Evening Lecture 2023

Our first evening lecture took place on Thursday, November 9, at 6:30pm, 1190 Bahen Centre. This  event celebrated the recent publication of the edited collection Nineteenth-century women illustrators and cartoonists (MUP). Editor Jo Devereux, and contributors Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Marion Tempest Grant, and Margo L. Beggs, introduced the collection and gave an overview of their research. A sample copy of the book and ordering information was provided.

Nineteenth-Century Women Illustrators and Cartoonists, edited by Jo Devereux and published by Manchester University Press (May 2023), explores the profound but seldom recognized impact of women artists on Victorian print and visual culture. The volume analyses the work of fifteen artists from the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth: Jemima Blackburn, Eleanor Vere Boyle, Marianne North, Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon, Mary Ellen Edwards, Edith Hume, Alice Barber Stephens, Florence and Adelaide Claxton, Marie Duval, Amy Sawyer, Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale, Jessie Marion King, Pamela Colman Smith, and Olive Allen. It features chapters on natural history illustration, book and periodical illustration, cartoons, and caricatures. More than a broad survey of the topic, Nineteenth-Century Women Illustrators and Cartoonists breaks new ground by bringing together diverse critical approaches from an international team of scholars.

On Thursday, November 9, at the VSAO Fall Evening Lecture, editor Jo Devereux and three of the collections’ contributors introduced the book and gave an overview of their research:

Jo Devereux, Assistant Professor of English, Western University

“Introduction,” “Florence and Adelaide Claxton: frames, doorways, and domestic satire”

Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Emerita Professor of English, Toronto Metropolitan University

Marion Tempest Grant, Doctoral Student, Communications and Culture Program, York University

“Working against ‘that thunderous clamor of the steam press’: Pamela Colman Smith and the art of hand-coloured illustration”

Margo L. Beggs, Art Historian/Independent Scholar, Toronto

“The ABCs of Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon: new views on her manuscript ‘An Illustrated Comic Alphabet’”


Past Evening Lectures 

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?

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Evening Lecture 2019

Professor Lorraine Janzen Kooistra (Ryerson University)
“Seeing Ornamentally: Mapping the Hidden Figures in the Celtic Revival”

Monday 25 November 2019
6:30 pm
Bahen Centre 1190
University of Toronto


Evening Lectures 2018-19

David Bentley (Western University)
The ‘Old Italian Book,’ that, According to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Made Him ‘the Particular Kind of Man and Artist He [Was]’

Thursday 14 March 2019
7:00pm (coffee at 6:30pm)
Bahen Centre 1160, University of Toronto

The Bahen Centre for Information Technology is located at 40 St. George Street, on the southern side of the University of Toronto campus.
Click here for a map or streetview.

Monday 26 November 2018
Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Arts
111 Queen’s Park, Toronto

–> VSAO members receive a discounted ticket price of $15, online or in person at the event (use the code “VSAO”).

Dr. Rachel Gotlieb (Gardiner Adjunct Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art)

Pot(tery) Tales in Victorian Painting and Literature

Part of the Gardiner Signature Lecture Series
The Robert and Marian Cumming Lecture

* This lecture co-sponsored by the VSAO.*

There is a wealth of information to be gleaned by deciphering ceramics in Victorian art and literature. This richly illustrated presentation shows that English Genre, Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic artists, as well as novelists Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Anthony Trollope charged their pottery and porcelain with deep metaphorical meanings to heighten the narrative for the public to interpret. Crockery in the cupboard, on the mantel, the table or the floor represented popular motifs exemplifying topical issues touching upon hygiene, faith, temperance and etiquette. Broken and empty vessels stood for despair, neglect, and personified ‘fallen’ women; or alternatively platters and cups filled with food, drink and flowers signified happiness and domesticity. Specific objects, especially jugs were coded by color, size, form and location to demarcate gender and virtue, while the ubiquitous blue willow plate ignited the social divisions of the time: on the one hand serving as a lightening rod of bad taste and lower class and on the one hand embodying national pride of English manufacturing, nostalgia and domesticity, only to be embraced and adopted in the mania for blue-and-white china. This talk explains how depictions of ceramics played a central role moralizing and decorating Victorian society.


Evening Lectures 2017-18

Wednesday 21 March 2018
7:30pm (coffee at 7:00pm)
Bahen Centre 1200, University of Toronto

Rebecca Woods (Institute for the Philosophy and History of Science, University of Toronto):

Mammoths, Metabolism, and Mechanized Meat:
Great Britain’s Imperial Cold Chain in the Nineteenth Century

This paper will tell the story of cold’s transformation from natural fact to artificial technology during the nineteenth century, beginning with the emergence of a prehistoric mammoth from the Siberian permafrost at the close of the eighteenth century. The bones of this animal played a role in formulating theories of evolution at the turn of the nineteenth century, and later it came to serve a rhetorical purpose as novel articles of food, namely frozen meat, were introduced to British consumers in the nineteenth century. Wary of ingesting meat that had been dead for several months or more, boosters drew upon the Siberian mammoth, frozen for thousands of years before being safely ingested by Inuit dogs, to assuage the misgivings of skeptical diners. The mammoth thus speaks to humankind’s quest for control over the natural world; to the importance of literal and figurative networks of imperial exchange; and to the technoscientific production of artificial cold in the mid to late nineteenth century.


