Open-Call CFPs


Below are calls for papers issued by prospective conference participants who are gathering members for panel or roundtable proposals. Each proposal will ultimately be submitted for consideration in the regular NAVSA 2019 review process.


Genres of Student Writing in the Victorian Studies Classroom


This proposed panel invites proposals for 20-minute presentations that address questions of genre as it relates to the writing we ask our students to do in Victorian Studies classrooms. Suggested topics for presentations include:

  • assignment sequences that utilize multiple genres

  • assignment sequences that balance “writing to learn” with “learning to write”

  • writing assignments that transcend generic categories 

  • creative writing, pedagogical writing, or professional writing in the Victorian Studies classroom

  • unusual assignments that introduce graduate students to academic and/or professional writing 


Your presentation need not be a formal essay. Instead, you might introduce your audience to new assignments and explain how and why they have worked for you; work your way through sample papers; or even discuss the construction of an entire syllabus’s worth of writing assignments. At the end of the panel, conference goers will walk away with a set of new practices that could be modified and adopted into their own classrooms. 


Deadline: January 7, 2019 

To submit: email your 250-word proposal and a one-page CV that addresses your teaching experience to Teresa Huffman Traver:



Institutions and Mediation



Kyoko Takanashi:

Mary L. Mullen:


Recently, there has been exciting new work about how institutions mediate literary and cultural studies: from Mark McGurl’s The Program Era, which argues that the rise of creative writing programs shapes postwar American fiction, to Rachel Buurma’s and Laura Heffernan’s forthcoming book, The Teaching Archive, which tells a new disciplinary history by studying teaching practices at diverse institutions, to Sara Ahmed’s On Being Included, which chronicles how institutions often constrain everyday diversity work in universities. Each of these accounts, however different, suggest that institutional arrangements shape what we know, how we know, and how we are able to imagine collective social life.


This roundtable seeks to build on this new interest in institutions by considering 1) how contemporary institutions mediate our understanding of Victorian literature and culture and/or 2) how Victorian institutions mediate Victorian cultural production. By thinking about institutions through the concept of mediation, we draw attention to how institutions are not simply static forms that endure over time or stable cultural contexts but rather active social processes. As John Guillory and Nathan Hensley argue, mediation as a process draws attention the problem of relations: between medium and message, cultural forms and material realities, subjects and objects, reproduction and reconfiguration. Topics might include how university institutions—and our different positions within them—shape approaches to Victorian literature and culture; new accounts of Victorian institutions like Mechanic Institutes, schools, prisons, workhouses, museums, publishing houses; interpretations of institutional media like founding statements, bureaucratic forms, official procedures; reflections on Victorian literature as a cultural institution; and new theories of institutionality.


Please submit a short (no more than 250-word) abstract for a short (5-8 minute) roundtable to Mary Mullen ( and Kyoko Takanashi ( by January 7, 2019. NAVSA will also require a short CV.

The Victorians and Media

This panel seeks papers that explore the question of whether there is a specifically Victorian attitude, or set of attitudes, relating to exchanges between different media. For example, painting at times paralleled literature, taking subjects from novels and history books. Other artists rejected this narrative quality, instead looking to music or to the decorative arts. New media, the explosion of print culture, the invention of photography, and, later in the century, the moving image, posed new questions about inter-medial exchange. In addition, mass production and aspirational audiences drove manufacturers to create products that translated marble into Parian ware, crystal and jewels into glass, and manuscript illumination into lithography.


What vocabulary best describes these relationships: exchange, influence, translation, transposition, pastiche? What value judgements did the Victorians make about such works? How have they been treated in the century since? How has modernism’s fetishization of the purity of media and the expressions proper to a given media interfered with how we approach Victorian engagements with the subject? Has post-modernism and a recent attention to hybridity created a space to engage anew with objects and texts?

We particularly welcome papers from historians of visual culture and literary scholars engaged with the visual, but are also interested in hearing from anyone working at the intersection of different media.

This panel was generated by members of NAVSA’s Art History Caucus.


Deadline: 14 January

To submit: email your proposal (up to 500 words) and a one-page CV to Jo Briggs at the Walters Art Museum:


Decadent Women, Aestheticism, and Genre

Writers and artists in the Aesthetic and Decadent Movements experimented with the limits of genre, combining forms and media in innovative ways. Some of the most experimental work came from women: George Egerton’s dream-like narrative short stories, Vernon Lee’s psychological aesthetics, and Michael Field’s ekphrastic poetry. Unlike many of their male counterparts these women have only recently entered the scholarly conversation within the past few decades. This roundtable will ask almost twenty years on, in what ways has the field shifted since Talia Schaffer and Kathy Alexis Psomiades’s landmark edited collection Women and British Aestheticism (1999) and Talia Schaffer’s The Forgotten Female Aesthetes (2000), which brought the women associated with the Aesthetic and Decadent Movements into sharp scholarly focus. 


