CPF for the next NNCN event – Communities, 6 April 2018, Cergy-Pontoise University, Paris


Strand 1: History and Victorian Culture

In the long nineteenth century, the concept of community developed in opposition to the state. Influenced by Burke, reformers aspired to create a feeling of belonging. Other initiatives came from civil society, the social organism being considered an alternative to state power and other power centres such as local potentates like landlords and factory owners. Some community activities like charitable initiatives and church activities were deemed innocuous or even beneficial by those in power. However, they allowed communities to acquire the organising skills needed for political, social and even revolutionary activities.

In order to explore these trends in UK society in the nineteenth century we seek papers on different groups which attempted to organise collectively through, for instance, Friendly Societies, unions, cooperatives or churches. These groups are wide-ranging and could include class-consciousness, hobbies, organised sport and other means of community-forming and bonding. Papers could also explore the reasons why individuals and communities banded together through common interests, values or objectives such as political movements, religious movements, debating clubs and reading rooms.

Papers could also explore at a national or international level the social, economic, political or intellectual mutations that led to concepts of a national community, but which conversely also questioned it. Interactions between crises of faith and the organicist conception of society and between science, religion and politics, landlords and tenants, workers and employers will be a special focus of this conference so that the different implications of community and the factors that led to its formation in the nineteenth century can be explored.

Strand 2: Visual Arts

Communities are commonly premised upon shared values or concerns. Originating from the Latin communis, the word may refer to a group of people living near one another who interact socially or to individuals who have something in common, such as norms, religion, values or identity. In the academic, scientific and artistic fields, communities may refer to local, national and even international organisations ranging from defined and formalised professional societies to loose and even virtual groupings or connections. In all cases, the very notion of community implies both a sense of belonging and an ‘other’, sometimes an enemy against whom groups may ally.

A variety of artistic communities mapped out the Victorian landscape. From the bohemian colonies of Chelsea or Hamptead with their concentration of painters’ studios (like Whistler’s Tite Street house) to the larger group affiliations such as Aestheticism circulating across Europe, network-based associations thrived, generating exchange, diffusion, cohesiveness, but also limits and boundaries. In the context of the Gothic architectual revival initiated in the 1830s by the Oxford Movement, professionals sometimes felt the need to defend an occupation or a specific trend, resulting in the creation of Institutes or Societies such as the Royal Society of British Architects. In a century marked by movement and expansion, artistic communities could be shaped, constructed or deconstructed, generating both inclusion and exclusion.

In the Victorian illustrated press, the wood-engraved image, itself the result of a chain of producers – artists, engravers, editors, publishers – formed and addressed communities of readers and knowledge makers. Over the past decades, the so-called ‘digital turn’ has generated new networks in which discussion, communication and archiving are dematerialised. Online resources like The Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration largely address nineteenth-century arts, bringing about new developments in the nature and the status of the archive, and achieving wider circulation of visual material.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

Spatial communities, artistic and bohemian colonies.

Movements and circulations

Shifting communities : notions of inclusion and exclusion, identity and otherness.

Limits and boundaries restricting communities.

Clubs, Institutes and Societies

Professional communities like newspapers, periodicals or magazines

Digital/virtual communities

Strand 3 Victorian Literature

The interest of the word “community” lies in its polysemy, while its interest as a literary motif ties in with its fuzziness. Whether named as such or transpiring as one, a community characteristically allows for ingrained connections and variable extensions, both inbound and outbound, both inclusive and exclusive (the Marshalsea in Dickens, Egdon Heath in Hardy). After all, wanting to become part of a community and failing to achieve to do so is at the heart of a great many Victorian plots. Communities often arise from the desire to belong to a part, against the whole.

By contrast with a well-ordered system of the pyramidal social type, a typical community is a looser, horizontal formation marked out by a sense of belonging and becoming, a kind of sprawling composition that may as smoothly decompose, like “an epergne or centre-piece of some kind […] so heavily overhung with cobwebs that its form [is] quite undistinguishable […] speckle-legged spiders with blotchy bodies running home to it, and running out from it, as if some circumstances of the greatest public importance had just transpired in the spider community.” (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations). A community might be seen as a “motif” of the crocheting-encroaching type. Whether a body belonging with (rather than “to”) organic unities, or a systemic unit founded on an organisation of some type (geographical, economic…), a community flourishes on “texture” of leavening substance.

