Forthcoming Study Days

Since 2009, VPFA Study Days have explored the works of writers such as Rhoda Broughton, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and addressed themes from Victorian Animals to the Threatened Child.

View details of past Study Days here.

'Knowledge in the Victorian Periodical'

Friday 19 April 2024, Manchester Metropolitan University (and with hybrid options for audience members)
Keynote Speaker, Annemarie McAllister (UCLan)


Deadline Extended to Monday 25th March 

From Newgate novels and silver-fork fiction at the start of the period to science fiction and a gothic resurgence at the end of the century, nineteenth-century periodical fiction presented a wide variety of ways through which to conceptualise, depict, and understand the world. Across this diversity of subjects and epistemological stances, the nature of the periodical format adds further complications through its serialisations, circulations and re-circulations, and a maze of intertextual connections. While scholars have long been attentive to these issues, the development of digital methods have created new possibilities for analysis and the scale of the periodical press – the main textual production of the world’s first industrialised knowledge economy – presents ongoing complexities as new texts and information broaden our understanding of the workings of genres, media, writers, editors, readers. This study day brings together scholars working on periodicals and popular fiction to ask fundamental questions about how periodicals and their fictions constructed, shaped, disseminated, complicated, and otherwise were involved with “knowledge”.

Contributors might consider knowledge as broadly or as narrowly as they wish, focussing on anything from a single page or short story to entire publications, genres, movements, and bodies of work. Papers are invited on any topic that engages with “knowledge” (however construed) within any form of Victorian periodical, but especially as it relates to popular fiction. Approaches might include (but are not limited to):

  • Gendered knowledge and class-based knowledge – the social parameters of writing, imagined audiences versus the reality
  • Empire, race, and diversity – colonial and imperial connections, nationalisms and identity, postcolonial reading and decolonising nineteenth-century collections
  • Genre issues – assumptions, world view, tone, audience, contexts…
  • Economies of knowledge – commodities, advertising, packaging, pricing, production
  • Ways of reading – close/distant, part-issue/volume, serial/anthology, etc.
  • Practical knowledge, useful knowledge, and their implied opposites (impractical/useless knowledge)
  • How texts migrate and evolve across media – intertextual connections, reprinting and re-mediating information, international republications, translations, adaptations…
  • Use of source material, authority, authenticity, and validity; what constitutes plagiarism in the nineteenth century; acknowledgement and canonicity
  • Questions of media and form – serialisations and books, illustrated texts, periodicals read aloud, fiction and poetry/music/non-fiction/photography/sewing patterns/stock market data…
  • Implicit knowledge – unstated forms of knowledge conveyed through character, plot, tone…
  • Contested knowledge – formations and representations of debate, dissent, consensus and “fact” (real or otherwise)
  • Scales and taxonomies of knowledge – anecdote, detail, thick description versus overview, statistics, and panorama
  • Moral and religious instruction versus scandal, muck, and entertainment
  • Past, present, future knowledges – the historical and the contemporary, or the contemporary as historical (and vice versa)

We invite proposals for 15-20 minute papers, which should be sent in the body of an email to by  Friday 15 March 2024. Abstracts should be a maximum of 250 words and accompanied by a short biographical note. Most presentations will be delivered in-person, but we are happy to consider pre-recorded video presentations of 15-18 minutes – please do contact the committee if you want to consider presenting in that way. Speakers do not have to be VPFA members.

A limited number of travel bursaries are available for PhD students, independent scholars and unwaged participants If you would like to be considered for one of the bursaries, please email the organising committee.

The fee for the study day in person is £10 waged, £5 unwaged. Register here:  

‘Silenced Voices and Erased Agencies in Victorian Life and Victorian Popular Fiction’

Online | 8-9 June 2024

Keynote speaker: Professor Alexandra Valint (University of Southern Mississippi)

There has been an important scholarly turn to studies in silence and erasure since at least the 1970s by those eager to uncover hidden, marginalised, and underrepresented voices of the past. UK Research and Innovation currently list Hidden Histories as an area of investment and support. Tillie Olsen’s Silences (1978) revolutionised the study of silence and agency in literature. Her book considers the circumstances that surround writers’ periods of silence, focussing on factors that particularly impact marginalised groups such as women, people of colour, and the working class. Her book makes a distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” silences, deeming the former as ‘that necessary time for renewal’ and the latter as the ‘unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot’. These ‘unnatural’ silences are primarily caused by specific social circumstances that accompany being a marginalised individual e.g. for women, an obligation to family and home.

The Victorians were particularly concerned with matters of voice and agency. Throughout the nineteenth century, numerous reforms were introduced to grant more rights and autonomy to women, children, animals, and those considered insane. These concerns inevitably found their way into Victorian fiction. Drawing on numerous advancements in the understanding of the human mind and psychology as a discipline, as well as emerging social
and cultural anxieties regarding empire, the Victorians created new methods of representing marginalised groups, their voices and their silences. From literal refusals to speak, to blank spaces, to monstrous figures, these works of fiction ask us to consider methods of communication that were adopted when restrictions were placed on the

This study day wishes to contribute to the robust conversations regarding voice, silence, and agency that are very much relevant today. It is the hope of the hosts that participants will leave with a better understanding of the institutions and mechanisms that worked in tandem to regulate and control marginalised voices and agencies in the Victorian era. We
also hope to encourage participants to re-evaluate the idea of silence as strictly an absence, specifically an absence of agency.

This will be an online Study Day (spread over two days to allow for speakers from different time zones). Please direct any questions you might have to to Rebecca Hamilton (

Organising Committee: Rebecca Hamilton, Rosie Blacher, Ethan Evans, Hayley Smith

Follow us on Twitter/X @SilenceVPFA

View the call for papers in PDF form here

If you are interested in running a VPFA study day, please download the Study Day Proposal Form (Word), and email it to Helena Ifill at