Call for Papers: Paraphernalia! Victorian Objects.

The Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies and the Northern Nineteenth-Century Network is pleased to announce a one-day colloquium, to take place at Leeds Trinity University on Friday 17th April 2015. We are delighted to have Professor Rohan McWilliam, President of the British Association for Victorian Studies (Anglia Ruskin University) and Professor Valerie Sanders (University of Hull) as our keynote speakers.

‘Portable property!’ is the mantra of Great Expectations’ Wemmick. The centrality of objects to Victorian families, homes, and public culture, can be seen wherever you turn: the auction in Vanity Fair; the jewellery Dorothea denies herself in Middlemarch; the Great Exhibition. Even working-class homes take pride in their ‘bright green japanned tea-tray’, as Mary Barton emphasises, even if they only have six teacups and need extra visitors to bring their own.

In Orlando, Woolf characterised the Victorian period as ‘heterogeneous, ill-sorted objects piled higgledy-piggledy in a vast mound’. Victorians are famous as collectors, hoarders, but also as curators. This is the era that saw not only the Great Exhibition, but the founding of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the opening up of the National Gallery and British Museum to cheap public entry, and new historical disciplines, archaeology and anthropology, epitomised in Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum.

Recent developments in material culture and thing theory have highlighted objects’ diverse practical as well as symbolic functions. We want to extend these discussions by asking some persistent questions: why were Victorian homes so full of clutter? Do changing fashions – for example, the development of Steampunk – change the way we relate to this? Victorian objects, particularly buildings, still surround us today: do objects change their meaning in new contexts? Does this also apply to objects that came to Britain from around the world; and what about objects created in the industrial powerhouse of northern England to be exported worldwide?

We invite proposals for 4000-word papers to be pre-circulated in advance, and presented at the event through a 5-7 minute position paper. Submissions are welcome from all disciplines. Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Objects in museums / in homes / in literature
  • Objects still in daily use
  • Objets d’art
  • Bibliographic studies and books as objects
  • Objectification (of women / other cultures / …)
  • Objects made in, or brought to, Yorkshire and the north.

While postgraduates of all stages are welcome to submit proposals for full papers, the day will also include a chance to discuss projects that have not yet reached a conclusion! For this special postgraduate work-in-progress panel, we invite submissions of A1 posters, from which presenters will also be selected to talk in more depth. Topics may include (but, again, are not limited to):

  • The argument of your research and your methodology
  • A Victorian object and how it has shaped your research
  • An overview of the work you have done so far.

Please submit proposals to victorianparaphernalia@yahoo.co.uk, by the deadline of 10th January 2015. (The deadline for submission of papers for pre-circulation will be 17th March 2015.)

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