Victorian Network is an open-access, MLA-indexed, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to publishing and promoting the best postgraduate and early career work across the broad field of Victorian Studies. We are delighted to announce that our eleventh issue (Summer 2016) will be guest edited by Professor Sally Shuttleworth (University of Oxford), on the theme of the Victorian Brain.
In the nineteenth century, the discipline of psychology, or the science of the mind, underwent a profound reorientation: a reorientation which was both fuelled by contemporary literature, and which influenced that literature’s form and content. Investigating the mind’s workings was the joint project of such diverse parties as authors and poets; natural scientists and doctors; but also the public, as citizen scientists. Phrenology and the legibility of physiognomy remained central concerns. Simultaneously, medical research created a counterweight to eighteenth-century folk psychology and pseudoscience. Observation of mentally-ill asylum inmates offered another route into the human psyche. These asylums in turn experienced restructuring, turning from spaces of “[chains], straw, filthy solitude, darkness and starvation” (Dickens) in the eighteenth century, to institutions implementing “moral management” by 1900. Mid-Victorians discussed the human brain extensively in both popular literature and specialized periodicals, ranging in disciplines from natural and medical sciences to literature and philosophy. The Journal of Mental Science and Dickens’s Household Words are but two examples from different sides of that spectrum. As these widespread discussions destabilized longstanding convictions including the supremacy of the mind and the integrated self, these convictions’ intricate connections to cultural concerns including gender and class grew evident. Investigations in all possible directions proliferated, bringing (especially in the century’s closing decades) rapid disciplinary changes in neuroscience (e.g. through the work of William Richard Gowers), psychology and psychotherapy.
The examination of human consciousness also occurred in the nineteenth-century novel. The period’s novelists had such a significant part in shaping the discourse on the mind not least because, in the words of Karen Chase, they “did not inherit a supple and illuminating picture of the mind, but […] had to construct it for themselves, taking insights where they found them.”
We invite submissions of around 7,000 words on any aspect of the theme. Possible topics include but are by no means limited to:
- The novel as shaping and shaped by discourses on psychology, the mind, and the brain.
- Mental science and poetry; the “psychological monologue”.
- Animal dissection and vivisection.
- The brain as central organ of the nervous system, mind and body as connected; the concept of the mental faculties; the soul as (no longer) extra-corporeal; religion vs scientific psychology. The senses.
- The mind as culturally formed; national and international conceptions of psychology.
- The gendered brain and its implications (gender as a universal taxonomy).
- The Victorian mind in childhood.
- The theatrical brain: displaying thought and memory on the Victorian stage; depicting mental illness and madness; character interiority; psychology and actor training.
- Altered states of mind: drug use; mesmerism, hypnosis and trance; dreams and daydreams; somnambulis.
- Memory and/or trauma; memory and objects (from diaries to post-mortem photography). Sites and cultures of remembering and forgetting.
- Different disciplines and disciplinary developments: evolutionary and developmental psychology. Psychoanalysis: pre-Freudian concepts of the psyche.
- Mental illness: asylums, “moral management”; depression; delusions; puerperal disorders; links between mental and bodily health.
- Insanity and the law (criminality, legislation, fitness to stand trial); the development of forensic psychology; insanity and sensation.
- Automatism and volition: new conceptions of the unconscious (e.g. as possessing agency); the unconscious vshabit and self-discipline: automatism, responsibility and accountability.
- 4ecognition (embodied, embedded, enacted and extended cognition) and Victorian literature and culture.
- “wound culture”: its roots in the industrial nineteenth century, and the attendant renegotiation of private identity in public terms.
- Neo-Victorian representations of any issue outlined above.
Just reminding everyone of our current Call For Papers – and to say sorry for blogging silence. Hope to get back into this over the summer!
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.