In the two decades since, many women writers of the late Victorian period have become central to our understanding of the fin de siècle. For example, Vernon Lee has received much critical attention since the 1990s. Lee challenges the boundaries of both form and scholarship, writing in multiple languages and often playing between the boundary of imagination and fact. Like many other women writers of the late-nineteenth century she was not constrained to a single genre; writing essays, short fiction, novels, imaginary portraits, and drama, to name a few.


George Egerton was another paradigmatic figure of formal innovation by depicting new literary roles for women. Egerton’s impressionistic technique created a dream-like structure for her stories, with loosely connected scenes and incidents. Instead of relying upon causally connected events, Egerton’s stories often achieve a unity of effect by exploring the main character’s impressions across an indeterminate span of time. The stories of Egerton exemplify the ways that women writers embraced experimental forms and plots to explore the emerging possibilities—both social and literary—for women at the end of the century.


This roundtable seeks several short papers (no longer than 10 minutes) that take up women writers and artists linked to aestheticism and Decadence in relation to their experiments with genre. This roundtable will explore the ways in which women writers and artists expand our notions of form and genre in the later nineteenth century and how these writers explore different formal affordances, a term which Caroline Levine uses to describe “the particular constraints and possibilities” of different forms or arrangements. Finally, this roundtable will contemplate how late Victorian women writers might shed light on new forms of scholarship in the twenty-first century, from Digital Humanities to new public criticism.  


By January 7th, please submit a proposal for a paper (no more than 250 words) and a 1 page CV to Jeffrey C. Kessler (University of Illinois at Chicago) and Tara Thomas (UC Santa Cruz) at 

The Colors of Aestheticism and Decadence

In “The Boom in Yellow,” published in Prose Fancies in 1896, Richard Le Gallienne reflects: “Jaded with over-refinements and super-subtleties, we seem in many directions to be harking back to the primary colours of life. Blue, crude and unsoftened, and a form of magenta, have recently had a short innings; and now the triumph of yellow is imminent.” This new appreciation for yellow follows, according to La Gallienne, a wane in the prior obsession with the “almost imperceptible nuances of green.” From Robert Hichens’ The Green Carnation (1894), to the Yellow Nineties, to the much admired blue and white porcelain of Japanisme, aesthetes and decadents found intense meaning in certain hues, and imbued them with aesthetic, personal, and social significance. Colors also played uncharacteristic roles when artists mixed modes and genres, as in J.A. Symonds’s In the Key of Blue (1893), or Whistler’s Symphon[ies] in White. Such experiments point to the remarkable ways artists found almost synaesthetic connections among prose, poetry, music, and the color palette.

Published in 2016, The Colours of the Past in Victorian England, edited by Charlotte Ribeyrol, demonstrates the rich possibilities of interdisciplinary studies color in Victorian literature, art, and culture, and invites additional hue-centered investigations. Given the deeply self-conscious and innovative explorations of color by decadents and aesthetes, a thoughtful examination of colors might illuminate the forms and languages of these movements—the chromatic codes through which meaning was created—as well as reveal new meaning in non-canonical texts.

Thus, this panel invites papers investigating the shades of Aestheticism and Decadence. We welcome targeted studies of colors in a range of media and genres, from writers and artists in the European metropole and globally. Please send abstracts of 250 words, and a 1-2 page CV (required by NAVSA) to Angie Blumberg at by January 7, 2019. Applicants will be notified of decisions by January 14.

Intimacy and Poetics



Pearl Chaozon Bauer: 

Sarah Kersh:

Amy Kahrmann Huseby:


The marriage plot has become a touchstone of Victorian literary studies, accepted as a structure for the novel. Many critics, such as Franco Moretti and Nancy Armstrong, have taken up the marriage plot and desire as central concepts in their scholarship. Indeed, literary criticism since Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel has privileged the marriage plot, occasioning responses such as Kelly Hager’s Dickens and the Rise of Divorce and Sharon Marcus’s Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England to become increasingly common. Each of these accounts, however different, suggest that the novel shaped how Victorians imagined intimacy and marriage. An equivalent level of scholarship on marriage and intimacy in poetry has yet to emerge. Certainly, Erik Gray’s recent The Art of Love Poetry (2018) explores the recurrent tropes that poets have used to express love, such as the lyric of conjugal love and the poetic kiss, and Amanda Paxton’s Willful Submission: SadoErotics and Heavenly Marriage in Victorian Religious Poetry (2018) describes the metaphysical union between the soul and divine in nuptial terms. 


