To quote a famous example Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South raised the question of social and cultural tensions between the North and the South of the country. The opposition between cities and the countryside, industry and agriculture, modernity and traditions is obvious in many other works and debates, and it is interesting to consider both the vision inhabitants of the North had of the South and the way in which those who lived in the South asserted, defined or represented themselves as such. For Thomas Hardy, the rural south, rechristened using the old name of Wessex (‘the appellation which I had thought to reserve to the horizons and landscapes of a merely realistic dream-country’ ), was the foundation of a whole poetic and novelistic work. Later, and in a different field, it was suggested that cinema adaptations of Victorian and Edwardian fiction, or more generally a certain heritage cinema, developed a vision of the period that was too systematically associated with a postcard image of rural England.
On the other hand, numerous British poets and novelists, Robert Browning and George Gissing among others, found sources of inspiration in Mediterranean countries, which their contemporaries appreciated more and more as holiday destinations. In the same way, besides the shock that Venice represented for John Ruskin or the fascination of
pre-Raphaelite painters with Italy, George Edmund Street wrote on the Gothic style in Spain, while the painter John Frederick Lewis settled in Cairo where he stayed for ten years and received the visit of William Makepeace Thackeray.
Finally, the Southern hemisphere at large allowed rewarding researches as The Voyage of the Beagle published by Charles Darwin in 1839 testifies. Perspectives for more colonial conquests and wealth continued to develop, though worries and prejudice sometimes remained, in spite of new approaches like Mary Kingsley’s. As for Robert Falcon Scott’s death in 1912 in his quest for the South pole, it is often presented as the symbol of the end of an era.
However varied approaches of the subject may be, one will try to determine in what way the reference to a particular South allowed the Victorians and the Edwardians both to respond to their own demographic, economic, social and cultural evolutions and to define
their relationship to the old and the new world. The South successively appeared as the place of roots and traditions or an exotic or wild territory, as a relaxed way of life or a hostile climate. A geographical position and a representation of the mind, a physical and a mental landscape, it could in turn be a reassuring reference, evoke the threat of a decline, or provide unexplored territories offering possibilities for new beginnings but also the
temptation to reproduce existing norms.
Papers proposals may include the following ideas:
– The consuming South vs the production of the North – the politics and economics of divided Victorian Britain/different forms of manufacture and industry
– The Mediterranean dreams of the Victorians and their investments abroad in industry, real estate, tourism
– Engagement with Mediterranean and Hellenic aesthetics in painting, photography, architecture, travel writing and novel
– The South of England as dream space in novel, poetry and essay or southern fantasies of the North in the neo-Victorian novel, Victorian-inspired video games and graphic novels.
– The Southern hemisphere: Antartica and the North-West passage, Australia and transportation or the lucky country, South America (Conrad’s Nostromo for example), South Africa, the South Seas.
– Questions of identity and race.
– The South and gender (trouble)
– The colonial and postcolonial aspects of engagement with these foreign worlds in both history and literature. The technology and industry used in colonising the Southern hemisphere. The North-South
divide in India.
– How film adaptation and television series express Victorian investments in the South. Globalised Victoriana from Great Expectations to The Mill and Downton Abbey). This might include the neo-Victorian novel and its filmic adaptations (Steampunk, Victorian
Gothic in the American South etc).
Proposals for papers (500 words) along with a short biographical notice should be sent to Isabelle Cases (firstname.lastname@example.org) before October 30 2014.