May 2011

1.The President’s Message
2. Panels of Interest to Victorianists at Congress 2011
3.Summary of VSAO 2011 Papers

The President’s Message

The last Saturday of April saw another very congenial and successful VSAO conference at the Glendon campus of York University. As well as fine plenary talks by James Eli Adams and Lorraine Kooistra and an excellent panel of shorter papers in the morning, the event was also the occasion of some changes in the VSAO itself.  I was honoured to be elected as successor to Barbara Leckie as President, and Peter Duerr was elected as a member-at-large; he has very generously agreed to do the work of editing this newsletter; a fuller report on the conference by Peter will appear later in this issue.  Many thanks to Barbara for her two years of service as President; I look forward to working with her and having her advice as Past President during the next two.  Many thanks also to other members of the executive; to Martin Danahay, who is leaving, having served as member at large and newsletter editor, and to Fiona Coll and Connie Crompton, who will continue as members at large, and finally to Alison Halsall and David Lathem, whose titles of Secretary and Treasurer don’t even begin to convey how much work they do for the association.

It has been a damp spring and, besides marking, my days have been full of Darwin, who was a major concern of the very exciting three-day Romanticism and Evolution conference just concluded here at Western.  Many colleagues from the VSAO took part, and one of the three plenaries was given by Dame Gillian Beer, whose work is surely second to none in the influence it has had on our field in the last thirty years.  It was a pleasure to hear her current work, and to hear work on Victorian writers such as Dickens, Marryat, and Swinburne—especially for someone like me who tries uneasily to straddle the two fields into which we divide the nineteenth century and who believes that this division sometimes obscures important continuities.

During the summer the executive will be planning future VSAO activities, including the 2012 conference, and, we hope, a strong series of evening lectures.  If any of you reading this would like to propose a lecture for the forthcoming academic year, please contact me or one of the other executive members.  In he meantime, I wish everyone a pleasant and productive summer.

Panels of Interest to Victorianists at Congress 2011

University of New Brunswick / St. Thomas University

Following is a summary of some of the panels at Congress 2011 that should be of interest to VSAO members.

Our VSAO panel, entitled “ The Tide that Binds: Exploring the Victorian Coast,” is on Tuesday morning, 31 May, at 10:30 am, in Carleton 255.

The panels mentioned here focus on Victorian studies for the most part, but a few panels have been listed because they include an individual paper on a Victorian topic. Please confirm time and location details in the final programs.


ACCUTE – Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English
CHA – Canadian Historical Association
CLSG – Christianity and Literature Study Group
CSCH – Canadian Society of Church and History
CSHM – Canadian Society for the History of Medicine
CSHPS – Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science
CWSA – Canadian Women’s Studies Association
NAVSA – North American Victorian Studies Association
VSWAC – Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada

Key to Buildings

BMH – Brian Mulroney Hall
Carleton – Carleton
ECH – Edmund Casey Hall
GH – Gillen Hall
MMH – Memorial Hall
TH – Tilley Hall

Friday, 27 May

Victorian Failures
Carleton 140
Amanda Paxton (York):“Good Brides Gone Bad: The Victorian Bride of Christ as Spiritual Failure”
Christine Robertson (Toronto): “‘The Gates of Learning shut with a clang’: Rudyard Kipling’s Kim as failed school story”
Dorothy Hadfield (Guelph): “The Dramatic Failure of Janet Achurch”

Victorian Mothers and Others
Carleton 256
Judith Scholes (British Columbia): “Ethos and the Victorian Poetess in Nineteenth-Century American Women’s Poetry”
Patricia Rigg (Acadia): “The Aesthetics of Autobiography and Familial Love: The Confessional Sonnet Sequences of George Eliot and Augusta Webster”

Saturday, 28 May

Negotiations in the Marketplace: The Book and the Family
Carleton 104
Andrea Day (Toronto): “‘Works by Andrew Lang’: Reading the Anthropological, Folkloric, and Commercial Paratexts of The Blue Fairy Book and The Arabian Nights Entertainments
Dorothy Hadfield (Guelph): “Controlling Mothers with Money: Bernard Shaw vs Janet Achurch”
Vicky Simpson (Dalhousie): Heroine-Homemakers for Hire: The Commodification of the Family in Lady Audley’s Secret and East Lynne