This roundtable seeks to build on this discourse by considering 1) how do the forms of poetry enable poets to offer alternative forms of intimacy, eroticism, or marital union and/or 2) how did Victorian poetry conceptualize intimacy in ways distinct from other genres, such as the novel? Although the marriage plot addresses social outliers by training them in conformity, normativity, and compromise, Victorian poets imagined other types of intimacy that departed from this model. Offering intimate forms to rethink the spectrum of sexuality, range of intimate relations, and restructured marital unions, Victorian poets recognized the complexity of human intimacy and often rejected the tidy binary of one man and one woman in marriage. By thinking about intimacy through poetic form, we draw attention to how poetry resists heteronormativity, recuperates the plurality of intimacy, and embraces the diversity of the erotic.


Please submit a short (no more than 250-word) abstract for a short (5-8 minute) roundtable to Pearl Chaozon Bauer (, Sarah Kersh (, and Amy Kahrmann Huseby ( by January 11, 2019. NAVSA will also require a short CV.

What is a Voice?

At the empty center of “voice studies” exists an enigmatic, mercurial thing (a gap or absence): the voice itself. Irreducible and seemingly transcendent, yet also quantifiable and knowable, the voice was a troubling phenomenon for the Victorians. This roundtable seeks proposals for 5-8 short papers (approximately 5-8 minutes each) that explore the myriad ways in which Victorian culture sought to describe, analyze, critique, appropriate, represent, marginalize, or substantiate the enigma of the voice. What media gave voice to the voice? What genres of literary, cultural, or scientific expression relied on the voice as a coordinating principle? How did the Victorians take for granted the enigmatic physiology of voices? How did the voice—as uncanny, abject, or aesthetic—haunt, repulse, or seduce the Victorians? What cultural processes attempted to legislate, regulate, and normalize the voice? 

Please submit a 250-word proposal and a 1-page CV to Daniel Martin ( by January 11, 2018. Papers may be conventional or experimental.    

Sexual Violence and Rape

Session sponsored by the NAVSA Gender Caucus

This panel aims to conceptualize approaches to sexual violence and rape in Victorian studies in the wake of the #MeToo movement. In 2015, the V21 collective urged a turn to presentism, “the awareness that our interest in the [past] is motivated by certain features of our own moment.” Energized by the political and cultural debates surrounding #MeToo, this session, sponsored by the NAVSA Gender Caucus, seeks to develop rhetorical strategies of addressing sexual violation in Victorian studies, particularly in the presentist mode.

Proposed papers for this session may consider these and/or other questions:

  • Is it possible to analyze literary and historical representations of sexual violence responsibly, that is, without further reifying gender, racial, economic, and political hierarchies often stabilized in such depictions? How can we read spectacles of trauma ethically in light of the fact that sexual violence reinforces structural inequality across generations?

  • Should the field continue to prioritize debates about consent/non-consent or turn to a sustained investigation of the harms of sexual violation?

  • What is the role of traditional concepts such as embodiment, experience, or voice in scholarship about nineteenth-century sexual violence? Are these categories useful when reading fictional accounts?


Please send a 250-word proposal and a one-page CV to Doreen Thierauf ( by January 14, 2018.

New Opportunities in the Archive:  Investigating Questions of Media through the Digital Humanities

As Bob Nicholson recently noted in the Journal of Victorian Culture, “it is important to recognize that methodologies based on the close reading of Victorian culture have an important limitation. Put simply, there is too much of it to read.”  Two options emerge, Nicholson surmises, “to continue subjecting tiny fragments of Victorian culture to close reading, or to supplement this approach by exploring a much larger proportion of the archive through ‘distant reading’.”[1]Questions of genre and the nature of media, the focus of this conference, are particularly well suited to distant reading and other methodologies facilitated by digital and computational technologies. 

Given the vast quantities of Victorian cultural material that is out of copyright and has been digitized, our session builds upon the premise that now we are able to work at a scale never before possible. Such scale allows us to investigate the role of various media – newspapers, magazines, periodicals, novels, plays and playbills, pamphlets, catalogues, advertisements, hoarding notices, etc.—within a larger ecosystem of publicly circulating information and rhetoric. It also allows us to re-examine questions of the emergence of genres, including textual markers, sites and modes of production, as exemplified in the work of Franco Moretti and Matthew Jockers. And, as Frederick Gibbs and Dan Cohen have demonstrated, this digitized archive also allows scholars to study the history of culture and the circulation of ideas in new ways.

This session seeks out papers that build upon the pioneering work in digital humanities and Victorian studies and explicitly tackle questions of media and genre at scale. In advancing the study of Victorian cultural heritage as data, we encourage critical examination of that digital archive – what gaps and omissions and issues of equity and access should we attend to --- as well as currently available digital tools and methods --- their affordances and limitations.   

