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