The Radical Nineteenth Century
Carleton 104
Fred Ribkoff (Kwantlen Polytechnic): “Blake’s Choral Healing Song: Oothoon’s Self-Willed Sporagmos and Tragic Anagnorisis in ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’”
Paul Keen (Carleton): “Shelley on the Assembly Line”
Christine Bolus-Reichert (Toronto): “Erotic, Violent, and Wild: Romance Phenomenology in William Morris’s The Water of the Wondrous Isles

Shifting Perceptions among 18th- and Early 19th-Century British Evangelicals
BMH 107
Michael Tapper (Saint Paul): “John Wesley’s Vision of Social Sin”
Keith Grant, (CABC): “‘Very Affecting and Evangelical’: Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) and the Evangelical Renewal of Pastoral Theology”

Sunday, 29 May

Religion in the Public Sphere in Late 19th- And Early 20th- Century Canada
BMH 107
Russell Prime (Dalhousie): “The Church & the Magistrate: Glimpses of Church-State Relations in a New Brunswick Coastal Community, 1880–1930”
Robert Dennis (Queen’s): “The Douglas Chair in Canadian and Colonial History: Philanthropy, Secularization, and Restructuring Queen’s University in the Early Twentieth Century”

Monday, 30 May

Historical Women Writing Politics: Expanding the Collective Memory
GH c111
Joanne H. Wright (New Brunswick):“Margaret Cavendish’s Ethics of Life and Death: Constructions of Political Knowledge”
Laura Kelly (Queen’s): “Going Beyond Liberal Feminism in the 19th century: William Thompson and Anna Wheeler’s Appealagainst John Stuart Mill’s Subjection
Jordan House (New Brunswick): “Luxemburg and the Implications of an Open Dialectic of History”
Melissa Ptacek (New Brunswick): “Simone de Beauvoir’s Algerian War: Torture, Feminism, and French National Identity”

Word Worlds
Carleton 104
Michael O’Driscoll (Alberta): “Engaged in What? Derrida’s Gage and the Humanities to Come”
Nathan Dueck (St. Mary’s): “Reading ‘dirty words’ in Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers
Marjorie Stone (Dalhousie): “Globalizing Neo-Victorian Studies: Exploring the Postcolonial/Victorian Interface”

Victorian Strangers and Estrangements
Carleton 217
Laura McGavin (Queen’s): “Photographic Death in George du Maurier’s Trilby
Brad MacDonald (McGill): “‘Of Anything, or of Nothing’: The Bohemian Artist in George Gissing’s The Emancipated
Natalie Huffels (McGill/Marianopolis): “Dangerous Retellings: Traumatic History and the Imprisoned Psyche in A Tale of Two Cities

Scientific Authority in 19th Century England
TH 205
Jaipreet Virdi (Toronto): “A Crisis of Identity and Need for Medical Authority: Aurists and Aural Surgery in 19th Century London”
Benjamin Mitchell (York): “Occult Correspondences: W.T. Stead, the Community of Borderland and the Brahmins of Science”

Nursing and War
ECH 103
Mélanie Morin-Pelletier (McGill): “Héritières de la Grande Guerre: La contribution des infirmières vétérans aux réseaux sociosanitaires montréalais et torontois”
Christine E. Hallett (Manchester): “The ‘truth-tellers’: Three literary nurses of the First World War”
Carol Helmstadter (Independent): “Coasts and Continents: Women at War in the 1850s”

Practice and Metaphors in Biology and Medicine
TH 309
Andrew Reynolds (Cape Breton): “Singing the Cell Electric: Electronic Engineering Metaphors in the Science of Cell Communication”
Danielle Pacey (York): “Organs at War: Eugen Steinach’s ‘Battle of the Gonads,’ Sex, and Fin-de-Siècle Experimental Biology”
Tricia Close-Koenig (Strasbourg): “Catalogues, Logbooks and Atlases: Inventory Management in 19th and 20th Century Pathological Anatomy”
Kristin Borgerson (Dalhousie): “Useless, Repetitive, and Secretive? Assessing the Scientific Validity of Clinical Trials”