Guidelines: Abstracts, of no more than 500 words, and c.v. should be submitted to Anne Helmreich ( and Amy Woodson-Boulton ( by 14 January 2019. Team-based projects are welcomed; please submit one abstract per team and include c.v.s for all presenting team members. 



Disrupting Genres

The Victorians were very conscious of the construction of genres in art and literature.  Many cultural forms had been defined and shaped by conventions of the past.  Many genres also had intended effects on spectators who developed expectations formed by their experiences with genres in art and literature.  Artists' training, for example, was based on the practice of copying Old Master works in portraiture, history painting, genre scenes, and copying classical sculpture. Some artists such as the Pre-Raphaelites radically revised and re-purposed genres of portraits, history painting and genre scenes to create new histories and temporalities or to address contemporary subjects. Some artists invented genres or blended genres to challenge the public or the Academy.  Writers revived and revised literary genres, such as the sonnet sequence or the long poem, to direct these genres to new subjects such as gender, or new ideas in science or religion.  Panelists are invited to explore, but are not limited to, such questions as: How did artists and writers revise genres? How and why did they disrupt genres to affect audience expectations? What were spectator and reader receptions of these disruptions and changes? What genres were invented and to what purpose?  How did changes in genre unsettle conventional notions of history as progress, of social order class hierarchies and gender decorum, or other prominent Victorian beliefs?  How familiar was the public with genres and how did the reception of new or changed genres reflect public familiarity, discomfort, or pleasure?


Deadline: 14 January

To submit: Email your proposal (up to 500 words) and a one-page CV to Julie Codell, Arizona State University:


Gaslighting: Then, Then, and Now

Session sponsored by the NAVSA Gender Caucus


The term “gaslighting” has reentered the popular lexicon with a vengeance in recent years, making its way into countless headlines and conversations about sex, race, politics, journalism, medicine, and emotional abuse. The term has a very specific origin that some of its present-day users may not be fully aware of, however: it’s drawn from Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play (and, more famously, the 1944 Hollywood adaptation of the play) Gaslight, the plot of which is set in Victorian London and focuses, as many works of Victorian literature do, on the relationship between gender, power, and perceptions of mental illness. For this conference, I would like to put together a panel that considers the trope of gaslighting within, ideally, three different historical contexts: the Victorian era itself, the post-WWII era (during which Gaslight-inspired films became a genre unto themselves), and today. I’m planning to propose a paper that focuses on the neo-Victorian “gaslight noir” genre of the 1940s myself, so am hoping to find at least one paper that looks at either fictional or historical examples of what we would now call gaslighting from the 19th century, and at least one paper that explores either 21st-century Gaslight narratives or the ways in which gaslighting is used as a tool of oppression in our current political, medical, and/or institutional climate. 


Please send abstracts of around 250 words plus a 1-2 page CV to Nora Gilbert at by January 14

Forms of Victorian Law and Literature

While the genre of the novel falls under the umbrella of fiction, and the law ostensibly under that of fact, the Victorian novel and the law share a surprisingly similar set of concerns and methods. “Trust,” for example, is a term used to describe the faith characters place in others, but it is also a legal entity that holds assets. Readers of novels sometimes use the term “personality” to describe a group of traits held by a character, but in nineteenth-century England, personality referred to any property held by an individual, not including land. And, as authors such as Dickens, Collins, and Eliot make clear, the “will” is both something we associate with an individual character’s ability to make his or her desires realities, and it is a legal document that details how one’s property is to be distributed after one’s death. Such overlaps suggest that the novel and the law often work on shared linguistic and even theoretical ground. Each is deeply interested in narrative—in the telling of stories of individual conflict within a larger world—but also in marriages, wills, property and inheritance; the trial, language, rhetoric and interpretation; evidence, and testimony; and detection and discipline. Such intersections provide starting points for exploring the ways in which Victorian novelists imagined the law as shaping Victorian subjects, but also for how Victorian subjects responded to and negotiated with institutional power.


James Boyd White’s The Legal Imagination, published nearly fifty year ago, is often considered a marker for the early development of the interdisciplinary field of law and literature. More recently, New Directions in Law and Literature, edited by Elizabeth S. Anker and Bernadette Meyler offers a collection of new essays, some of which prod readers to foreground their methodological approaches in the field. This roundtable seeks papers that take up Anker and Meyler’s invitation take up new directions, and it does so specifically by asking how we might think of law and Victorian literature in the most recent iteration of the formalist turn in Victorian studies. If law is grounded in historical knowledge (e.g. of common law), what types of formalist work might we undertake in Victorian law and literature? What happens when we read historical legal structures formally within novels? This roundtable seeks papers of no more than 10 minutes on the intersection of law and literature in the Victorian period. 