The entity of the community functions either with acknowledged codes, or alleged and unsuspected ties. It can live defiantly out in the open, or favour secrecy (such as “The Brotherhood” in Wilkie Collins, or other secret societies mentioned elsewhere in Victorian fiction).

Can Raymond Williams’s idea, declaring that the term “community” “seems never to be used unfavourably, and never to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term” (Raymond Williams, Keywords 1976), be challenged as far as Victorian literature is concerned? Having something in common may be reassuring and protective, but aren’t the contradictory forces at work within communities in Victorian fiction also of the destructive, repressive type, nurturing harsh conformism for example? … Or bad taste: “Philistinism was the note of the age and community in which he lived” (Oscar Wilde, De Profundis)? Victorian literary communities might even harbour improbable pockets of resistance to civilisation, the most civilised of Europeans occasionally “putting aside their normal personalities and sinking themselves in their community […] their power of putting two and two together […] annihilated.’ (E.M. Forster, A Passage to India).

With the advent of easily accessible, cheaper media, communities in the Victorian era also materialize around the book as object, through book clubs, or reading communities sharing a spreading enthusiasm for serialized fiction for example.

Finally, long after the 19th century, the idea of communities hinging on Victorian literature echoes throughout the centuries, judging by the popularity of neo-Victorian literature even today (Sarah Waters, Michael Cox…), and fiction based on, or recycling Victorian heroes or heroines (Jasper Fforde and Brontë’s Jane Eyre, James Wilson and Collins’s Marian Halcombe, Lloyd Jones and Dickens’s Pip) between tribute, pastiche and parody, not to mention “online communities” of fans of Victorian classics writing fanfiction, and a “Victoriana” even inspiring video game designers…

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

Community as a motif in Victorian literature,

Reading communities, communities forming around new literary and publishing practices,

Communities of writers (the Pre-Raphaelites, Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, Swinburne and Hardy).

21st century communities rejuvenating Victorian literature (Neo-Victorianism)

Or through popular culture and diverse phenomena: communities of “tourist-readers”, fanfiction on the web, “Victorian Steampunk”, TV adaptations and series (Sherlock, Elementary, Jekyll, Jekyll and Hyde etc.), communities of gamers sharing an interest for Victoriana…


Conference papers will be twenty minutes in length. Expressions of interest in the form of a 300-word abstract should be sent by October 15, 2017, with a brief biographical paragraph to the panel convenors and the coordinator of the event.

Coordinator: odile.boucher-rivalain@u-cergy.fr

Strand 1 History: Stéphane Guy (stephane.guy@u-cergy.fr) and Frank Rynne (francis.rynne@u-cergy.fr or frank.rynne@gmail.com)

Strand 2 Visual Arts: Françoise Baillet (francoise.baillet@u-cergy.fr) and Odile Boucher-Rivalain (odile.boucher-rivalain@u-cergy.fr)

Strand 3 Literature: Peggy Blin-Cordon (peggy.blin-cordon@u-cergy.fr) and François Ropert (francois.ropert@u-cergy.fr)




Water, a one-day conference ( 7 April 2017)

The programme for the NNCN conference on Water is now available for download here: Water Programme

There are five PGR/ECR bursaries available, see application details here: NNCN Water bursary application guidance

Registration is now open at http://store.leedstrinity.ac.uk/product-catalogue/conferences-events/conferences/water

Fees are £30 regular, £15 unwaged and postgraduates; lunch and refreshments are included (please let us know at NNCNWater@leedstrinity.ac.uk if you have special dietary requirements)

Call for Papers: NNCN Conference on Water, Leeds Trinity University, 7 April 2017

Omnipresent yet largely ignored: We want to bring water in the long nineteenth century into focus. Therefore, we are now inviting submissions from postgraduate students and academic staff across the humanities, from the constituent universities and other universities (particularly in the Yorkshire and Humberside region), on the theme of ‘Water’.

