Spring 2022 Conference: Spaces of Confinement, Correction, and Spectacle


 Saturday 30 April 2022


10:30am-12:15pm     Morning Session   

Meghan Burry, “Confining the Fallen Woman: The Magdalen Hospitals, 1758-1890”

Melanie Byron, “‘Still the Jago rats bred’: Degenerative Eugenics in A Child of the Jago’s Slums” 

Virginia Lynn Grimaldi, “”The London Foundling Hospital: Challenging Fiscal-Military State Interpretations of Charity and Philanthropy”

12:30-1:40pm         Lunch Break                                                            

1:50-2:50pm           Keynote Address I  

Lesley Higgins, “Contrition, Correction—and ‘Perversion’?: the Victorian Confessional Revealed” 

3:00-4:00pm           Keynote Address II  

 Janice Schroeder, “Carceral Talk and Vocal Sound in the Victorian Prison”


VSAO Spring 2022 Conference: Spaces of Confinement, Correction, and Spectacle  


During the Victorian period, the idea of space underwent radical change, from the widening expansion of empire to the narrowing confines of the prison cell. While the massive structure of Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in 1851 both enclosed and opened up the world to all classes of visitors, the restrictive, squalid spaces of “back-to-backs” in cities such as Birmingham and Manchester confined the working poor to the barest minimum of living spaces. Prisons like Pentonville kept the prisoners in miniscule cells, in solitary confinement, and under silence orders. In the world of entertainment, humans and animals were frequently confined and displayed, for example, in circuses, freak shows, and museums such as the Piccadilly Hall, all of which exploited the public appetite for sensation and spectacle.    

The VSAO warmly invites proposals for papers on confinement, correction, and spectacle. Papers might include but are not confined to:  

  • Prisons, asylums, and other spaces of correction  
  • Workhouses   
  • Private hospitals and sanitoria  
  • Circuses, sideshows, and freak shows  
  • Anatomical and physiological museums  
  • Zoos, zoological gardens, and public aquariums  
  • Exhibitions, wax museums  

The one-day conference will be held on Saturday 30 April 2022, at Glendon College, York University.

Please send a 300-word proposal and 50-word bio (as MS Word documents) by 28 February 2022, to Jo Devereux: jdevereu@uwo.ca 

May 2021 Newsletter


Greetings fellow Victorianists!

I hope you are well wherever you are and getting a chance to enjoy the merry month of May, even in this difficult time. The VSAO has been active since the start of 2021.

In January, we held our first ever online VSAO Winter Evening Lecture. Simon Grennan, Roger Sabin, and Julian Waite presented a wonderful talk on the pioneering Victorian cartoonist Marie Duval. The talk, held as a Zoom meeting, was very well attended, and we had a terrific discussion after Simon, Roger, and Julian’s presentation. Be sure to get a copy of their newest book, Marie Duval: Maverick Victorian Cartoonist (Manchester University Press, 2020): https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526133540/marie-duval/

As well, you can check out The Marie Duval Archive, a free image archive of Duval’s known work, created by Simon, Roger, and Julian, at www.marieduval.org.

In April, our Annual Spring Conference was held as a webinar, owing to continuing COVID restrictions. The conference this year, “Light in Dark Places: Victorian Animals and Human Interventions,” was held via Zoom, and featured four fabulous papers: Sandy Burnley (Michigan State University), “And Say the Animal Responded? Lewis Carroll’s Unsympathetic Exchanges”; Joanna Holliday (York University), “Fleecing the Flocks for Profit and Patriotism”; Matthew Rowlinson (Western University), “Towards a Theory of Species-Lyric: Darwin, Swinburne, Biopolitics”; and Asha Hornsby (Queen Mary University and UCL), “The Pen and the Scalpel: Representations of Painful Vivisection in Victorian Britain.” The papers encompassed a wide diversity of approaches and topics, even within the rubric of Victorian animal studies, and a lively discussion during the virtual sherry hour followed the presentations.