Please submit a 250-word proposal and a 1-page CV to Katherine Gilbert ( by January 14, 2019

Forms of Victorian Ecopoetics

Is Victorian “nature poetry” the under-recognized ancestor of today’s “ecopoetics”? In the 2001 inaugural edition of the journal ecopoetics, editor-poet Jonathan Skinner suggests as much when he mourns the passing of natural history as a genre that sharpened our awareness of “a web of nearly unquantifiable interrelatedness . . . through close, scrupulous observation of nature.” As an art alive to the differentiating capability of its own materials, poetry, Skinner argues, is well equipped to return to the “humble, empirical tasks of ‘natural history’” even if our senses of “nature” and “history” are considerably different from those of the Victorian era (6). More recently Lynn Keller, in Recomposing Ecopoetics (2017) enriches this view by her study of twenty-first century poets who refuse the nature/culture, human/non-human dualism inherent in Romantic writing. Rather, they harness innovative, experimental poetic forms and language—a strategy familiar to a Victorianist’s eye—to articulate our inextricable immersion in and connectedness to the non-human world. 

Bearing in mind such contemporary understandings of ecopoetics, this panel invites papers that revisit diverse varieties of Victorian nature poetry as a genre influenced by the close observation of the non-human world characteristic of natural history and Darwinism. The following are some questions panelists might (but need not feel obliged to) explore: to what extent do nineteenth-century poets, especially those writing in the second half of Victoria’s reign, reflect a critical awareness of human actions as adversely affecting life on this planet? Was poetry assumed to be a genre especially capable of addressing ethical problems such as anthropocentrism, pollution, or environmental injustices at home and abroad, and if so, why? How do poets theorize their medium, and what innovations and experiments do they perform? For instance, is “poetry” primarily understood as lyric, of the kind crafted by such figures such as William Barnes, Thomas Hardy, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Charlotte Mew, or does “poetry” become a more inclusive category, embracing, for instance, novelistic “prose poems” like Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and W. H. Hudson’s Green Mansions (1904)? In other words, this CFP is open to broad interpretations of “nature poetry” and “ecopoetics.”

DeadlineMonday, 14 January, 2019

To submit: Email your proposal (up to 500 words) and a one-page CV to Julia Saville, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (


Angry Women and the Dramatic Monologue: A Round Table

Co-organized by Melissa Valiska Gregory (U Toledo) and Emily Harrington (U Colorado- Boulder)

Frustrated women, resentful women, furious women. Perhaps more than any other literary genre, the dramatic monologue carves out a space for the performance of women’s anger in the nineteenth century, giving voice to a wide range of female speakers who insist that their rage matters. Through a series of short position papers, this panel will explore the literary and political implications of angry women in the dramatic monologue. Our goal is not only to initiate a lively conversation about the relationship between gender, genre and politics in the nineteenth century, but also to explore the ways in which that conversation can illuminate the larger debate about the politics of women’s anger in our own century. From pussy hat protests to the public discipline of Serena Williams to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the subject of women’s anger is an urgent cultural question. The nineteenth-century dramatic monologue offers us a rich opportunity to investigate this current debate from both a historical and literary perspective, using poetic genre to ask new questions about the representation of angry women. We encourage 5-minute position papers that take a strong stance in order to initiate conversation.

Please submit your abstract and a 1-page CV to Melissa Gregory at by Monday, January 14, 2019.

Description and Space in Victorian Genres

Long regarded as an aspect of scene-setting or a repository of detailed background information, description, this panel suggests, deserves reconsideration as an essential generic element in its own right. When Edward Said in Orientalism termed the Description de l’Égypte (1809-22) a “great collective appropriation of one country by another,” he claimed that the ideological function of Napoleonic France’s encyclopedic description of Egyptian society was “to feel oneself as a European in command, almost at will, of Oriental history, time, and geography.” This panel invites us to consider the power and function of description in the nineteenth-century spatial imagination. Approaches that link description with ecological approaches to nineteenth-century literature and culture, and with spaces outside of traditional Victorian and/or British temporalities and locales, are especially welcome. Possible topics of interest include, but are certainly not limited to: how can we view the descriptive paragraph in the novel as having a structuring or ideological function in its depiction of fictional locales? How has the history of literary criticism regarded description, and how can that change in light of new critical approaches? What does the descriptive faculty of Victorian prose writing say about how the Victorians viewed different spaces and the peoples that lived in those spaces, both within and outside Britain? How can a focus on description in natural history, the periodical press, and literary works change our conception of how the Victorians related to their local ecologies?


Please submit a 250-word abstract and a brief CV (1-2 pp., as required by NAVSA) to Kyle McAuley at by January 22, 2019.


