Jem was talking about mid- and late-Victorian productions of The Duchess of Malfi, while my paper was entitled ‘”Marriage of Orlando and Rosalind”: Madge Kendal and Victorian Shakespeare”. The conference organisers charitably having given us a panel in which to get REALLY EXCITED to the bemusement – and, thankfully, amusement – of our colleagues, we waved our arms and talked actresses to our hearts’ content.
A large proportion of the delegates at our panel had strong interests in performance; sometimes both as scholars and practitioners. I’d hoped one of the main points of my paper – that our current theatrical historiography is problematic in its accommodations for women, as evinced by Madge Kendal, acclaimed and central Victorian actress, falling through the gaps of history – might be disproved by someone bouncing up to say they, too, are a ridiculous enthusiast/horrified onlooker at the fireworks of her life. But no. While this does tell me I’m probably on the right track (conference full of excitable Shakespeare postgrads = not a flicker of recognition, but much interest), it’s such a shame!
Overall, a productive three days. Having swotted up on posts from (all I really need to know, I learn from) Thesis Whisperer, I made myself ask questions at most panels. I usually struggle to think of them (and am slightly allergic to Q&As as it is), but found that if I went in determined to ask, it made me a more proactive listener and I ended up with genuine queries. So hurrah for that. My only Britgrad regret is that there was a girl in my panel who asked a really fascinating question about Victorian theatrical fan literatures. I’d hoped we’d get more of a chance to talk afterwards (Victorian fan literatures are honestly one of the most exciting, and weirdest, things on God’s earth), but sadly I didn’t see her again.
My conference schedule for the rest of the summer is ridiculously busy. Should you have an inexplicable yen to see a short girl in glasses talk about Victorian actresses, you can catch me at any of the following:
10 June 2011: Oxford English Graduate Conference, University of Oxford: “The Famed and the Forgotten”.
7-9 July 2011: Universities of Birmingham and Lancaster, The Storey, Lancaster: “Politics, performance and popular culture in nineteenth century Britain”.
18-19 July 2011: Victorian Popular Fiction Association Conference, University of London: “Sex, Courtship and Marriage in Victorian Popular Culture”.
If you’re attending any of these events, please let me know! It’d be great to make some new conference-friends beforehand…
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.