Paper proposals are invited on topics including but not limited to:

  • Bodies of water, waterways, and water-related transport (canals, rivers, lakes, seas, streams, barges, boats, ships, ferries, steamboats and trains, lightships)
  • Communities living & working on or near water (sailors and the navy, bargemen/boat people, fishermen/fishwives, whalers, ports, harbours, seaside towns and tourism, coastal communities, Lake Districts and Fenland communities)
  • Water in various forms (steam, mist, fog, liquid, ice, frost, snow) and science and medicine dealing with water and water-borne diseases (cholera, biology of water creatures (fish, birds, bugs, etc.), aquaria, flushing toilets)
  • The politics of water (sanitary reform, the provision of clean drinking water, reservoirs and sewers, wells, ponds, privies, public baths, laundry industry, the ‘great unwashed’)
  • Water mythology and creatures and their cultural representations (the Kraken, Moby Dick, mermaids, naiads, the Lady of the Lake, the Lady of Shallot, Neptune)
  • Artistic and literary representations of water and water-related architecture (seascapes, maritime novels, travel literature relating to the sea/arctic, angling stories, harbours, piers, bridges, lighthouses)
  • Religious and spiritual uses of water (living water, baptism, truth in a well, the temperance movement) and material forms of water (watery foods (e.g. soups, ice-cream))

This conference aims to be interdisciplinary, and the theme of water will be interpreted broadly, as too the chronological range of the nineteenth century (1780s-1920s).

Please send an abstract of 250-300 words for a paper of 20 minutes to NNCNWater@leedstrinity.ac.uk by 30th January

Supported by the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS): http://www.bavs.ac.uk/


Call for Papers: Northern Nineteenth-Century Network Colloquium, ‘Tradition(s)/Innovation(s)’, University of Cergy-Pontoise, Friday 8 April 2016

The long nineteenth century was a period of major changes in all the fields of political, economic, intellectual and artistic activities. The object of the 4th of our one-day events will be to reflect on the manifestations of the spirit of the Victorian age and the possible persistence of traditions which the more radical thinkers opposed.

20 minute-long papers will be considered on the following topics, though not exclusively:

  • Political reforms
  • Economic changes
  • Artistic innovations
  • Means of information and communication
  • Conditions of life and work
  • Education
  • Women’s condition
  • Urban expansion
  • Transports

Please send a 300 word proposal and a short biography by January 31st 2016 to the organizing committee:

Stéphane GUY (civilization) mel: stephane.guy@u-cergy.fr
Françoise Baillet (art) mel: francoise.baillet@u-cergy.fr
Odile Boucher Rivalain (literature): odile.boucher-rivalain@u-cergy.fr

Nineteenth-Century Tyrannies

University of Hull: 28 October 2015

12.00 – 6.00pm

Keynote Speaker: Dr Andrew Smith, University of Sheffield

Call for Papers: Deadline 30 September

Paper proposals are invited for ‘Nineteenth-Century Tyrannies,’ a symposium to be held at the University of Hull in the Northern Nineteenth-Century Network research event series.

We invite submissions from postgraduate students and academic staff across the humanities from the constituent universities on the theme of ‘Nineteenth‐Century Tyrannies’.

Topics might include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Monarchs
  • Military leaders
  • Politicians
  • Gothic and Sensation Writing
  • Friends and Enemies
  • Families, Parenthood, Husbands, Wives, Siblings and Children
  • Economic Tyrannies
  • Bullies
  • Monsters
  • Ghosts
  • Tyrannies of the body
  • Tyrannies of the landscape
  • Race and/or Slavery
  • Employers, Employees
  • Arrogance
  • Anger

There will be no charge for the conference.

Please send an abstract of 250–‐300 words for a paper of 20 minutes to Valerie Sanders (V.R.Sanders@hull.ac.uk) by 30 September.

We aim to host two to three day events a year, within convenient travel distance for all Yorkshire and Humberside members.

Any member of the NNCN can take the lead in organising an event, which may be a colloquium, a workshop, a conference or any other useful scholarly gathering.  If you would like to co-ordinate and host an event, please contact us.

NNCN events are hosted by the founder members and at other HEIs and sites in the Yorkshire and Humberside region, as well as by our international partners.

Previous Events

Paraphernalia! Victorian Objects 17 April, Leeds Trinity University.

Victorian Studies Professionalisation Day 26 May, University of York.