Teaching Gender in the Victorian Studies Classroom

A roundtable session affiliated with the NAVSA Gender Caucus


Organizers: Gretchen Braun, Furman University ( and Shannon Draucker, Boston University (


Gender has long been a central concern in Victorian literary studies, from the publication of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) to Talia Schaffer’s NAVSA Book Prize-winning Romance’s Rival (2017).  Yet, despite gender’s deep traction in the field, our – and our students’ – preoccupations with it are far from “over.”  Particularly in the era of #MeToo and intense political backlash, how and why we think about gender – and its intersections with sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and ability – are particularly urgent in our classes.  This panel will consider questions such as: how does Victorian literature afford or limit discussions of gender? What texts, critical works, might be particularly useful in teaching issues of gender? What is the place of gender and queer theory in Victorian literature courses?  What conversations about consent, domesticity, and gender construction does the historically grounded Victorian studies classroom shape -- or shut down? How do these dialogues vary among liberal arts, research-, and teaching-focused institutions? We welcome submissions about strategies for teaching difficult topics or texts, managing gender dynamics in the classroom, and approaches to considering gender through an intersectional lens with our students. This will be a roundtable-style discussion, featuring teacher-scholars from varied career stages and diverse institutional affiliations.

Please submit a 300-word abstract and a 1-page CV to and by January 14.

Scales, Environments, Mentalities


This panel invites papers that explore Victorian meditations on scale and relation. Drawing on Robert Azzarello’s term “environmentalities”—a recognition that conceiving human beings, other life forms, and their environments together is, at its core, mediated by habits of thought—the panel welcomes perspectives on how scaling might offer mental tools for representing relationships between human and non-human, the environmental, the ecological.


Papers might focus on any kind of scale—spatial, temporal, or qualitative. The temporal scale, for instance, is key to Victorian imaginings of human generations. Texts that attend to multiple generations of human characters highlight the large-scale sweep across time colliding with the zoom-in to hyper-intimacy of following one character. Multigenerational novels and poems thus compel us to ask what’s at stake in different ways of apportion our affective investment: What different consequences follow on our allegiance with a single protagonist, versus that person’s children and grandchildren, or, alternatively, toward a family, a species, or an ecosystem as it continues (or doesn’t) across generations? The multigenerational tale is a cousin, in this sense, to other problems of relating to temporal scales starkly different from the scales of human lives—such as the lives of plants, mountains, or indeed of the planet. In turn, as Anna Henchman has shown, conceiving the lives and powers of beings operating on non-human spatial scales—worms, insects, stars—was a powerful engine for rethinking the scope of the Victorian human, and for considering literature and art’s ability to stir its perceivers to sympathy, or conceptual understanding, or action.


Recent scholarship on Victorian representations of relationality offer rich opportunities to think about scale and ecology. How might we, for example, transport Alex Woloch’s concept of the character system and character space vertically, across generations of characters? Or, how might texts limn the differential workings of autonomy at the scale of the individual as opposed to the very large group—such as Jesse Rosenthal has recently demonstrated with regard to Daniel Deronda—for non-human individuals and systems, too?


Papers might address any variety of Victorian media and genres that represent, mediate, or translate among scales, and allow us to consider the human individual in relation to other beings, to parts and to wholes.

Please submit an abstract of up to 300 words and a brief CV (1-2 pp) by January 17, to Irena Yamboliev at

Resisting the Generic and Gender: Reclaiming the Role of Gender in Intersectionality

Since Audre Lorde’s powerful assertion that none of us live “single issue lives,” it has become a requisite acknowledgment that class, race, empire, ecologies, etc. are all shaped by their interactions with gender identities. But how does this impulse to take gender as an inevitable element complicate the particular complexities of embodied experiences?

This roundtable, sponsored by the NAVSA Gender Caucus, invites presentations that scrutinize gender within its nuanced, intersectional contexts.  We seek papers that examine either particular gendered experiences within an intersectional approach or the theoretical apparatus necessary for doing so; this may allow for new explorations of the experiences of marginalized positions, and how gender itself is formed withinthese positions. In what ways does the construction of gender shape other lived experiences and constructions within the nineteenth century? What new questions might a renewed attention to gender as a shaping term offer? Does an emphasis on gender in intersection offer particular possibilities--or pitfalls--for those in the field of Victorian Studies? We welcome proposals for 5-7-minute roundtable presentations that examine these or other questions.


Please send up to 500-word abstracts and a 1 page c.v. to  and by January 15, 2019.

