BAVS 2013: Numbering Numbers

In a memorable scene from Dickens’s Hard Times, Sissy Jupe recounts to Louisa Gradgrind her failure in her lessons to understand the ‘true’ meaning of numbers. She laments: ‘And [Mr M’Choakumchild] said, This schoolroom is an immense town, and in it there are a million of inhabitants, and only five-and-twenty are starved to death in the streets, in the course of a year. What is your remark on that proportion? And my remark was – for I couldn’t think of

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Identifying the Victorian middle class

By Guy Woolnough At BAVS this year, Lucinda Matthews-Jones raised an interesting point about how we define class. How useful or sound is it to typify a person as ‘middle class’? What could that mean, when the individuals who might be so described are such a diverse group in every respect? Education, income, profession, respectability are so subjective and variable that they must be of poor value in any attempt to construct an objective assessment of the middle class status

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This Charming Dickens…

Michael Slater’s recent work, The Great Charles Dickens Scandal, brilliantly opens with a selection of the various headlines that Dickens-based news stories have run in recent years. Predictably, they mostly relate to his relationship with Ellen Ternan, and range from the dramatic (‘THE DARK SIDE OF DICKENS AND THE LOVE THAT DESTROYED HIS MARRIAGE’) to the salacious (‘DICKENS’S ROMPS WITH NAUGHTY NELLY’) to the somewhat bizarre and creepy (‘DICKENS KEPT A KEEN EYE ON FALLEN WOMEN’).[1] With the approaching release

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Roller Derby’s Victorian Prehistory

By Susan Cook (Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH) Roller derby was not a Victorian sport. But it should have been. Today roller skating is typically thought of as a twentieth-century fad, but historians trace its origins back to the eighteenth century. Although the Dutch began using roller skates in the early 1700s, the Belgian inventor Joseph Merlin made the most memorable early impression on the new sport by skating into a masquerade party in 1760 whilst playing the violin.

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Victorian or Nineteenth Century? Definitions and positions

By Charlotte Mathieson, University of Warwick How do you see yourself: as a Victorianist, or as a nineteenth-centuryist? This was a question that came to mind several times throughout the summer as I attended two conferences that both raised questions about periodisation, categorisation and researcher identity. At Neo-Victorian Cultures: the Victorians Today (Liverpool John Moores University, July 2013), the issue of our contemporary engagement with, and exploration of, the Victorian past initiated conversations about the distinctive qualities of ‘neo-Victorian’ as opposed

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The Victorian Tactile Imagination: Reappraising touch in nineteenth-century culture

THE VICTORIAN TACTILE IMAGINATION: Reappraising touch in the nineteenth-century culture Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, Birkbeck, London 19-20 July, 2013 It is always exciting when you feel part of something big, and when Professor David Howes (Concordia University) asserts that there are some ‘stirrings’ in the academy then you know it’s special. Many claims are made for the impact of a conference’s scope, and they do establish new ideas and contribute to the wider scholarship as well as create new networks

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What We Know about What Maisie Knew: A Critical Conversation

By Ryan D. Fong, Kalamazoo College, & Victoria Ford Smith, University of Connecticut The following conversation took place via e-mail in July and August 2013, after we each viewed the most recent film adaptation of Henry James’s 1897 novel, What Maisie Knew.  In the collaborative spirit of the film’s directors, Scott McGehee and David Siegel, we decided to write a joint review, analyzing the film from our respective areas of expertise. What Maisie Knew is still playing in select theatres,

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Teaching Cultural History Through National Song

By Karen E. McAulay, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland This post suggests a collaboration between teaching faculty and specialist subject librarians by teaching book and cultural history in the context of national song and fiddle tune-books.  I’ve noticed, when giving undergraduate lectures on Scottish music history, that students are more engaged when encouraged to perform the music being talked about; to participate in discussion; or examine historic sources at first hand.  I decided to experiment with the idea of a template

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The Red House Discoveries (Or, the Wombat in the Drawing Room)

By Wendy Parkins, Kent University The exciting re-discovery of wall paintings and decorations during recent restoration work at William Morris’s Red House – as widely reported in the media this week – raises as many questions as it answers. Who painted the five Old Testament figures in the mural in the main bedroom? And why? After all, Noah holding a miniature ark doesn’t exactly say ‘honeymoon suite’, not to mention the sense of foreboding a depiction of Adam and Eve

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Literary Places: A Review of Placing Literature

By Susan Cook (Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH) Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, The Thomas Hardy Association “The Ring at Casterbridge was merely the local name of one of the finest Roman Amphitheatres, if not the very finest, remaining in Britain. “Casterbridge announced old Rome in every street, alley, and precinct.  It looked Roman, bespoke the art of Rome, concealed dead men of Rome.  It was impossible to dig more than a foot or two deep about the town fields and

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