Public Health and Social Reform
ECG 103
Elizabeth A. Scott (Saskatchewan): “‘Rejected on Account of His Eyes’: Canadian Medical Inspection and Emigrant Selection amongst London’s Labouring Poor in the 1890s and 1900s”
Sheila Gibbons (Saskatchewan): “‘A Moral and Physical Menace’: Motherhood and Eugenics in UFWA Politics, 1915-1925”
James Hanley (Winnipeg): “Health and the Making of a Public Utility”

Tuesday, 31 May

Macaulay and Memory: The Historian at Home and Abroad
MMH 202
Leslie Howsam (Windsor): “Victorian Representations of Macaulay: The Schoolboy and the New Zealander”
Ian Hesketh (Queen’s):“In Macaulay’s Shadow: J. R. Seeley, E. A. Freeman, and the Science of History in Victorian Britain”
Juan Maiguashca (York): “The Memory of Macaulay in Spanish South American Historical Writing”

The Tide that Binds: Exploring the Victorian Coast
Carleton 255
Rebecca Beausaert (York): “‘Where the Bathers Love to Dip and the Rowers Go to Row’: Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Century Female Tourists in Elora, Ontario, Canada”
Sara Malton (St. Mary’s): “Rough Waters: Naval Impressment and Nineteenth-Century Cultural Memory”
Suzanne Stewart (Mount Allison): “Seascape and Mindscape: Coleridge’s ‘Rime’ and the Legacy of its Illustrated Editions”

TH 205
Ken Corbett (British Columbia): “Chronic Anxieties: Railways, Telegraphs, and Punctuality in Victorian England”
Dustin Olson (McMaster): “On the Passage and Perception of Time with Bertrand Russell”
Alexei Kojevnikov (British Columbia): “Space-Time and the Russian Revolution”

Stillman Drake Lecture
TH 205
Bernard V. Lightman (York): “Science at the Metaphysical Society: Defining Knowledge in the 1870s”

Carelton 204
Adrea Johnson (Regent): “The ‘dread of the disease will bring on the disease itself’: Joris Karl Huysmans and the decadent exploration of faith, disease, and degeneration”
D.M.R Bentley (Western): “Dante Gabriel’s ‘Absurd’ ‘Medievalisms’ in Context”
Amanda Paxton (York): “‘I strive to give it language’: Richard Watson Dixon’s Poetry of the Numinous”

Wednesday, 1 June

Mapping Racial Space in Victorian Canada
BMH 102
Megan O. Harvey and John S. Lutz (Victoria):”Mediating Race and Racism: Comparing Racial Discourses on Indigenous and Chinese Residents in Victoria’s British Colonist, 1861-1910”
Patrick A. Dunae (Vancouver Island), Donald J. Lafreniere (Western) John S. Lutz (Victoria), Jason A. Gilliland (Western):“In Darkest Victoria and the Way In: A GIS of Skid Row, 1891”
John S. Lutz (Victoria), Patrick A. Dunae (Vancouver Island), Donald L. Lafreniere, and Jason A. Gilliland (Western):
“Chinatown and the Indian Quarter, Evolving Racial Space in Victorian Victoria, 1881-1901”

Imperial and Imperious Masculinities: The Construction and Defence of Power in Canada and Great Britain before the First World War
BMH 202
Lisa Chilton (Prince Edward Island): “Sex in the Surgery: Masculine Respectability and the Contest for Power in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Quebec”
Jarett Henderson (Trent): “When the Englishman’s Home in Lambton Castle: Gender, Status and the Political Aspirations of the Durham-Grey Family”
Cecilia Morgan (OISE):“Entangled Masculinities? Native Canadian Men Within the Nineteenth-Century British Empire”
Veronica Strong-Boag (British Columbia): “The Less Than Mighty Scot? The Quandary of John Gordon, Earl/later Marquess of Aberdeen (and Temair), 1847-1934”

Representations of Land and People in the Canadian North
BMH 202
Angela Byrne (Maynooth/Toronto): “Landscapes of Memories: Early Nineteenth-Century British Exploratory Travels in the North”
Shane McCorristine (Cambridge): “Searching for the Franklin Expedition: A Contemporary Canadian Ghost Story”
Crystal Fraser (Alberta): “Love and Intimacy in a Cold Climate: Non-Aboriginal Representations of Dene Women, 1900-1950”

Summary of 2011 VSAO Conference Papers

The 44th Annual Conference was held on Saturday, 30 April 2011, at the Glendon Campus of York University.  The conference topic was “Manipulation: Victorian Variations on Hands, Handling and Underhanded Behaviour.”