Ruskin the Polymath 


Organizers: Annael Jonas-Paneth (Boston University) & Ann Gagné (Durham College)


2019 is the bicentenary of John Ruskin’s birth and a time to celebrate a Victorian polymath who has inspired revolutions both social and aesthetic, and whose devoted interdisciplinarity opened avenues of cross-medial collaboration that persist to this day. As an artist, aesthetic theorist, art critic, and architectural archaeologist, Ruskin addressed historical movements and helped promote an aesthetic to a new group of thinkers and artists.  As a social theorist, travel writer, and autobiographer he explored many genres and prose structures.  As a geologist, environmentalist, and founder of the Guild of St. George, he valued sustainability, the importance of craftwork, and encouraged awareness of the origin of materials. Ruskin was all of this and more- a sketcher, a word painter, a formalist, a cultural conduit, an educator; and his work continues to influence many occupied in the arts, architecture, craft, and social policy.

Throughout his long career, Ruskin questioned and dissolved the boundaries between disciplines and media. He urged his readers to shed the shackles of convention and maintain “the innocence of the eye,” to see the world as it truly is: an array of unbounded patches of color, of which the most valuable hues are those which cannot be defined (The Two Paths, 1859). Seeing the unity in multiplicity motivated the full breadth of Ruskin’s work: in theory as well as practice. He demonstrated how fields of enquiry like aesthetics, ethics, and economics are all voices in the same conversation and how disciplines like art criticism, pedagogy, architecture, and painting enrich and inform one another. With his omnicompetence, Ruskin exemplifies the power of the amateur – an individual whose unfettered relationship with knowledge enables them to change the conversation. 

We welcome proposals that address (m)any aspects of Ruskin’s life and work which may include the media he worked with and through, how he brought one medium to bear on another, his interdisciplinarity in thought and practice, the genres he addressed, or his wide-ranging influence on individuals, institutions, and spiritual movements, that we continue to see today. 


Deadline: January 16, 2019

To Submit: Please email a 300 word abstract with a short 1 to 2-page CV by January 16, 2019 to and

Transgender Studies/Victorian Studies

Victorian gender studies has typically insisted on teasing out the hidden gaps, revelatory contradictions, and fraught intersections between nineteenth-century ideological visions of “woman” and “man,” representations of those genders in Victorian literary culture, and the lived realities of actual women and men. As productive as this critique of separate spheres ideologies has been and continues to be, this work has largely accepted the idea that “woman” and “man” are discrete categories equated with sex assignment at birth, that people who are assigned female at birth are girls/women and people who are assigned male at birth are boys/men.  

How do the insights of transgender studies help to unsettle and reorient our understanding of the Victorian period? What might it do to our thinking about Victorian genders and gender roles, and the cultural genres and scripts that depend upon them, if we resist thinking of the Victorians as generically cisgender and allow instead for the existence of trans figures in the nineteenth century? If we can think analogously across the space between past and present, as Susan Stryker does in imagining herself in dialogue with Frankenstein’s creation in “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix Performing Transgender Rage” (1994), what new textual readings might emerge at the intersection of Victorian and trans studies? 

Please send 250-500-word abstracts and a 1-page cv to Simon Joyce ( or Lisa Hager ( by January 14. 

Action, Inaction, and the Victorian Female


This panel welcomes papers on any topic exploring how Victorian women engaged in activities explicitly forbidden to them in periodicals and print as inappropriate not only due to gender, but class position. Recent work by Kathryn Walchester on Victorian reactions to female climbing in the periodical press builds on earlier explorations of how women with the means and leisure to explore found their impulses for both work and play checked by the gender standards of their time period. In terms of labor, Kathryn Hughes has established how the allocation of nurturing, nursing, and educational labor to the feminine realm gradually enabled middle- and upper-class Victorian women to acquire more freedom through teaching and nursing, best exemplified by the famous Florence Nightingale. Among others, C. Parratt, Claire Langhamer, and Roberta J. Park have written on the gradual impact of girls’ schools, private sports pursuits, and the industrial revolution as increasing opportunities for female activity and employment across the social classes. 


While ladies’ journals, conduct books, and literature sought to define roles for women, experiences of European and foreign travel, living outside of Great Britain, seeking educational opportunities, and novels advocating greater freedom for discontented heroines were all avenues through which a historical woman might first encounter, then seek or participate in “inappropriate” but alluring activities. Additionally, papers that examine how a Victorian woman’s privilege, access, social position, or utility function, compared to others differently situated, could enable or hinder specific activities will be gratefully received; historical as well as literary perspectives are encouraged. 


Deadline: 19 January 2019. 

To submit: send a 250-word abstract and 1-pg CV to Lydia Craig (Loyola University Chicago) ( Applicants will be informed of decisions by 20 January 2019. 

