Fall 2023 Newsletter

Greetings fellow Victorianists!

I hope you are all thriving and looking forward to the holidays, which will soon be upon us. As past president of the VSAO, I would like to welcome Alison Halsall as our new president and to give you an overview of this past year’s events.

Our annual spring conference was held at Glendon College on April 29, 2023. This year’s theme was “Victorian Experiments: Science, Technology, and Art” and comprised two sessions, with a lovely lunch in between and the traditional sherry hour to wrap the day up at the end. In the morning session, we heard Holly Forsythe Paul (University of Toronto) on “Owen Jones, Innovation, and Opportunities for Women in the Book Arts”; Jennifer Bates Ehlert (Emmanuel College, Boston) on “Virtue, Technology, and Cloth: The Book Cover Designs of Sarah Wyman Whitman”’ Joanna Holliday (York University) on “Double Vision: Stereoscopy and the ‘Poor Man’s Gallery’”’ and Taylor Tomko (Western University) on “Snapshots Across the Veil: The Cyborgian Agency of Ectoplasm-Producing Mediums.” After lunch, we had Laura Johnson Dahlke (Salve Regina University), “Chloroform à la reine: How the Victorian Era Changed Childbirth Practices Forever”; Martin Danahay (Brock University), “Victorian Trauma: Railway Accidents, War and the Body”; Marlis Schweitzer and Sara Masciotra-Milstein (York University), “Performance and Medical Education: Bridging the Gap Between Public and Private Phrenology”; and Alanna McKnight (Toronto Metropolitan University), “Electric Corsets: A Shocking History.” The papers were all exciting and showed the great range of Victorian studies. We were delighted to see that Martin Danahay’s paper has now been published in Victorian Studies: Danahay, Martin. “Victorian Trauma: War, Railway Accidents, and the Vulnerable Body.” Victorian Studies, vol. 65 no. 2, 2023, p. 226-246. 

This past November, we had a book launch, organized by Margo Beggs, for the edited collection Nineteenth-Century Women Illustrators and Cartoonists (Manchester University Press, 2023). The launch was held on Thursday, November 9, at 6:30pm, 1190 Bahen Centre at the University of Toronto. As the editor, I gave a brief overview of the book and talked about my chapter on Florence and Adelaide Claxton. Lorraine Janzen Kooistra and Marion Tempest Grant spoke about their chapter, “‘Working against that thunderous clamor of the steam press’: Pamela Colman Smith and the art of hand-coloured illustration.” Lorraine had brought in some of her collection of Smith’s wonderful work, which we could all look at. Margo then spoke about her chapter, “The ABCs of Amelia Frances Howard Gibbon: new views on her manuscript ‘An Illustrated Comic Alphabet.’” We had a lovely audience, who asked lots of thoughtful questions, and we finished up with snacks and drinks generously provided by David Latham and Alison Halsall. Thank you also to Alison Syme for setting up the room and the AV for us.

We are in the process of planning some exciting events for 2024.

VSAO members will have seen the CFP for our annual spring conference, but here it is again for all to read:

The 56th Annual VSAO Conference will take place on April 27, 2024, at Glendon College, York University. The topic for this year’s conference is: “The Victorian World [as] a Space of Invention”: Returns to and Revisions of the Nineteenth-Century Past. The full Call for Papers is listed below. Please consider submitting a proposal!


“The Victorian World [as] a Space of Invention”:

Returns to and Revisions of the Nineteenth-Century Past

This year’s conference proposes to interpret the Victorian world as a space of invention, one that continues to offer opportunities for innovation and transformation for nineteenth-century creators and creators that followed.

Nineteenth-century writers, artists, and thinkers returned to past figures, narratives, and forms to define themselves in their contemporary moment and sometimes to reform their own disciplines during the Victorian period. As such, the past frequently offered a lens through which artists and creators could look at and critique their present moment. In Romola, for instance, George Eliot provides a detailed study of Florentine life during the Italian Renaissance, one that shared parallels with the philosophical, religious, and social turbulence of Victorian England. Likewise, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites worshipped the abundance of detail typical of Quattrocento Italian art in the development of a new aesthetic that openly flouted the conventions of the Royal Academy of Art.

This tendency to look to the past to define one’s self and one’s aesthetic continues, while providing some insight into more contemporary concerns. Twentieth- and twenty-first-century creators continue to return to the nineteenth century and to particular Victorian art forms and narratives to reinvent, reform, or remediate them. A glance at a list of modernist and contemporary music, art, books, films, or television series confirms that a preoccupation with Victorian narratives is ubiquitous across media.

