Featured speakers at NAVSA 2017 include:
Christina Bashford is Associate Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her main research interests are in performance history and the social and economic history of music. Her focus to date has been on musical culture in 19th- and early 20th-century Britain, particularly London, and this has resulted in a range of work on chamber music, concert institutions, audiences, program notes and listening practices.
Seminar: A Preservationist Pursuit? Collectors and Collections in Victorian Britain
(Co-Presented with Christopher Ferguson) The 19th century witnessed not only the “birth of the museum,” but also the democratization of collecting as a private activity. No practice better illustrates this than the rise of stamp collecting, a truly cross-class preoccupation made possible by the establishment of the Penny Post in 1840. In parallel with this year’s conference theme, this seminar seeks to investigate Victorian collectors and collections with a focus on the relationship between collecting and this preservationist impulse. How did collectors obtain their objects? Why did they preserve some objects in their collections and not others? Who were they preserving them for — family members, the public, similar collectors, other interested parties, or “posterity”? Was collecting motivated by the desire to arrest the passage of time or a means of transcending the limits of human existence? This event will put two presentations — one by a music historian and one by a cultural historian — in dialog, in order to open up these questions with the seminar audience.
Christopher J. Ferguson
Christopher Ferguson is a historian of Modern Britain, with a special interest in the period c. 1780-c.1860 (roughly equivalent to what Asa Briggs called “The Age of Improvement”). His research to date has focused on the history of the city and urbanization, industrialization, and autobiography (especially working-class life-writing), topics united together in my microhistory of the life and ideas of the tailor, James Carter (1792-1853). Ferguson is currently working on the history of the “multiple lives of things” in industrializing Britain, with a current focus on collecting and secondhand retail and consumption.
John Holmes is Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. His books on nineteenth-century literature include Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution (2009, paperback 2013) and The Routledge Research Companion to Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Science (co-edited with Sharon Ruston, 2017). His new monograph The Pre-Raphaelites and Science will be published by Yale University Press in 2018. He is the co-investigator on the SSHRC-funded project Building the Book of Nature: The Poetics of the Natural History Museum, led by Janine Rogers at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.
Seminar: Natural History Museums, National Identity, and the History of Science
The mid-nineteenth century saw the emergence of a new architectural form which set in stone scientific and political conceptions of the natural world. Natural history museums did not only preserve nature in the form of fossils, dried plants, taxidermy animals and bottled organs. They also preserved natural history as a discipline, monumentalizing it but also fixing it through historicist architectural styles and the plans, materials and decorations built into the fabric of the museums themselves. By comparing different museums from the UK, Canada and Ireland built from the 1850s to the 1930s, we can see how they take different stances on the relationship between natural history and natural theology; on the validity and significance of evolution and humanity’s place in nature; on the role of nature in defining provinces, nations, empires and the relationships between them; and on the function of museum architecture itself.
Mary Ingraham is an interdisciplinary researcher whose interests emanate from within the fields of cultural studies, human geography, musicology, and intersensory studies of sound, listening, and the materiality of musical experiences. Mary has been exploring social and political perspectives on the creation and performance of music and sound in Canada for over 20 years. Her interests are historical and contemporary, critical and pedagogical, and converge in a critique of social systems that enact western hegemonic paradigms through cultural expression. Current activities in scholarly teaching and research include DIY digital-aural ethnography, expressions of interculturality, and the role of sounds and media in cultural preservation and memory. Mary is Professor of Musicology and Director of the Sound Studies Initiative at the University of Alberta and is currently leading the development there of a new interdisciplinary and cross-faculties research initiative in sound studies. Her research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Kule Institute for Advanced Study.
Seminar: Souvenirs in Sound: Preserving multi-sensory memories with sonic postcards
‘Souvenir’ is a term often used casually, to describe a keepsake: an object of remembrance and a trigger that returns the viewer to memories of a place or event in the past. The spectacularly beautiful setting of Banff, Alberta offers many opportunities to gather such mementos in visual formats such as photographs, postcards, posters, and three-dimensional objects. Yet our encounters with places and events are always multi-sensory, replete with the sounds, smells, and feel of the spaces and the moments-in-time of our experiences.
This seminar is a place to explore such multi-sensory experiences in and around Banff, to capture selected moments and preserve them in multiple sensory domains by creating sonic postcards. Sonic postcards consist of a still image joined with a brief audio recording crafted with readily available technologies (mobile phones, iPads, etc.) and open source software; they can therefore be generated anywhere and anytime. Long after the moment of creation they then connect us back to our multi-sensory experience of a particular time and place, highlighting the special sounds as well as sights and memories associated with them. These ‘souvenirs in sound’ then become events in miniature that invite further discussion on the intersections of ethnography, culture, media, and acoustic ecology.
Deanna K. Kreisel
Deanna Kreisel is Associate Professor of English at the University of British Columbia. Her book Economic Woman: Demand, Gender, and Narrative Closure in Eliot and Hardy was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2012. She also has published articles on Victorian literature and culture in such journals as Representations, ELH, Novel, Mosaic, Victorian Studies, PMLA, and others. She is currently on a new project on utopia and sustainability in Victorian culture.