First Session:
Peter Capuano (University of Nebraska): “Thackeray’s (In)Visible Manipulation in Vanity Fair”

The Victorian obsession with decorum extended to the positioning of hands, and significant messages could be sent in social circles quite subtly by discreet alterations of the placement/ display of hands. Several instances of this occur in Vanity Fair. When Becky extends her fore-finger, like the dash in the sentence above the illustration, to George, it upsets the typical order where the males control how society is to proceed. George’s offer of his left hand is pure condescension, which Becky counters with the even more awkward and dismissive offer of her right finger. She is refusing the standard heteronormative “lock and key” fit of a cross-gender handshake. In a similar fashion, a standard template of social interaction in the parlour is disturbed when the illustration makes clear that Becky is “pulling the strings” with Mr. Joseph as they work the yarn. Her control is like that of a puppeteer; interestingly, puppet masters in the Victorian era were simply called “manipulators.”

The marionette theme in the text and illustrations highlights the distinction between public actions of the characters and their hidden manipulation of their social surroundings. This theme is reinforced by the jester-like figure on the engraved vignette title page of the 1848 edition of Vanity Fair where a female puppet and the “cross” of the puppeteer’s strings are shown. The female marionette is reaching with her arms to take ownership of the puppeteer’s cross.  Capuano suggests that the two standard readings of the wooden object as a puppeteer’s cross or as toy sword need not be mutually exclusive.  The female marionette could simultaneously be reaching for the control offered by the cross, or the power offered by the sword.

Finally, one of the last images discussed was the engraving showing Becky lurking in the dark shadows while she listens in on a conversation. It is impossible in the dark shading to discern what, if anything, she is holding in her hands. An element of danger is apparent here.

The overall theme discussed in this session is that Becky is taking over the hands that direct the actions of the plot of Vanity Fair.

Second Session:
Gregory Brophy (University of Western Ontario): “Unauthorized Autobiographies: Graphology and the Science of ‘Character’ in Stevenson’s Strange Case”

Brophy proposes that, for the Victorians, the body is a type of writing and that writing is a type of body. Physiognomy is used to read the former, while graphology is used to read the other.

The disembodied hand is a Gothic trope. Writing, which can circulate without its author, is another type of disembodied hand – a disembodied hand that betrays Dr. Jekyll in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In Stevenson’s “Strange Case,” hands and handwriting play an important role in delineating the two sides of the main character, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The word “hands” appears 66 times in the work.

Manipulation is a strong element in the story and it takes a number of different forms. Victorians believed handwriting and the graphology, the analysis of handwriting, were able to detect deeper qualities of human behaviour. It was thought that criminals, in according with their malicious bent, exposed their innermost malevolent qualities in handwriting. The murderer’s penmanship is large, with wide flourishes that show his uncontrolled nature. The forger has extremely controlled and delicate writing which reflects the need for precision in his trade. The comely hand of the professional doctor is very useful to Mr. Hyde, as in the scene when Hyde pays off an aggrieved family for injuries to their daughter with a cheque written by Dr. Jekyll.

There is visible misgiving of Hyde’s body; other characters like Utterson judge him to be quite ugly and they have a strong sense that Hyde is deformed in some way. In a later scene, when he is losing control over the metamorphosis of Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll can tell the transformation has already taken place when he notices his hand has changed into knotty, muscular hairy hand of Hyde.

The approaching and increasing melding of both characters is revealed by the letter supposedly left by Hyde for Jekyll explaining that Hyde is leaving after having caused so much disturbance. The letter is given to Utterson and his clerk remarks how similar Mr. Hyde’s handwriting is to Dr. Jekyll. This intermingling of personalities also appears in the letter sent to the medical suppliers asking for the original mixture of the ingredient he used in his potion. At first, the script is fine, orderly and precise in describing the substance Jekyll is requesting; however, the desperation of his plight overwhelms the writing and it becomes a large, messy scrawl, demanding the item be found as quickly as possible. Here the polite conventions of handwriting are side swiped by the demands (or addictions) of the body. A construction of horror texts such as these involve a deconstruction of the body.