If, as Kate Mitchell suggests, “the Victorians continue to have meaning for us today because we continue to grant them meaning,” some of the questions that this conference looks to answer will include: What is it about Victorian source texts that preoccupy modern and contemporary adaptors? How is a Victorian aesthetic remediated in and by the adapted text(s)? What insights do these remediations and adaptations provide about contemporary preoccupations that are in turn projected onto the Victorians? VSAO invites proposals for papers on Victorian adaptations and their relationship with the arts and with daily life.

Papers might consider topics including, but not limited to:

  • The act/art of revision, return, and/or reform
  • Art and appropriation
  • Victorian medievalism and a fascination with the Renaissance
  • Return narratives; textual and aesthetic returns to the nineteenth century
  • Victorianism, Neo-Victorianism, and 21st-century Revisions of the Victorian
  • Reframing and reinterpreting (the) Victorians
  • Art as adaptation
  • Intertextuality and parody
  • Victorian invention and/or reinvention
  • Transposing the Victorians across time, space, and genre
  • Gender, Adaptation, and Postfeminism
  • Media Afterlives of the Victorians
  • Adaptation and Evolution
  • Inventors and authors, artists, or musicians

The one-day conference will be held on Saturday 27 April 2024, at Glendon College, York University.

Please send a 300-word proposal and 50-word bio (as MS Word documents) by 15 January 2024, to Alison Halsall,  

Upcoming events for 2024 also include the joint ACCUTE/VSAO panel, “‘The Coming Universal Wish Not to Live’: Victorians and the Future,” to be held as part of the 2024 conference of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English at McGill University in Montreal/Tiohtià:ke from June 12-15, 2024. Our wonderful graduate student reps on the ACCUTE Executive, Taylor Tomko and Nigel Finch, are currently vetting the submissions that we’ve received, and we’re looking forward to a terrific panel next June.

Thank you for reading and for supporting the VSAO! We’re looking forward to a joyful holiday and a wonderful New Year 2024 and want to wish you all the best.

Jo Devereux

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Newsletter Archives (1968-2005)

Spring Conference 2024


A painting of a person in a room

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“The Victorian World [as] a Space of Invention”:

Returns to and Revisions of the Nineteenth-Century Past

Glendon College, York University

2275 Bayview Avenue

Saturday 27 April 2024

9:30 am – 5:00 pm

9:30-10:20 am                                                           Registration and Tea                                                            (York Hall 317)

10:30-12:15                                                                 Morning Session                                                                     (Glendon Hall 102)

Marjorie Stone (Dalhousie University)

Aurora Leigh, ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon,’ and Sex Trafficking Debates in the Nineteenth and Twenty-first Centuries”

Rachel Friars (Queen’s University)

“‘No longer any I, only All’: Lesbian Gender Disruption in the Neo-Victorian Novel”

Charles Reeve (OCAD University)

“‘My strength, my comfort, my intense delight’: Elizabeth Murray’s Sixteen Years of an Artist’s Life in Morocco, Spain, and the Canary Islands

Alisha R. Walters (Penn State University)

Histories of Feeling and Empiricism: Inventing Victorian Racial Science

12:30-1:45 pm                                                           Lunch                                                                            (York Hall 317)

1:50-2:50 pm                                             Keynote Address I                                                                  (Glendon Hall 102)

Dennis Denisoff (Department of English, University of Tulsa)

“Natural Kinship: Inventing Intimacies in Fin-de-siècle Eco-Writing”

3:00-4:00 pm                                           Keynote Address II                                                                   (Glendon Hall 102)

                Natalie Neill (Department of English, York University)

                “Gothic (Re)Turns: Jane EyreWuthering Heights, and Gothic Mash-Up”

4:00-5:00 pm                                             Sherry Hour                                                                                (York Hall 317)

^image c. 1886-1905, William Holman Hunt, “The Lady of Shalott,” Manchester Art Galler


Spring Conference 2023

Victorian Experiments: Science, Technology, and Art

Glendon College, York University

2275 Bayview Avenue, Toronto

Saturday 29 April 2023

9:30 am – 5:00 pm

9:30-10:20 am                                    Registration and Tea        (York Hall 317)

10:30-12:15                                        Morning Session          (Glendon Hall 102)

Holly Forsythe Paul (University of Toronto)