Seminar: Victorian Sustainability
This seminar will explore the roots of the sustainability concept in Victorian literature and culture. In the simplest terms, sustainability refers to the capacity of a system to perpetuate itself indefinitely. One might argue that the entanglement of environmental sustainability and economic sustainability in the recent popular discussion is the legacy of post-Industrial Revolution capitalism, which is predicated on a model of perpetual growth that places enormous pressure on natural systems and is thus impossible. While economic-environmental sustainability has come to seem, in recent years, the pragmatic alternative to more fanciful schemes like geo-engineering and re-wilding, it hinges on an equally utopian ideal of managed resource circulation that can be traced back to the social reform movements of the Victorian period. The seminar will consider the nineteenth-century history of the economic, ethical, and aesthetic assumptions underpinning this seemingly noble idea. Some guiding questions include: where can we find antecedents for the sustainability concept in Victorian cultural formations? Can the tools of literary analysis help us to better understand the parameters of sustainability?
Deborah Lutz is the Thruston B. Morton Professor of English at the University of Louisville. Her most recent book, The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (W.W. Norton, 2015), was shortlisted for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.
Her others books include Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015), which was supported by an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship; The Dangerous Lover: Gothic Villains, Byronism, and the Nineteenth-Century Seduction Narrative (Ohio State UP, 2006); and Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism (Norton, 2011). She is the editor of the fourth Norton Critical Edition of Jane Eyre (2016).
Seminar: Paper Museums
This seminar will consider Victorian preservationist experiences of the temporal traces associated with such personal objects as albums, commonplace books, sketchbooks, and scrapbooks. What insight about both personal and cultural accounts of preservation can scholars extract from women writers who inscribed books with notations and dates? What contribution to scholarship emerges from an analysis of personal histories of commemoration, records of reading, gift giving, and other intimate gestures? Seminar participants will focus on how Victorian authors such as George Eliot, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, and Elizabeth Gaskell used, as part of their writing practice, the materiality of books and paper to hold time and memory.
Cannon Schmitt is Professor of English at the University of Toronto. His primary teaching and research field is Victorian literature and culture, with a particular focus on cultural studies of science, especially evolutionary theory; the novel and narrative theory; and the novel and the sea. His two published books examine questions related to Victorian literary narratives of subjectivity, nationality, Darwinian evolutionary thought, and indigenous/colonial peoples. His current SSHRC-funded project, entitled The Literal Sea, hypothesizes that the ocean and its associated phenomena—tides, prevailing winds, marine engineering, ships under sail—constitute a privileged locus of the literal in Victorian fiction. His research emphasizes the cultural, aesthetic, and scientific connections between literature, natural history, and preservationist endeavors.
Seminar: The Historical Ocean
That the ocean might require preservation was all but unimaginable in the nineteenth century. There was certainly concern about the seashore, but the Victorians lacked our acute sense that the ocean itself could be under threat. In his scientific romances, H.G. Wells could envision humans evolving into two species, one feeding on the other; a Martian invasion of the earth; animals humanized via vivisection; and an invisible man. But neither Wells nor his fellow Victorians could envision an ocean subject to human agency, which is to say an historical ocean. In this seminar we will consider the evidence for and analytical consequences of this failure to grasp the historicity of the ocean, its vulnerability to human activity. Participants will think together about the status of the ocean in the nineteenth century as one of the last redoubts of a natural world resistant to human designs and desires. Participants will also develop a sense of the ocean as marking the limits of human agency through discussions of the agential paradox of the Anthropocene: a geological era in which human agency fundamentally alters the natural world.
Jesse Oak Taylor
Jesse Oak Taylor’s research focuses on industrialization and empire in the nineteenth century and their relevance for understanding the ongoing processes (and social and ecological consequences) of industrialization and development around the globe. Hence, Taylor balances research on Victorian Britain and the British Empire with work on contemporary ecological theory, international development, and global health. His current research focuses on the concept of the Anthropocene, and its emergence across the long 19th century. He is the author of The Sky of Our Manufacture: The London Fog in British Fiction from Dickens to Woolf (2016), which has been shortlisted for the ASLE Book Prize in Ecocriticism, co-editor (with Tobias Menely) of Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times (2017), and co-author (with Daniel C. and Carl E. Taylor) of Empowerment on an Unstable Planet: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change (2011).
Seminar: Victorians in the Anthropocene
Jesse Oak Taylor’s seminar will focus on how the Anthropocene concept affects our conception of Victorian studies, what it means to do Victorian studies in the Anthropocene, and perhaps in particular how/why/whether “Victorian” remains a useful designation or if it is in some sense subsumed within the “Anthropocene” designation.
In keeping with the “Preservation” theme of the conference, part of the language this seminar will borrow is what it means to preserve “Victorian” as a period/field/rubric of study within a new geological epoch, in addition to how other questions of preservation within the Victorian period—fossils, specimens, texts—might be reconceived in an Anthropocene context.