Tag Archives: history

[CFP]: Victorian Dirt

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.

The tenth issue of Victorian Network (Summer 2015) will be guest edited by Professor William A. Cohen (University of Maryland) on the theme of Victorian Dirt. Dirt – its causes, consequences, and control – obsessed the long nineteenth century, from the fuels and detritus of the Industrial Revolution, to the obscene books sold on London’s Holywell Street (which boasted fifty-seven pornographers by 1834). Technological advances brought increased pollution, while cities’ growth generated more dirt and the new urban workforce crowded together in sickness and in health. Meanwhile, public legislation and agitation tried to clean, civilise and purify the populace in both body and mind. Writers and cultural commentators debated the middle and upper classes’ responsibility to relieve the plight of the poor and dirty, but also drew on the metaphorical valences of dirt to explore cross-class attraction and repulsion. Rubbish mounds and the filthy, sewage-infested Thames are the iconic images of Charles Dickens’s exploration of class relations in Our Mutual Friend; Hannah Cullwick, diarist and domestic servant, documented her relationship with the barrister Arthur Munby – a secret connection based on the potential eroticism of dirt on the working-class body; and ‘slumming’ emerged as a term and practice in the 1880s, as well-to-do Londoners went on organized or individual tours of the East End. Recent scholarship and exhibitions have revealed the changing nature and status of dirt in the nineteenth century, taking an interdisciplinary approach to uncover (quite literally) the science and significance of the filthy, disposable or disgusting in Victorian life.

We are inviting submissions of no more than 7,000 words, on any aspect of the theme. Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to, any of the following:

  • Dirt in industrial processes and products: coal, smog, smoke or ashes.
  • Dirty money: blackmail and corruption; smuggling; the sex trade.
  • Filth: scandal, gossip, obscenity and pornography.
  • Disgust and horror; dirt and the Gothic; dirt and the atavistic or bestial; dirt in the laboratory.
  • The earth: dirt as life source; dirt as land; possession; burial ground and charnel house.
  • Roads, woodlands, waysides and canals.
  • Ashes to ashes: dirt and putrefaction; decay; decomposition and death.
  • Dirt and disease: overcrowding, sanitation; refuge, dust and disposal; the relationship between dirt and poverty.
  • Washing, cleanliness, purification; moral and physical dirt.
  • Housework and domestic service
  • The use of dirt in racialised imagery; dirt and the exotic; dirt and the colonial mission.
  • The dirty body; sweat, grime, and other fluids; eroticised dirt.

All submissions should conform to MHRA style conventions and the in-house submission guidelines. Deadline for submissions: 15 January 2015.

Contact: victoriannetwork@gmail.com

This is my first issue as Editor of VN, and I am extremely excited. And resisting (temporarily) all manner of “send us your dirtiest work in Victorian Studies” puns. And slightly alarmed by the kind of google searches that might lead people to this post. Fifty-seven pornographers, though.


Career planning for the frivolous.

The finishing line of my DPhil is apparently in sight. I’ve rewritten and deleted this paragraph a lot, obviously, but the gist is that I have to send my Faculty a schedule for completion, and my supervisors got quite excited. There is now a schedule. My mouth is quite dry.

Meanwhile, I am obviously researching and angsting over jobs. Again, can’t really talk about that without an oral desert and a twitching superstition gland, but I CAN talk about the other side to job-hunting.

Thus, putting the pro in procrastination, and making public a list I wrote last week:

Jobs at which I secretly believe I would excel:

1. Hostage negotiator.

I could do that.

2. Member of the Kennedy family.
3. Set dresser for theatre or TV, but only if all the sets were people’s student bedrooms.
4. Florist.
5. Royal nanny.
6. Curator and/or founder of a small (it must be small), esoteric museum on any of the following subjects: bookplates, Madge Kendal; Dorothy L Sayers; the Mitford sisters; Shakespeare’s women; the reasons why Jo March should have married Laurie; the now-demolished Surrey Theatre; sundry instances of Liverpudlian true crime; Alfred Douglas’s deranged family; and the less successful partners of famous actors/writers/artists. In no particular order, and somewhat worryingly, these are the subjects on which I know most, and which (crucially) that I think might make the kind of small, weird museum (nothing that would merit a large, lucrative museum is included) run entirely on an individual’s obsession, and which slightly frightens the punters. These are the museums I most love. It is my parents’ fault for accidentally taking me to Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft, as a child. They were thinking Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but there turned out to be pictures of naked Satanists. I wish I’d been more traumatised. Also, when finding a link to check it was actually Boscastle, I discovered, heartstoppingly, that ‘Neopagan Witch Cecil Williamson tried to open a museum to hold his collection of witchcraft and occult artefacts in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1947‘. Guys. We could have had Cecil’s Museum of Witchcraft AND Gyles Brandreth‘s Teddy Bear Museum (you don’t know. You weren’t there) both in my town.

