CFP: Northern Nineteenth-Century Network panel: Victorian Secrets

The telling of secrets punctuates time. The revelation of whatever has been concealed creates a before and after, in which things are never quite the same. New information, should it be accepted as true, rewrites the ‘before’ as fiction and leaves the ‘after’ as truth. But such truths are only provisional and one never knows what other secrets there are to tell.

Secrets make the concealed past present. In a kind of gothic move, things that should have been left behind are resurrected, demanding attention. Such returns are the staples of countless literary plots in the period; they also underpin the many scandals that filled the pages of newspapers. Whereas literary plots can exploit the moments leading up to revelation, as tension increases, newspaper scandals break suddenly, creating a moment that calls for something to be done.

This panel seeks papers that address the relationship between secrecy and our understanding of the Victorian age(s). Approaches might include (but are not limited to): reflections on the idea of secrecy as a dynamic that shapes our engagement with legacies of the Victorian age; the significance of secrecy as a theme within literature, art, the media or other forms of Victorian cultural production and consumption; the economic, political and social forms of secrecy and their effects on nineteenth-century culture; the place of secrecy within practices of everyday life.

The aim of the panel is to provide an opportunity for postgraduate researchers and early career researchers from universities in the north of England to present, discuss and contextualise their work alongside that of an established academic. To this end, Dr Jim Mussell has kindly agreed to deliver a paper on the theme of ‘Victorian Secrets’, the abstract for which is presented below.


Time to Tell: Secrecy and Narrative in the Nineteenth-Century

In my paper I will sketch out some of the links between secrecy and temporality in the nineteenth century. In its first sections, it will explore the ways in which secrecy depends upon time, focusing particularly on the way that telling secrets reorders past and present. I will then go on to look more closely at such revelations in literary and nonliterary narratives. The paper will conclude by looking closely on the way that telling secrets creates a moment in which past and present appear provisional. My argument will be that while secrets rewrite the past, they do so at the cost of the present.

Jim Mussell

Please send titles and abstracts to Merrick Burrow at

2 responses to “CFP: Northern Nineteenth-Century Network panel: Victorian Secrets

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