Our upcoming events include the two joint VSAO ACCUTE “Eco-Victorian” panels at Congress 2021, hosted by the University of Alberta this year. The panels will take place online on May 31st at 9 am Mountain Time (11 am ET) and 11 am Mountain Time (1 pm ET) Please see details below:


Chairs: Emily Rothwell, Carleton University, and Lin Young, Queen’s University


Marielle Lippmann, LARCA, University of Paris, “Terraforming England: Richard Jefferies’s Shifting Landscapes”

Alyce Soulodre, Queen’s University, “‘A land of swamps and evil things and dead old shadows’: Menacing Mires and Victorian Masculinity in H. Rider Haggard’s She and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles

Molly Dawe, University of Toronto, “Folklore, Myth, and Ecological Forgetting in George Eliot’s Adam Bede

Jeffrey Swim, Western University, “Victorian Eco-Pagan Legacies: Richard Jefferies’ After London and the Future Swamp of Modernity”


Chairs: Emily Rothwell, Carleton University, and Lin Young, Queen’s University


Michelle Elleray, University of Guelph, “‘Whirling through North and South’: Faith in Victorian Atmospheric Science”

Nahmi Lee and Thomas Stuart, Western University, “Pictures and Fancies: Lizzie Hexam and the Thames’s Affective Flow”

Joanna Holliday, York University, “Tides and Transformations: The Narrative Ecology of the River in News from Nowhere by William Morris.”

The panels are open to members of ACCUTE only. For information on ACCUTE, please go to https://accute.ca/

To register for the conference, please visit https://congress2021.ca/about

Spring 2021 Webinar


 Light in Dark Places: Victorian Animals and Human Interventions 

Saturday, 24 April 2021

2:30-4PM, followed by virtual sherry hour, from 4-5:30PM


Sandy Burnley
And Say the Animals Responded? Lewis Carroll’s Unsympathetic Exchanges

Joanna Holliday
Fleecing the Flocks for Profit and Patriotism

Matthew Rowlinson
Towards a Theory of Species-Lyric: Darwin, Swinburne, Biopolitics

Asha Hornsby
The Pen and the Scalpel: Representations of Painful Vivisection in Victorian Britain

For more information and to join, please contact Jo Devereux: jdevereu@uwo.ca

Winter Lecture 2021


Happy New Year Victorianists!

The VSAO is delighted to announce our upcoming Winter Lecture 2021, to be held via Zoom, Friday 29 January 2021, at 1 PM Ontario time.

Marie Duval: Maverick Victorian Cartoonist

Dr Simon Grennan

Professor Roger Sabin

Dr Julian Waite

This lecture and discussion introduces the work of Marie Duval (Isabella Tessier, UK, 1847–90), one of the most unusual, pioneering and visionary cartoonists of the nineteenth century.

Duval’s cartoons, strips and illustrations revolutionised print comedy. Her London characters became a mainstay of Judy magazine, a rival to Punch, and introduced its middle-class readers to a lower-class milieu – domestic servants who get the better of their masters, street urchins who terrorise the elderly, clowns who are miserably unfunny. The most famous character was Ally Sloper, a boozy ne-er do well, always in trouble with the police, the landlord, and his wife – developed by Duval into nothing less than a national hero.

Simon, Roger and Julian will discuss key themes of Duval’s vision and production, relative to wider historic, social, cultural and economic environments. They identify her as an exemplary radical practitioner, especially significant for importing ideas from the stage to the page, and for confounding gender expectations. She emerges as a key figure in the new congruence between performance, illustration, narrative drawing and novels.

The lecture also outlines a journey of rediscovery, progressing from an unprecedented range of primary sources and bringing together the fields of Comics Studies, Theatre Studies, Comedy Studies, Periodical Studies and Women’s Studies. It aims to restore the maverick Duval to her rightful place in history.