Wednesday 29 November 2017
Bahen Centre 1200, University of Toronto

Natalie Neill (English, York University): “Poe’s Satires on Literary Women”

Natalie Neill specializes in Romantic literature, the gothic, popular fiction, and film. She has published articles on film adaptation, gothic parody, and Romantic poetry, among other topics, and has edited two 19th-century comic gothic novels—The Hero and Love and Horror—for Valancourt Press. She is working on a book about readers in and of first-wave gothic novels.

Evening Lectures 2016-17

Thursday 2 March 2017
Bahen Centre 1130

Jordan Bear (History of Art, University of Toronto):  “Where there’s smoke: Causality in 19th-century Photography and Vulcanology”

Tuesday 15 November 2016
Bahen Centre 1170

Cecilia Morgan (History and Education, University of Toronto): “Transatlantic Celebrity, Theatrical Networks, and  English-Canadian Actresses, 1890-1920”


Evening Lectures 2015-16

Thursday 3 March 2016
Koffler House 108 (see below for directions)

Kate Lawson (University of Waterloo), “The Brontes and Influence; or, Literary History in the Dining Room.”


Thursday 5 November 2015
Koffler House 108*

David Latham, “‘A New Tongue for Art’: William Morris’s Revolutionary Literature”

Professor Latham is Editor of The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies and a member of the faculty in the Department of English at York University.

*Koffler House sits in the northeast quadrant of the Spadina Crescent, and is marked “KP” on the University of Toronto campus map (click to open map). 


Evening Lectures 2014-15

9 October 2014
Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor Street West

Alison David, “Poisonous Pigments and Deadly Dyes: Victorian Fashion and Chromophobia”

Kimberly Wahl, “Dressing Outside the Box: Aestheticism and Materiality in Late Victorian Artistic Culture”

Professors David and Wahl are members of the faculty at the School of Fashion at Ryerson University.


Stuff and Stuffing:  VSAO – ACCUTE panel
Brock University

Sunday, 25 May 2014, 1:30-3:00
East Academic 104

Erin Atchison (Independent Scholar): “To Buy an Immense Quantity of Everything: Finding a Theory for Fashion and the Consumer in Elizabeth Stoddard’s The Morgesons

Jo Devereux (Western University):  “[Un]winding the Skein: Henrietta Rae, Frederic Leighton, and the Undraped Nude”

Jennifer Judge (York University): “Dickens’s Contentious Stuffing: Juvenalian Satire in Our Mutual Friend

This panel has been organized and sponsored by the VSAO executive.  All are invited to attend.


Evening Lectures 2013-14

30 January 2014
161 University College, University of Toronto

Grace Kehler on “Reconceiving Time, Space, and Kinship: Darwin’s Origin and Wagner’s Ring”  

Charles Darwin, a great leveler, articulates a radical ontology in On the Origin of Species (1859). His evolutionary theory offers an integrated overview of world becomings and postulates the fundamental inter-relations among all entities, past and present, regardless of their apparent diversity. All derive from and are indebted to the long work of time and nature. Richard Wagner, in contrast with Darwin, has often been accused of promulgating a racist, hierarchical, and even totalitarian perspective through his art. His Ring of the Nibelung, in particular, has drawn the ire of critics from the nineteenth-century forward (including Nietzsche, Heidegger, Adorno, and Lacoue-Labarthe). Yet the Ring repeatedly undermines its manifest hierarchies, forging surprising dramatic and musical connections between lofty and abased species, both of which prove obliged to the natural world.

Grace Kehler is Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.

7 November 2013
Spadina House Museum, 285 Spadina Road (just north of Davenport Road)

Daniel Wright on “Symbolic Logic and the Buried Life.”

Daniel Wright is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Toronto. He is currently at work on a book entitled Bad Logic: Reasoning about Desire in the Victorian Novel. A portion of this project, on tautology in Trollope, is forthcoming in the Winter 2013 issue of ELH.

Following Daniel’s talk, we’ll enjoy a private tour of the Spadina Museum, a Victorian home that has recently been restored to reflect 1920s and 30s interior design. For more on the Spadina Museum and its restoration, please see:

Please check this page later or become a VSAO member for further information about these and other upcoming events.

Past Evening Lectures

Victorian Workshop, 2013