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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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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Knickerbockers and Tight-Lacing:Ruth Goodman’s ‘How To Be A Victorian’

‘How To Be A Victorian’ (Penguin/Viking, 2013) by Ruth Goodman review by Gabrielle Malcolm Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman, as the song goes. It was especially hard to be a Victorian woman. We think we know, and we certainly do – on many levels – understand the hardships that people underwent on a daily basis, from morning until night. But is this awareness not just one of academic, historic facts? Do we really appreciate or empathise with what

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Images of Victorian Motherhood, Effaced and Exposed

Recently I’ve been contemplating motherhood as it is represented in Victorian hidden mother portraits and Victorian breastfeeding portraits, two fascinating photographic trends. A little over a year ago, I stumbled upon Chelsea Nichols’ post about hidden mothers in Victorian photographs on her blog, The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things. These images typically depict a shrouded woman holding or standing behind a baby or child, ostensibly to keep the child still for the camera while remaining out of the image.  The

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Celebrity Circulation II: Dickens’s Moving/Images

By Susan Cook (Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH) Dickens was famously mobile throughout his life, walking miles each day, moving households repeatedly, and traveling often.  “If I could not walk far and fast,” he once wrote, “I think I should just explode and perish.”[1]  This quote describes an obsession with walking, a physical need to walk not only long distances but quickly at that.  Dickens saw walking as essential, writes Rosemary Bodenheimer.  Walking allowed The Inimitable “to bring his

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Celebrity Circulation I: Dickens in Photographs

By Susan Cook (Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH) As a photographic image, Charles Dickens circulated far and wide.  The man was photographed in excess of 120 times during his life [1], and was among all Victorians, as Joss Marsh recently put it, “the most photographically famous person in Britain outside the royal family” [2].  Ironically, however, Dickens disliked having his photographic image taken.  Not only was he concerned that these images gave viewers a lie—a false sense of possessing

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On the Images of Others

By Susan Cook (Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH) As a Victorianist and a collector with an interest in photography, I decided, about a year ago, to begin amassing my own Victorian photography collection.  I soon acquired three daguerreotypes, two tintypes, and eleven cartes-de-visite—all portraits, save two.  I know very little about the images—no names, no dates, no locations beyond the photography studio imprinted on the cartes-de-visite.  I have become transfixed by how little I know about these images. Two

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Victorian Valentines: From Sentiment to Satire

Alice Crossley In 2013, the rituals of St. Valentine’s Day, often marked by romantic meals a deux, dozens of red roses, and garish greeting cards, are heavily commercialised. Some might suppose that little of the nineteenth-century quaint ritual and whimsy remains visible in the modern-day marking of this date. In fact, it really was the Victorians who initiated the mass production of valentines. Their promotion of increasingly innovative paper and lace fabrications were a visible and fashionable aspect of the

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Standard Cuts and Lace Collars: What Patients Wore in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Asylums

Jane Hamlett and Lesley Hoskins Forthcoming article ‘Comfort in Small Things? Clothing, Control and Agency in County Lunatic Asylums in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century England’ This photograph offers us a glimpse of the women’s day ward at Long Grove Asylum in Surrey in the early twentieth century. The nurses standing in the background are immediately identifiable by their uniforms. The patients, meanwhile, are dressed apparently warmly and comfortably, but their clothes seem to have been cut to a standard pattern.

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Simon Morgan, ‘Material Culture and the Politics of Personality in Early Victorian England’

My article on ‘Material Culture and the Politics of Personality in Early Victorian England’ explores the role and meaning of things in the development of nascent personality cults around politicians, particularly those involved in extra-parliamentary campaigns such as the free trade and anti-slavery movements.  Such objects ranged from mass produced items like medals, ceramics or popular prints, to more intimate and personal artefacts such as locks of hair.  It is my contention that, by studying these artefacts, historians can gain

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