Crafting Communities: Rethinking Academic Engagement in Pandemic Times and Beyond

This is the first post in the ‘Crafting Communities’ series on JVC Online. See Part Two and Part Three. It is July 2020, the summer of Covid. Libraries are closed. Museums are closed. University courses and conferences have moved online. A small group of Victorianists gathers on Zoom to learn how to make hair art. Led by Vanessa Warne (U of Manitoba), the event is a test run for the upcoming semester, when Vanessa plans to make hair art with

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The Tragic Poet: Whose Name was Writ in Water

There are those who consider the words of the sanguine poet scarcely worth the reading. A prescription formula for funerals, heartbreak and teenage angst, poetry has long been established as the literary tonic for the dilapidated human condition. In the name of authenticity, it naturally follows that the greater the suffering of a maudlin bard, the greater their work and legacy. Mythology has romanticised and popularised the tragic poet, a familiar archetype in celebrity literary culture. It is the reason

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A toast to Professor Laurel Brake on the occasion of her eightieth birthday

When Marysa Demoor, a longstanding member of Journal of Victorian Culture’s editorial board, suggested a celebration of eminent Victorianist Laurel Brake’s birthday, she was deluged with contributions from some of the most prominent scholars in the field: Margaret Beetham, Anne Humpherys, John Stokes, Helen Small, Lene Østermark, Marianne van Remoortel, James Mussell, Fionnuala Dillane, Andrew King, Mark Turner and Gowan Dawson. Each offered a personal take on the impact Professor Brake has had on their area of research activity, whether

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Body-Snatching and Early Victorian Medical Education

The story of the medical profession in Britain during the first half of the nineteenth century is complex, and can be seen as representative of several key shifts in social, educational, and economic outlook. The emergent ‘professions’ of the early-Victorian period, including medicine, would undergo dramatic transformations in the wake of fast industrialisation, population growth, and increased centralised regulation. One of the most notable changes to the medical profession at this time is the increase in generalised medical schools, responding

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Jumbo the Elephant: a very Victorian institution

When I was a toddler, like many other children I hauled around a stuffed toy with me wherever I went. While many had the ubiquitous Teddy Bear, and some had a rabbit, I had a battered and well-worn stuffed elephant. It was grey and threadbare and its name was … Jumbo. Now, I never questioned why it was so called. I just assumed that all elephants were known as Jumbo. But Jumbo the Elephant was a particularly Victorian creation. Jumbo

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Kitty Lord’s Padded ‘Symmetricals’

This final post (see Parts One and Two) was inspired by a pair of pale pink knitted tights worn by the music hall singer Kitty Lord (1881-1972) in the early 1900s. Part of a collection of Lord’s costumes held at the Museum of London, these ‘symmetricals’ were carefully padded with wool to ensure that her thighs and calves looked suitably shapely and voluptuous [Figure 1]. As these padded symmetricals reveal, and this post will discuss, in late nineteenth century Burlesque

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“A Shadow of a Magnitude”: Toru Dutt’s Writing and Nineteenth-Century Cross-Cultural Dialogue

This is an ode to one of those poets of the world literary tradition whose work captured and immortalized the everlasting magnanimity of the natural world, in the spirit of the Romantic poets of the nineteenth century, who strived for excellence in the literary arts, whose life was like a temporal spring that came to an end at the time when it was blossoming; like the nightingale’s voice of Keats’ poem, or the ‘golden autumn’ of Chatterton’s. Yet it was

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Sir Thomas Muir (1844–1934): Victorian Educationist and Mathematician

The purpose of this blog is to introduce the reader to the Victorian mathematician and educationist Thomas Muir, and to provide an entrée to his diaries, in which he wrote of his adventurous tours in the remote interior of the Cape Colony.[i] Muir’s origins and his teaching years in Scotland Muir was a Scottish ‘lad O’Pairts’: Victorian Scotland prided itself on giving opportunities to a talented child from a modest background. Muir’s rise from rural Scottish boy in Lanarkshire to

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‘A Vision of Animal Existences’: Popular Responses to Darwin

In the refreshment room of London’s Zoological Gardens, the protagonist of Edmund Saul Dixon’s short story, ‘A Vision of Animal Existences’ (1862), spots a woman reading a ‘thick volume’ that he recognizes. He pulls out reading material of his own—a newspaper—and, perusing its contents, finds a discussion appropriate to his surroundings: extinction, artificial selection, and species are amongst its topics. Prompted to refocus on the ‘volume’ of his nearby reader, however, he forges a further connection: ‘the blue-robed lady’s green-covered

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William Seymour: ‘The Female Cab Driver of Liverpool’

On 10 February 1875, William Seymour, a cab driver, was remanded in custody and charged with stealing ‘22 lbs of beef’ and ‘5 lbs of veal’ from Mr Henry Moorby who owned a butcher’s on Leece Street in Liverpool.[1] Although William categorically maintained his innocence, he was charged with theft and the Liverpool Mercury commented that ‘upon the arm and breast of [his] coat were traces of suet which proved incontestably that he was guilty of the crime’.[2] Although this

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