NAVSA 2014 University of Western Ontario Western University NAVSA 2014


Conference participants will have the opportunity to sign up during the conference registration process for one of six seminars, in which noted scholars will circulate an article-length manuscript related to our conference theme, and facilitate a discussion around the issues and questions it raises. Seminar participants will not be submitting papers of their own for inclusion on the conference programme, as has been the practice at some NAVSA conferences in the past.

Joy Dixon, UBCJason Camlot

Concordia University

“Audiotextual Criticism: Towards the Literary Historical Classification of Early Spoken Recordings”

This article explores the classification of speech recordings as historical literary materials in relation to other classifications of literary texts, for example, classifications pertaining to genre, medium and material format. Drawing upon Jerome McGann’s historicist approach to textual criticism, the discussion will conceptualize basic principles of “audio textual criticism,” and will illustrate the application of these principles with reference to specific Victorian speech recordings.

Joy Dixon, UBCJoy Dixon

University of British Columbia

“Religion, Science, and Sexual Dissidence”

This paper explores the ways that late-nineteenth century scholars working in a diverse range of academic disciplines – from Sir James Frazer in anthropology to Havelock Ellis in sexology – began to re-classify religious experiences as derived from or a displacement of the sexual impulse. One result of these new social sciences of religion was to pathologize “deviant” or “abnormal” religious experiences and to conflate sexual with spiritual deviance, such that “normal” and “abnormal” forms of spirituality came to be policed alongside and in dialogue with “normal” and “abnormal” forms of sexual desire.

Joy Dixon, UBCElaine Freedgood

New York University

“The Forms of Victorian Fiction”

Victorian critics thought about form, and found it seriously lacking in most of the novels they reviewed. Henry James made the now-canonical remark about nineteenth-century novels as baggy monsters, implying a definite lack of form in Victorian fiction; theorists in the mid-twentieth century sought form for the novel as the titles of their works suggest:  The English Novel: Form and Function (Dorothy Van Ghent); The Form of Victorian Fiction (J. Hillis Miller), and George Eliot: The Form of Her Fiction (Barbara Hardy).  “Form” in all these works is elusive, fascinating, and bizarre. The mid-century, and the work of critics like these, is probably the moment when the Victorian novel begins to get great.  From there structuralism, narratology, New Historicism, Marxism, and in general a vigorous field of Victorian Studies infused the Victorian novel with all kinds of form and all kinds of greatness.  Its architecture was discovered; its contingencies given causes.  In thinking about this process, we can rediscover forms and the history of thinking about them, and think about why “form” is such a talisman in the process of literary study, and in the making of literary “greatness.” We can then turn to forms, and then perhaps to formalisms: that is, we can return to where we have always been, but with a richer sense of the ways we have thought about and can think about form.

Joy Dixon, UBCAudrey Jaffe

University of Toronto

“Armadale: Sensation Fiction Dreams of the Real.”

This paper discusses the way Wilkie Collins’ 1866 novel Armadale interrogates conventional distinctions between sensation fiction and realism. It argues that Collins’ representation of each genre’s conventions and of the relation between them, as well as the novel’s central use of dreams and dream theory, resonate with and suggest the influence of literary classifications on wider cultural constructions of the relation between dream and reality, consciousness and unconsciousness, especially as those are articulated in Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams (1900).

Joy Dixon, UBCMeredith Martin

Princeton University

“Historical Prosody and the New Archive”

This paper addresses recent concerns about both the quantitative and sociological turns of English literary study by focusing on historical prosody. I propose that close reading and distant reading are not incompatible and that Victorian studies has been performing some aspect of both micro and macro analysis for some time. Using that tried and true genre-generating text, Aristotle's Poetics, I show that a historically informed approach to the study of poetics allows scholars to question classification schemes, categories, kinds, genres at the same time as we marshall them. Understanding the instability and circulation of generic categories in the study of poetics has, I argue, revitalized our ability to closely read Victorian poems.

Joy Dixon, UBCSadiah Qureshi

University of Birmingham

“Looking to Our Ancestors: Classifying the Human Past in Nineteenth-Century Britain”

Humans, and competing visions of their histories, sparked some of the most longstanding and controversial debates on the past in nineteenth-century Britain. Questions over human antiquity, descent and evolution involved choosing between human histories with significant political repercussions. Elements of these debates are familiar; however, they are often treated in isolation and without paying attention to differing notions of time and fundamental importance of classifying the human past. As such, this paper will explore how theorising the human past transformed what we now think of as being human.

Sponsored by:Rotman Institute