The Marie Duval Archive, a free image archive of Duval’s known work, has also been created by Simon, Roger and Julian, at www.marieduval.org

Simon Grennan is Leading Research Fellow at the University of Chester

Roger Sabin is Professor of Popular Culture at the University of the Arts London

Julian Waite is an independent scholar and former Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts and Programme Leader MA Drama at the University of Chester


1. Marie Duval ‘Frontispiece’ from Judy, or The London Serio-comic Journal Volume 18, 1875

2. Marie Duval ‘Dramatic Criticism 1883’ from Judy, or The London Serio-comic Journal Volume 32, page 27, 1883

For information on how to join the meeting, contact Jo Devereux: jdevereu@uwo.ca

Fall 2020 Newsletter


I hope you are all well in these difficult times. Like so many other associations, the VSAO has had to postpone or alter planned events, including our annual spring conference for this year. Optimistic Victorianists all, we hope to be able to hold the conference in April 2021 at Glendon College. We think that the conference theme, “Victorian Animals and Human Interventions,” will be just as relevant in 2021—perhaps even more!—than in 2020.

During registration for the spring 2021 conference, members will be able to renew their membership and new members to join the association via Eventbrite. Please stay tuned for more information!

The fall 2020 evening lecture will be moving to an online format. This year, it will be long-time member Martin Danahay, who will be talking about “Arts and Crafts as a Brand.” His lecture had been planned for March and since it had to be cancelled then, we are pleased to be able to present the lecture via Zoom on Thursday, November 19th, at 7 PM. More information on how to join the meeting will be coming soon.

Thank you as always to the brilliant and kind VSAO executive for all their help and support. I am so honoured to be part of this great association and look forward to some wonderful events in the coming months.

All the very best,
Jo Devereux
Assistant Professor, Department of English and Writing Studies, Western University
President, Victorian Studies Association of Ontario

Winter Evening Lecture 2020


Please save the date for our winter VSAO Evening Lecture! We are so pleased that long-time VSAO member Professor Martin Danahay (Brock University) will be speaking about “Arts and Crafts as a Brand” on Thursday 12 March 2020, 6:30 pm. Room 1210, Bahen Centre, University of Toronto.


Here is the abstract for his upcoming talk:


Arts and Crafts designs, especially prints designed by William Morris, have been adopted by contemporary companies, most notable by H & M in their “Morris & Co x H& M” line of clothing. The H & M web site refers to the “Arts and Crafts brand” which raises the question whether this term can legitimately be applied to the original nineteenth-century movement. Was Arts and Crafts a “brand”? If so, how does Morris’s political agenda coincide or conflict with the idea of a “brand”? And what happens to the political aspects of Arts and Crafts when original Morris designs are repurposed as shirts? Finally, is there an indissoluble connection between and arts and crafts design and politics?

Image result for morris and company"


CFP: Victorian Animals

Please find below details of a call for papers for the upcoming Victorian Studies Association of Ontario conference,

“Light in Dark Places: Victorian Animals and Human Interventions,” to be held at Glendon College, Toronto, 25 April 2020.

Keynote Speakers:

Jody Berland, York University

Susan Hamilton, University of Alberta


From Queen Victoria’s beloved dachshund, Dash, to Lewis Carroll’s furry feline, Dinah, pets were an integral part of the Victorian domestic world, while thousands of working animals laboured outside the home in transportation, farming, mining, and other industries. As the century went on, the rise in animal welfare agencies and the anti-vivisection movement focused the public’s attention on the exploitation of and cruelty to animals. Imperialist and colonialist big game hunters killed hundreds of animals for trophies to display back home in Britain. A burgeoning reading public reacted in various ways to Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and Descent of Man, both of which suggested deep connections between humans and other species. As a result, there was a shift in Victorians’ perceptions of animals and their relationship(s) to human beings. Ever since Harriet Ritvo’s The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in Victorian England (1989), scholars have increasingly looked at questions surrounding animal rights, the consumption and representation of animals, and changing attitudes towards animals in the nineteenth century.

