctive aesthetic and discursive possibilities. This Study Day explored the contention that precisely the qualities that led to the short story’s marginal status – its brevity, immediacy, and possible ephemerality – provided writers scope for formal narrative experimentation and for exploring different ways of representing social reality.

Read the Conference Programme and Abstracts and Biographies here. Email the organisers Vicky Margree ( and Lucy Andrew ( for more details.


Study Day – Victorian Animals


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

18th November 2017, Aldham Roberts Library, Liverpool John Moores University

Keynote Speaker: Steven Gray, Portsmouth

Read the Conference Programme. Email the organisers, and, for more details.

Twitter hashtag: #VPFAnimals

Study Day – Mystery and Medicine: The Dark Side of Science in Victorian Fiction 

Co-hosted by the Victorian Popular Fiction Association and NUI Galway

8th June 2017, National University of Ireland, Galway

Keynote speakers: Ms Sarah Wise (Author) and Mr Alexander Black (NUI Galway)

Exhibition – “Medicine and Mystery in C19th Galway”, Curated by Anna Gasperini and Paul Rooney

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The nineteenth century saw unprecedented developments in medical science, which caused simultaneously wonder and anxiety in the wider public. Victorian popular authors such as Wilkie Collins, Florence Marryat, Charles Dickens, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon enthusiastically explored the themes of medicine and surgical innovation in their work, exploiting their sensational potential. At the same time, the hopes and controversies generated by advancements in the medical field were often the subject of public debate via newspapers, magazines, and cartoons. This study day explores representations of medicine and mystery in the Victorian era, welcoming speakers from Literary History, Medical History, and Medical Humanities backgrounds

Conference website:

Read the Conference Programme.  Email the organisers, Dr Anna Gasperini and Dr Paul Rooney at for more details. Twitter: @meds_myst19

Study Day – Victorian Popular Collaborations

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

22nd April 2017, Manchester Metropolitan University, Cheshire Campus

Keynote Speaker: Patricia Pulham, Portsmouth

Afternoon Tea at the Brasserie, Crewe Hall Hotel

“CollaboCollaborations Imageration 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 Hearth and Home, 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.

Read the Conference Programme. Email and for more details. Twitter hashtag: #VPFACollaborations

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

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

24th September 2016, Barts Pathology Museum, London

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Tara MacDonald, University of Idaho

books_heartscience_lovell‘“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.

Read the Conference Programme. Contact and for further details.


Study Day – Dressed to Kill: Fashion in Victorian Fiction and Periodicals VPFA - 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. Contact and for more details. Twitter hastag: #VPFAFashion

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. Contact for more details.

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 of Works of Wilkie Collins

9th November 2013, Senate House, London

Keynote Speaker: William Baker

Read the Conference Programme. Contact Janice Allan OR Joanne Ella Parsons for more details.

Study Day – Sensation and Speculation in Popular Fiction

27th April 2013, Senate HouseSpeculation Image

Keynote Speaker: Steve McLean

Keynote Speaker: Pete Orford

Keynote Speaker: Barbara Vrachnas

Read the Study Day Programme.

Study Day – Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Amelia B. Edwards

5th March 2011, Senate House, London

Keynote Speaker: Tara MacDonald

Keynote Speaker: Anne-Marie Beller

Read the Study Day Programme.

Study Day – Science and Education in Popular Fiction

22nd May 2010, Senate House, London

Keynote Speaker: Janice Allan

Keynote Speaker: Andrew Mangham

Read the Study Day Programme.

Study Day – Popular Fiction Beyond the Canon

6th March 2010, Kingston University

Keynote Speaker: Liz Thiel

Keynote Speaker: John Spiers

Read the Study Day Programme.

Study Day – Teaching Popular Fiction in Academia

31st October 2009, Kingston University

Keynote Speaker: Andrew Maunder

Keynote Speaker: Nickianne Moody

Read the Study Day Programme.