NNCN Postgraduate Professionalisation Day, University of York

Victorian Studies Professionalisation Day Organised by Emily Bowles (University of York) and Emma Butcher (University of Hull) on behalf of the NNCN postgraduate wing, the Victorian Studies Professionalisation Day took place at the University of York on 26 May 2015 with postgraduate attendees from all over the country. The aim of the event was to provide career advice and support for postgraduate students working in Victorian Studies, as well as to give them the opportunity to meet, network, and discuss possibilities for future collaborations with like-minded academics. The idea was to provide a holistic approach to academic life, covering everything from publishing to teaching, postdocs, managing your work/life balance and thinking about the future of the field.

The day began with a session from Dr Susan Walton (University of Hull) and Dr James Williams (University of York) on publishing, providing advice on turning a PhD thesis into a book; producing articles; and alternative approaches to publishing. Dr Walton and Dr Williams provided contrasting approaches to publishing post-PhD, and it was particularly useful to see how they had used specific sections of their theses. Postgraduate students don’t often get to see how the PhD theses of more senior academics look, and this was a valuable insight into the process. The session gave attendees practical tips, as well as the opportunity to ask specific questions about their own work.

The second session, on scholarly editing, gave attendees the expertise of three professors at York (Professors John Bowen, Hugh Haughton and Jon Mee) in an informal roundtable format, again giving the audience the opportunity to ask questions of experts in their field with regards to different publishers, textual authority and opportunities for engaging in editing work. In the afternoon, Dr Helen Rogers (LJMU) and undergraduate student Billie-Gina Thomason gave a presentation on using social media and online resources in teaching, outlining the benefits of these approaches when applying for grants and offering the student perspective. You can find out more about Billie-Gina’s project for Writing Lives here, and more about the project and Dr Rogers’s teaching here. There are also tips for incorporating social media and blogging into teaching here.

Following this, Dr Charlotte Mathieson (University of Warwick) delivered a highly informative talk on applying for postdoctoral fellowships, offering practical advice including deadlines and success rates alongside her personal experience – the slides from her talk are available here. Professor Valerie Sanders (University of Hull) presented on balancing an academic career, discussing ways of maintaining a work/life balance and also a research/teaching/admin balance. The key message Professor Sanders conveyed was the importance of finding what works for you, and what you like to do, in the face of external and internal pressures.

The day culminated with a keynote on the future of Victorian Studies from Professor Joanne Shattock (University of Leicester), who has written on the subject previously in ‘Where Next in Victorian Literary Studies? – Revising the Canon, Extending Cultural Boundaries, and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity’ for Literature Compass (2007). Professor Shattock revisited her earlier work to evaluate how priorities might have changed since then, and how ‘big humanities’ has changed in the face of digital humanities and the increased access we now have to data and materials that were previously very difficult to work with. The discussion of the future of the field was particularly relevant in the face of the recent V21 Manifesto, and postgraduate attendees were able to engage in a lively debate with the academic speakers about the state of Victorian Studies.

The event would not have been possible without the support of the NNCN, the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, Dr Rosemary Mitchell and the University of York Postgraduate Community Fund. Thank you everyone who attended, and please do get in touch if you would like to suggest ideas for, or organise, future postgraduate events.

The next NNCN event will be a conference taking place at the University of Hull this autumn – keep an eye out for updates!

Joining the NNCN is free, so sign up today. If you would like to blog for the NNCN on any aspect of the nineteenth century, including exhibitions, conferences and stories in the news, please get in touch with the blog coordinators. You can also follow the network on Twitter (@Northern19C).

Digital Victorians: Teaching the 19th Century at the University of Huddersfield

Paul Ward, professor of modern British history at the University of Huddersfield, discusses a module that seeks to link research, the real world and digital technologies to teach nineteenth-century British history. This blog originally appeared on Blogging Beyond the Classroom

Digital Victorian students outside Huddersfield's Town Hall

Digital Victorians students outside Huddersfield’s Town Hall

I’ve got a book to write on the Beefeaters at the Tower of London since 1826. I never seem to find time, because like most academics I’ve got too much going on. When History at the University of Huddersfield reviewed its whole curriculum I decided it was time to give up my module on Britain in the 1970s (called Punks, Pigs and Prawn Cocktails), an indulgence based on my liking of The Clash, and thought about a module related to this new book that refused to write itself. I also wanted the chance to develop my own digital skills beyond Twitter and searching nineteenth-century newspapers online (and googling myself). Buoyed up by the support of my colleague Martin Hewitt, we developed a new module called Digital Victorians, for second year History students, which would make use of our department’s brand new collaborative learning suite. Continue reading