Third Session:
Aviva Briefel (Bowdoin College): “Crimes of the Hand: Detection and the Belgian Congo”

In the late Victorian era, few colonial regimes suffered as much censure as the Belgian suppression of African indigenous peoples in the Congo. King Leopold II of Belgium owned the Congo Free State outright and he instituted a system of punishment that caused dismay throughout the world. Brutal mistreatment and exploitation of the local inhabitants fueled a dramatic rise in the production of natural resources, resulting in great financial rewards for its European master.

…..Of all the Belgian brutalities committed in the Congo, the mutilation of hands was the most horrific to the Victorian public, telling us something about the importance of hands to the Victorians. In response to the damning report by British Consul Roger Casement, the Belgians spent 7 pages out of a total of 13 page reply denying the charges it contained. Further statements by missionaries and the immense public pressure driven by newspaper reportage forced the end of Leopold’s rule and the annexation of the territory as a colony of Belgium.

Casement had become acquainted with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through their work in the Congo Reform Association; Casement turned to the writer to help publicize the atrocities in the Congo. The famous author wrote a piece called “The Crime of Congo” replete with quotes from the Casement report. Throughout the text, hands are seen as the supreme evidence of the crimes committed against the Congolese.

One of the common penalties for any number of infractions was the cutting off of hands; the brutality of this judgement attracted huge reactions from 19th-century readers. Hands were the central piece of suffering. The dilemma of the people of the Congo may be brushed off by some but visitors to the country could not ignore a local woman’s cut-off hand.

The hands are a site of physiology of truth, especially in the treatment found in Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes’s hands are particularly sensitive and often are discoloured by his frequent use of chemicals in forensic examinations. The detective is able to discern the employment of manual labourer as well as a lady typewriter by looking at their hands. He is able to solve several cases by analyzing finger prints, tell tale markings on hands, etc. and uncover the perpetrator.

In “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb,” a great many details are made available about the wounds, lesions that the engineer suffers when he loses his thumb although such information does not advance the investigation. Hands also feature in in the discussion of the gravity of the central criminal plot line of a massive forgery of British currency. This is a transgression against the body of the state.  Holmes “solves” the case but it is too late to prevent the escape of the counterfeiters,  a rare occasion.

The status of hands in both authors is ambivalent; there is a strained relationship to the truth.

Fourth Session:
Keynote Address I: James Eli Adams (Columbia University): “The Dead Hand: George Eliot and the Uses of Inheritance”

Inheritance can be both ennobling and embarrassing; it is multi-faceted and can be worthwhile, but it can also arouse naked self-interest that corrodes all other traits.

By the end of the century, dodging inheritance (and thus the wishes and restrictions of the dead), was central to self-definition as a “self-made man.” Arthur Hobhouse published a book in 1880 called The Dead Hand made up of a number of talks on property settlements and other types of bequeathments. The dead hand is a reoccurring nemesis in Eliot’s work. In Eliot the power of wounded male ego is seen to use inheritance as a weapon to affect or limit a person’s fate or future. This can occur on several levels. National inheritance is especially important in Daniel Deronda. Daniel is finally told of his Jewish heritage, decides to marry a woman of that faith, and goes to the Middle East to help restore the Jewish nation.

Middlemarch dramatizes the pleasure of impending renunciation which, Adams argues, requires the perpetual deferral of that renunciation. Dorothea Brooke is an impractical, nostalgic, ascetic, and naive young woman who wants to be taken seriously, her head not turned by material goods. Her more conventional sister Celia says of her, “Dodo likes giving things up,” and Dorothea is an epicure of renunciation. For example, Dorothea harbours deep unease about jewellery, whether it is best to put it in a box, store it elsewhere, or wear it. Celia is far more straightforward and simply wants to wear her jewellery.