Melodrama’s Challenges


Over the last few decades, growing scholarly attention to Victorian melodrama has begun to suggest the need for a significant reappraisal of the history of modern art and literary form. It has made evident the perils of treating different mediums and modes as distinctive traditions and separate areas of inquiry, called into question the validity and the legacy of traditional critical attention to the exceptional rather than the average work of art, and undermined long-accepted accounts of the history of genre—and of dramatic genre particularly—in the Victorian era and the modern era at large.  


This roundtable will explore these each of these challenges and try to assess their implications and limits. How does recent recognition of melodrama’s fundamentally multi- and inter-medial character alter conceptions of media, mediation, and medium-ness? How does growing awareness of its popularity and ubiquity change critical understanding of the historical relations between innovation and convention, between the exceptional and the average? In what ways, and to what extent, does emergent understanding of melodrama’s viral transformation of other forms, genres, and representational modes revise our sense of Victorian—and modern—art and aesthetics?


Please submit a 250-word abstract for short (5-8 minute) papers and a 1-2 page cv to Matthew Buckley at by January 23rd.

“So Generic”: Victorian Reception Aesthetics


“When people comment upon the number of books I have written, and I say that I am so far from being proud of that fact that I should like at least half of them forgotten, they stare—and yet it is quite true.” Margaret Oliphant’s wish for at least half of her novels to be forgotten came true: barring a select few, most of her works are no longer in print. Yet beyond serving as a reminder that popularity does not make for posterity, her self-appraisal also suggests that deeming a text or an author “forgettable,” or making similar aesthetic determinations—uninteresting, dull, generic—impacts literary history. How did the interests and disinterests of readers and critics shape the reception of literary texts in the nineteenth century? And how do these aesthetic determinations continue to inform our contemporary appraisals of these texts, as well as the things we do with them?


Drawing from Sianne Ngai’s treatment of “interesting” as “a kind of zero-degree aesthetic judgment” and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht’s invitation to return to reception aesthetics, this panel looks to understand how we might conceive of aesthetic responses as indices of ongoing categorical, conceptual, and historical determinations. In doing so, this panel looks to address the following questions: What criteria of interest did readers and critics use in the Victorian era to determine whether or not texts were “interesting” or “uninteresting”? In what ways do our contemporary assessments of Victorian-era texts as literary or paraliterary reconstitute or compete with their reception histories? How do our aesthetic and non-aesthetic judgments of literary texts establish generic boundaries in non-textual mediums? Can data-driven approaches like distant reading push us to question “interest” as a critical heuristic? And to what extent are our critical approaches unavoidably aesthetic and historicist?


We invite papers that engage with Victorian reception aesthetics, broadly conceived: affect and the aesthetics of reading in the nineteenth century; the interests and aesthetic practices of Victorian-era reviewers and/or nineteenth-century “Victorianists”; reading publics; contemporary methodological issues concerning the place of interest and disinterest (just reading, “not reading,” post-critique); how critical reception shaped (and continues to shape) the historicity, exemplarity, typicality, and/or canonicity of nineteenth-century texts; and the role of interest and disinterest in the constitution of literary forms, genres, and traditions. 


Deadline: January 25th


Please submit a proposal for a paper (no more than 250 words) and a brief CV to Joel Simundich (

Roundtable: Genres of Academic Work and Non-Tenure-Track Labor


In a December 2018 article for the Chronicle, Jonathan Kramnick reported that “[o]f the 3,412 jobs advertised [in English] between 1995 and 1998, 2,262, or 66 percent, were for tenure-track assistant professors in North America. Of the 2,611 jobs advertised between 2015 and 2018, 1,261, or 48 percent, fit that description.” Jobs for Victorianists, moreover, shrank from 88 to 23 (just 1.8% of the total) during the same period. What changes, challenges, and opportunities lie ahead for Victorian studies and Victorian teaching as tenure lines dwindle? 


This roundtable will consider particular genres of academic work – the syllabus, the peer review, graduate-student mentorship, the monograph, diversity work, public scholarship, the labor union– from a non-tenure-track perspective. What barriers do non-tenure-track laborers currently face in engaging these genres of academic work? What pressures will the scarcity of tenure lines put on these forms? How will each genre need to be reformed or reimagined to accommodate the changing landscape of academic labor? And what alternative possibilities might non-tenure-track perspectives open up for building more livable academic futures?


Proposals are welcome from anyone who is currently or was recently pursuing forms of academic work off the tenure track: as a graduate student, postdoc, lecturer, adjunct, secondary-ed teacher, writing center director, librarian, editor, public humanist, union organizer, activist, artist, etc.


Please submit a short (no more than 250-word) abstract for a short (5-8 minute) provocation to Lauren Eriks Cline ( by January 26, 2019. NAVSA will also require a short CV.