I could hold that (I definitely couldn’t make it).

7. Suffragist.
8. Travelling tutor for children who live/perform in circuses.
9. Parisian.
10. Proprietor of year-round Christmas shop.

There, you see. If academia doesn’t work out, that’s at ten plausible career options…

That was quite a silly post. I am planning more sensible posts, regarding lecturing-from-iPads, Oxford’s new Interdisciplinary Network on Celebrity, and my thoughts on the RSC‘s #RSCWinter13 season (though that’s less a post, more feelings), but now I’m going to edit the draft I’ve been editing since the late Middle Ages, and then see Quartet. Have a lovely weekend.



Advent Calendar Day 14: Wenceslas!

In this clip, performers from the BBC Horrible Histories show debunk the myth behind one of my favourite carols. You can also see them do something similar for the medieval wassail.

CFP: Victorian Network

Call for Papers: Sex, Courtship and Marriage in Victorian Literature and Culture

Nothing will ever be funnier than this image, and if you think otherwise, you are wrong.

Victorian Network is an MLA-indexed (from 2012) online journal dedicated to publishing and promoting the best postgraduate work in Victorian Studies.

The sixth issue of Victorian Network, guest edited by Dr Greta Depledge (Royal Holloway), is dedicated to a reassessment of nineteenth-century constructions and understandings of sex, courtship and marriage.

Although the heteronormative and companionate marriage was vital for economic and reproductive reasons – as well as romantic impulses – recent scholarship has illuminated its status as but one of several diverse paradigms of marriage/sexual relationship accessible to the Victorians

Why be happy when you could be normal?

Across the nineteenth century, profound crises of faith, extensive legal reforms and the new insights afforded by the emergent discipline of anthropology all contributed to a culture of introspection about the practice of marriage, at the same time as advances in science and medicine opened up new interpretations and definitions of sexual practices and preferences.

We are inviting submissions of no more than 7000 words, on any aspect of the theme. Possible topics include but are by no means limited to the following:

·     Victorian narratives of queer desire: text and subtext

·     Representations of women’s sexuality (angels, whores, spinsters and beyond)

·     Prudishness and censorship: “deviant” novels and scandalous dramas

·     Adultery, bigamy, divorce and other affronts to the ideal of companionate marriage

·     Transgressive relationships

·     Nineteenth-century marriage law, including prohibited degrees of affinity, property reform and breach of promise

·     Representations of sexual innocence and experience (virginity, puberty and prostitution

·     Subversion of traditional courtship narratives

·     Sex and class: adventuresses, mistresses, sex workers and blackmail

·     Customs of the country: courtship conventions, betrothals and bridal nights

·     Performance, stylization and parody: gender scripts, consumer culture, theatrical subversion

All submissions should conform to MHRA style conventions and the in-house submission guidelines. The deadline for submissions is 30 May 2012.

Contact: victoriannetwork@gmail.com

Website: http://www.victoriannetwork.org/index.php/vn

(I remain Submissions Editor for Victorian Network. This means I am the over-excited loon who will answer your emails in the first instance. Should you have QUESTIONS about my role, the CFP, or any other aspect of submitting to VN, do get in touch, either by emailing or commenting below.)

The History of the English Language: (1943) and (2011)

Competing (and interestingly conflicting) histories of the English language. The first is by the British Council, produced in 1943, with according anti-German propaganda, emphasis on John of Gaunt’s Richard II “sceptred isle” speech, and a  cameo by Churchill. The second collates the 10 shorter videos produced by the Open University, narrated by satirist and Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

1) History of the English Language (1943)

2) The History of English in Ten Minutes (2011)


As you may have guessed, my teaching for the the Final Honours School Linguistics paper begins tomorrow! Hurrah for Private Eye‘s contribution to the same. In other news, I am going to Montpelier to perform in Antony & Cleopatra.