Eliot has a fascination with dividing property and assets. There is a great of adjusting to or breaking up of the directions found in wills; property belongs to the living, not to the dead. A number of malignant spirits driven by spite and vanity express eccentric wishes to be followed upon their death. One of the difficulties in this accommodation is the problem of repudiating a pledge. A superstitious regard for the final wishes of a dying individual is present. In the case of Casaubon, his desire is that his wife should carry on and finish his life’s work, “The Key to All Mythologies.” In her heart, she realizes this scheme is a private phantom of her husband’s, impossible to carry out. Nevertheless, she rigorously examines her obligation to commit to such a plan. Her quandary is viewed sympathetically, unlike the main actors ofAdam Bede who face more serious consequences, like murder trials, transportation, and lifelong separation from loved ones.

Eliot’s moral agents are bound by consequences, and freedom often consists of voluntary submission to a particular path. At first Dorothea believes she owes allegiance to an ideal and must yoke herself to her late husband’s unfair conditions. Despite being constricted and inhibited by the terms of the Professor’s last testament, Dorothea is intensely alive and vital. Later she decides to marry Will Ladsilaw, even though she will lose the bulk of her inheritance. It should be mentioned that she would receive £700 a year, guaranteeing a solidly middle-class life.

The tendency shown here is that some individuals possess large appetites for petty, banal, but powerful avengement during death-bed vigils. This scenario cuts across all sectors.

Fifth Session:
Keynote Address II: Lorraine Janzen Kooistra (Ryerson University): “Hands of Art, Eyes of Science: Vestiges of Corpses in Pre-Raphaelite Poetry and Pictures”

The adherence to realism found in the Pre-Raphaelite movement extended for some followers to the use and study of corpses when portraying death scenes.  Their attention to details mirrors the empirical observation practices of science, which had been popularized by The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844).

Death was a dominant trope with many of the Pre-Raphaelites as shown in the poem, “Amor Mundi.” An unsuspecting individual meets with an attractive person who suggests they walk along the downhill and easy path. Frederick Sandys’s accompanying illustration shows a youth accompanied by a young woman who represents the world.  At their feet is the figure of the world, her body in a stated of decay show at first a tall, well-dressed, and beautiful couple. The next image shows the female of the pair lying dead on the ground while a snake slithers past. The male of the pair has been tricked into following Death into Hell. It is interesting to note that in the actual text, there is no use of gender; the couple could very well be two women (the world is identified as female).

In another illustration a wood block print shows a scene from the Byron poem “The Prisoner of Chillon.” The poem describes the harrowing tale of a family who suffered greatly for their beliefs. They met their end in battle, by burning at the stake and by dying in an underground prison. The artist who created the tableaux (Ford Madox Brown) studied the positions of real corpses and made preliminary sketches.

It is important to note that the Anatomy Act of 1832 (which, along with the Poor Law, criminalized and punished poverty) affected the availability of dead bodies by forbidding grave robbing and made it a punishable offence. The Act also stipulated that it was legal to use unclaimed cadavers for dissection purposes. As a result of these two stipulations, thousands of corpses were used for practice by medical students. This ease of securing specimens, whether for artistic or medical studies, was underscored by a diary entry by Ford Madox Brown causally recording the day’s events where he did some shopping first, picked out a “lovely & splendid corps” from John Marshall’s supply at University Hospital, and was “Home again by 5…”!  I believe few artists today would have this experience.

The love poem “Remember” by Christina Rossetti was discussed. The focus on death and dead bodies is again shown here through the voice of a dead woman advising her lover not to worry if the memory of her fades.

The technology used to make many of the prints was also discussed. The wood-engraving method is a relief technique in printmaking that allows the wood block to be set up in type with the letter press. The artist draws the composition on the wood block and sends the block to the engraver. Using a fine tool called a graver, the engraver then cuts out the negative spaces of the drawing. The lines or areas of the wood block that are to be printed remain on the surface of the wood, ready to be set up with the text. This procedure for producing artwork is a curious mixture of the mechanical and manual. The manual aspect derives from the carving of the wood by the engraver to make the relief image but it is mechanical process that produces the print for the pages of the bound book or periodical. The art only exists as a reproduction. Walter Benjamin, in attending to the French context, where woodblock engraving was not as popular as lithography, leaves this example out of his discussion of “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”