CFP: Vernon Lee 2019: An Anniversary Conference

30-31 May 2019: British Institute of Florence

Keynote lectures by Carolyn Burdett and Christa Zorn. The conference will also include a private performance of Lee’s pacifist work, The Ballet of the Nations, staged at her Florentine home, Il Palmerino.

‘Vernon Lee 2019’, an international conference organised by the University of Surrey and the University of Oxford in collaboration with the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino, marks the centenary of Vernon Lee’s return to her Italian home, Villa Il Palmerino, after enforced exile during WW1. Lee emerged as a significant writer in the heady atmosphere of late nineteenth-century aestheticism and decadence, but she published extensively throughout the first three decades of the twentieth century. As the new century dawned, she became politically active; in the years leading up to WW1, she produced polemical pacifist articles for the periodical press and an important anti-war morality play, Ballet of the Nations (1915). She also took criticism in exciting new directions, focusing on the emerging field of ‘psychological aesthetics’ in Beauty and Ugliness (1912) and The Beautiful (1913), and experimenting with literary analysis in The Handling of Words (1923).  

Writing in 2003, Vineta Colby commented that, at that time, only ‘a small company’ read the work of Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, 1856-1935). In the fifteen years that have elapsed there has been a major expansion of academic interest in Lee’s oeuvre, which has generated scholarly work, biographies and international conferences. Since then, access to Vernon Lee’s work in published and digitised form has increased dramatically, introducing her to a whole new generation of readers and students, and prompting scholarship not only on her fiction but on the full variety of her interests. 

Despite this surge in critical response, however, much of Lee’s large and extremely wide-ranging oeuvre has yet to receive full scholarly attention, especially those writings she produced in the twentieth century. Between 1900 and her death in 1935, she published a wealth of new material including a musical drama, travel writing, novels, philosophical and aesthetic treatises, literary criticism, compilations of supernatural fiction and an important musicological study, Music and Its Lovers (1932). 

We welcome proposals for scholarly papers that explore all aspects of Lee’s writings and her literary and artistic connections, with a special focus on her twentieth-century writings. Topics may include but are not limited to the following areas:

  • Essays and Fiction
  • Travel writing, place and space
  • Criticism (aesthetics, musicology, art history, literary criticism)
  • Natural and Social Sciences
  • Politics, Pacifism, Cosmopolitanism
  • Theatre
  • Letters
  • Circles and Networks

Please send 300-word abstracts, by 15 January 2019, to: VernonLee2019@gmail.com. 

Conference organisers: Patricia Pulham, Stefano Evangelista, Elisa Bizzotto, Federica Parretti, Serena Cenni, and Sally Blackburn-Daniels

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