In news the third, I would like to make an official declaration that it is never, ever sexist to ask a five-foot-tall girl if she would like any help lifting a frankly ludicrously large suitcase from high train to platform. All those decent, strapping men forced by equality-panic to disguise themselves as bovine, selfish oafs (for indeed, this can be the only explanation): consider yourselves relieved of your potential chauvinist arsery. Ask me if I’d like some help. You will STILL be enlightened male feminists. I promise.

Fasiculus Morum: A Fourteenth-Century Preacher’s Handbook

Harris Manchester College. Unknown copyright.

Harris Manchester College. Unknown copyright.

Last night I went with (actual Historian) Andy to hear our friend Elizabeth give her first DPhil paper to Oxford’s Medieval Church and Culture Seminar. Tagging along to support Elizabeth, I was delighted to find her research subject both interesting and accessible (in other words, it had been pre-translated from the Latin). Fasiculus Morum is a preacher’s handbook [see here] dating from the early part of the reign of Edward II. Incidentally, he’s also the founder of our college. We do quite a lot of praying for his soul.

Written by an anonymous Franciscan, it’s basically a conduct manual with a great deal to say on the subject of raising children – Elizabeth’s particular research interest. The paper went very well indeed – the test being that it was simultaneously interesting & clear to people like me (i.e. ignorant, underinformed, only there for the biscuits and to beam encouragingly if blankly whenever she looked my way) and to the various academics who’d turned up. Andy informed me the latter group included Michael Clanchy and Chris Wickham, i.e. The Great and The Good. There was also a jolly old man with a beard who sang medieval lyrics. Twice (how did he know the tunes??). Another guy (rather younger, unplaceable accent, black curls and Harry Potter glasses) memorably used the phrase ‘like a dog returning to its vomit’ when prefacing his third or fourth question, and other highlights included —

  • Reference to the Polish priest who’s recently written a sex manual for his parishoners, Seks (at this point, Elizabeth went very, very red),
  • Debate as to whether or not the archetypal mother of Fasculus calling her son  ‘”Bishop” or “king” and such’ was weird or classist or what – I thought yes, Harry Potter Guy noted there were ‘no references to “my little sheet-metal worker”, then?’, and
  • the perils of being related to saints. Apparently one of the St Angelas prayed for her family to die and stop impeding her vacation: they did. St Hilary also prayed that his daughter would die in order to avoid the zomghorror of losing her virginity. It seems God heard that one, too.
  • My favourite part, though, was about Henry VI. Henry of course succeeded during his minority (cf Holinshed or, if you’re me, the first act of 1 Henry 6 where everyone stands around discussing just how stuffed they were). With Henry V dead, there was nobody around with sufficient authority to give little Harry the MANY BEATINGS that our Franciscan & co. deem essential to his moral formation. Instead, the job was given to Warwick. Little Harry was displeased. A nervous Warwick ended up going to the Council (hopefully with big beating stick in hand, this is how I like to think of him) and saying, look, guys, back me up here, that king needs a thrashing. Poor old Warwick had two main worries; firstly, that if the Council didn’t protect him, in a decade Warwick would get his head chopped off by a stroppy, misery-memoir writing, adult king, and secondly, that were Warwick to give up the MANY BEATINGS, Henry would be tragically deprived of the essential moral formation necessary to kingship and only obtainable by repeated strikings on the bottom.

The seminar took place in Harris Manchester College, Oxford’s only college devoted to mature students and much, much prettier than anywhere else in Oxford. They have a fountain and a medicine garden. Everything that’s best in Oxford architecture – beautiful Cotswold stone, red brick that make Keble and Somerville look sunburnt and gaudy – on a miniature scale. Forget Christ Church (huge and cavernous) and even forget New College (any college with a car park in the middle wins no prize for beauty). Perhaps it can’t quite beat the indvidual delights of Magdalen’s deer park, Exeter’s chapel, the Newman Oratory in Oriel or Hertford’s Bridge of Sighs, but for consistent beauty, HMC definitely outshines all the other colleges. Not least because it’s managed to avoid the cancerous 60s growths of stained concrete that disfigure St John’s, Somerville and Jesus (amongst others). I wish I could spend more time there, but, like Andy said, it’s the one college in Oxford we definitely can’t apply to!