We welcome papers that explore Victorians and the biological creatures that inhabited their historical moment. How did Victorians understand and represent animals in popular culture and in various media, including the fine arts, literature, advertising, and political cartoons? What effects might we trace in the use of animals for entertainment: on the stage, in zoos and circuses, and on the street? How did Victorians consume animals and animal products for food, fashion, and housewares? What role did animals play in constructing both British colonialist and imperialist agendas?


Possible themes might include but are not limited to:


  • fictional representations of animals
  • anthropomorphism
  • evolutionary, post-humanist, and Anthropocene theories and studies
  • print culture and animals, illustrations, cartoons, poetry
  • consumption of animal and animal products
  • animals in visual culture, paintings, sculpture, advertising
  • children’s literature and animals
  • anti-vivisection
  • photography and animals
  • taxidermy
  • animals and natural history museums and museum studies
  • zoos, circuses, and menageries
  • hunts and hunting cultural histories
  • animals in sport
  • anatomical studies
  • capitalism, empire, and animal labour
  • animals and colonialist and imperialist histories and representations
  • medical and scientific discourses involving animals
  • veterinary practice
  • animal products in the fashion industry
  • endangered and extinct animals of the era


Please send an email attachment of your 300-to-400-word paper proposal, and 100-word biographical statement to: Lin Young (l.young@queensu.ca& Emily Rothwell (ejrothwell@gmail.com) by 5 February 2020.


CFP: VSAO-Sponsored ACCUTE Joint Session–“Eco-Victorians: Water, Land, and the World” for Congress 2020

CFP: VSAO-Sponsored ACCUTE Joint Session–“Eco-Victorians: Water, Land, and the World”–for the Humanities Congress at the University of Western Ontario, May 30th-June 5th, 2020.
From Charles Dickens’s ecopoetical rivers, to the wondrous route across the sea to Treasure Island, the Victorian era was resplendent with images of water, seafaring, and global travel. At the same time, as J.M.W. Turner’s visceral abolitionist painting Slave Ship attests, society was literally kept afloat by the oceanic trade routes which forcibly moved both human (slaves) and inhuman cargo (colonized resources) throughout what Paul Gilroy has famously coined “the Black Atlantic.” The word “ecology” was coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866, ushering in the formal study of diverse ecosystems, terrain sites and watery worlds which were then being transformed by industrial capitalism and imperialism. Indeed, Victorians saw the power of “the Anthropocene” unleashed during that grave epoch in which the human species became, and has remained, the dominant influence on our planet’s climate and environment.

This panel invites papers that examine the way in which water, land, and the ecological world connecting them was constructed in this era.

Possible themes might include but are not limited to:

  • representations of seas, landscapes, and ecosystems
  • eco-writing, eco-criticism, print culture, illustration
  • tourism, parks, maritime histories, leisure activities
  • decolonial representations, anthropocene studies, global Victorian literatures
  • histories of imperialism, colonization, migration, diasporic communities and slavery
  • genre fiction and ecologies
  • spatial histories, environmental architecture in urban, rural, domestic and cultural spaces

Please send an email attachment of your 300-to-500-word paper proposal, without personal identifying marks, and the 2020 Proposal Info Sheet available on the ACCUTE website to Emily Rothwell and Lin Young by November 15, 2019:


ACCUTE 2020 The following CFPs are for panels held at the ACCUTE conference that are jointly sponsored by ACCUTE and another organization. Note: You must be a member in good standing, either of ACCUTE or of the co-sponsoring organization, to present on a joint panel. However, only ACCUTE …
Posted in CFP

September 2017 Newsletter

September 2017 Newsletter

  1. President’s Message
  2. VSAO-ACCUTE Panel
  3. New Titles by VSAO Members
  1. President’s Message

A warm welcome to new and returning members of the Victorian Studies Association of Ontario. The Association celebrated its 50th year in grand style throughout 2017, including a successful April conference “New Intimacies: Changing Interactions in the Victorian World” and two anniversary-themed panels at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences: “Many Happy Returns: The Anniversary in Victorian Britain” and a roundtable on “The Future of Interdisciplinary Victorian Studies.” Many thanks to outgoing VSAO President Dr. Tina Choi, for her impeccable leadership and for her efforts in organizing special events for the anniversary year.