“Owen Jones, Innovation, and Opportunities for Women in the Book Arts”

Jennifer Bates Ehlert (Emmanuel College, Boston)

“Virtue, Technology, and Cloth: The Book Cover Designs of Sarah Wyman Whitman”

Joanna Holliday (York University)

“Double Vision: Stereoscopy and the ‘Poor Man’s Gallery’”

Taylor Tomko (Western University)

“Snapshots Across the Veil: The Cyborgian Agency of Ectoplasm-Producing Mediums”

12:30-1:45                                          Lunch                                     (York Hall 317)

2:00-3:45                                            Afternoon Session       (Glendon Hall 102)

Laura Johnson Dahlke (Salve Regina University)

“Chloroform à la reine: How the Victorian Era Changed Childbirth Practices Forever”

Martin Danahay (Brock University)

“Victorian Trauma: Railway Accidents, War and the Body”

Marlis Schweitzer and Sara Masciotra-Milstein (York University)

“Performance and Medical Education: Bridging the Gap Between Public and Private Phrenology”

Alanna McKnight (Toronto Metropolitan University)

“Electric Corsets: A Shocking History”

4:00-5:00                                            Sherry Hour                         (York Hall 317)

Fall Evening Lecture 2022


VSAO Fall Evening Lecture 2022

You are warmly invited to join us for this year’s Fall Evening Lecture, Thursday 24 November 2022, at 6:30 PM in Sidney Smith Hall 2110, University of Toronto

Kathryn Davies (University of York, UK)

The legacy of Sacred and Legendary Art: Anna Jameson’s revolutionary guide to Christian iconography

Anna Brownell (Murphy) Jameson, undated, photograph from an engraving from the John Ross Robertson Collection (JRR 983). Toronto Public Library, Toronto, Canada.

Kathryn Davies is an AHRC (UKRI)-funded Art History PhD student at University of York, UK. Her research interests lie in Medievalism, Gothic Revival art and architecture, and the networks and modes of knowledge exchange that supported these cultural and artistic developments in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Davies’s PhD research focuses on the iconographic writings of Anna Brownell Jameson (1794-1860). Her series on Christian art had phenomenally broad appeal for over 80 years — it was read by aspiring middle-classes, artists, intellectuals and religious reformers alike — but Jameson has been excluded in all major studies of iconographers and art historians to date, and has yet to be adequately recognised as a key influence on public taste and understanding of the medieval. Davies aims to analyse and evidence her critical place within the Victorian Gothic Revival more broadly, and to demonstrate her pivotal role in the development of the modern disciplines of art history and iconography.

Spring 2023 Conference CFP


Victorian Experiments: Science, Technology, and Art

The nineteenth century saw the invention of the steam locomotive, the internal combustion engine, the first mechanical computer, the electric telegraph, practical photography, the telephone, the phonograph, the lightbulb, the bicycle, the zipper, and the x-ray, to name just a few technological innovations. As Victorian scientists and engineers changed life for most people, writers, musicians, and artists responded in multitudinous ways. The experimental model began to shape both the creation and consumption of art and literature. How did inventions like the telegraph and the telephone affect communication? How were communities altered by steam travel and the coming of early automobiles? What were the effects of photography and the development of moving pictures on the culture and social formation of Victoria’s Britain and its imperial holdings? VSAO invites proposals for papers on Victorian science and technology and their relationship with the arts and with daily life.

Papers might consider topics including, but not limited to:

  • Domestic life changes through technology
  • Servants and technology
  • Political cartoons, photographs, paintings, or other visual representations of technology
  • Sound reproduction, art, and literature
  • Gender, science, and technology
  • Photography and the fine arts
  • Steam travel and art
  • Leisure time and technology
  • Metaphors of technology and/or science
  • Spectacle and science or technology
  • Dangers of new technology
  • Embracing of or resistance to science and new technologies
  • Inventors and authors, artists, or musicians
  • Monarchy, science, technology
  • Literary or artistic movements related to science and technology
  • Fantasy, speculative fiction, and technology
  • Book production and technology
  • Empire and science and technology
  • Marketplaces and science and technology
  • Study of science and technology in schools, colleges, universities
  • Technological manuals and/or scientific texts

The one-day conference will be held on Saturday 29 April 2023, at Glendon College, York University.

Please send a 300-word proposal and 50-word bio (as MS Word documents) by 15 January 2023, to Jo Devereux: 

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: 

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):

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

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

To register for the conference, please visit

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:

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

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:

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