As the VSAO enters its sixth decade, we hope to continue the Association’s work promoting research in Victorian Studies across a range of disciplines. The upcoming annual conference in April 2018 will have an interdisciplinary focus, featuring keynote addresses by Dr. Alison Syme (University of Toronto), author of A Touch of Blossom: The Queer Flora of Fin-de-Siècle Art (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), who will speak on her current research on Edward Burne-Jones, and Dr. Deborah Lutz (Morton Endowed Chair, University of Louisville, KY), author of The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (W.W. Norton, 2015) and Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP, 2015). Please watch for the upcoming CFP for the morning panel for the conference and read the sample reviews and descriptions of their work by clicking on the embedded links!

Please also consider sharing with the VSAO Executive your thoughts on bringing new members into the Association and encouraging graduate student membership and participation in the VSAO. Please contact me personally or any member of the Executive.

Here’s to a productive and stimulating year!

Suzanne Bailey

President, Victorian Studies Association of Ontario
Professor, Department of English Literature, Trent University
Director, English MA “Public Texts” program, Trent University
Chair, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies, Trent University



The VSAO will be sponsoring a panel at the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) at the May 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Regina. Please view the call-for-proposals below.

VSAO-Sponsored ACCUTE Joint Session, “Victorian Spaces: Real and Imagined”

The Victorian Studies Association of Ontario (VSAO) and the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) invite papers for a jointly sponsored session on Victorian Spaces: Real and Imagined. From haunted attics, to enchanted flower beds, to housing reform, Victorians were deeply preoccupied with new conceptions of space. Their penchant for exploring the shifting role of the production of space can be seen as deriving from historical spatial forms, such as architecture, urban philanthropic projects and social-improvement publications. In another sense, such spatial conceptions can be seen as having been represented culturally, whether through the imagined landscapes of Alice’s wonder-filled garden afternoon, Pip’s navigation of London, or the Pre-Raphaelites’ reconceiving of medievalist spaces as contemporary portals. The Victorian Studies Association of Ontario invites papers that consider the ways in which space was imagined, represented and conceived during this historical moment, exploring the ways in which both real and imagined spaces often converged on a proverbial continuum of representations. Papers might examine how real or physical spaces were manifested, planned and represented by Victorians as they conceived of and interacted with spatial theories and formations in myriad modes and discourses. Others may inquire as to the ways in which the spaces Victorians imagined are potentially seen as cultural representations of their collective affective lives, their utopian forecasts, their escapist dreamscapes and their socio-political and imperial constructions and agendas. Possible themes might include but are not limited to:

  • Social, legal, and/or political histories of space, both urban and rural
  • Spatial theory
  • Genre and space (social reform novels, sentimental fiction, popular press narratives, children’s literature, Romantic painting, utopia/dystopia, etc.)
  • Visual and print culture’s imagined spaces such as traditional visual forms (photography, architecture, painting) and non-traditional visual forms (ephemera, cartography, games, advertising, etc.)
  • Landscapes, gardens, ecocriticism
  • Medical, corporeal and scientific histories
  • Architectural spaces
  • Factories, social reform, cultural geography
  • Supernatural spaces: occultist practices, haunted houses, séance rooms, afterlives
  • Film, video, digital and new media criticism as well as criticism on contemporary visual artists and writers whose historically-minded practices engage with Victorian conceptions of space
  • Spaces of Empire: race, travel, histories, transnational and translocal contexts
  • Interior design histories and design print culture (catalogues, pamphlets, journals, magazines)

[CFP now closed.]


3.  New Titles by VSAO Members

We’re pleased to announce these recent book publications by our members. Congratulations to these authors!

Ablow, Rachel. Victorian Pain. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017.

Science Museums in Transition: Anglo-American Cultures of Display in the 19th Century. Eds. Bernard Lightman and Carin Berkowitz. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017.