CFP: Knowledge in the Victorian Periodical

VPFA Study Day, Friday 19 April 2024, Manchester Metropolitan University (and with hybrid options for audience members)

From Newgate novels and silver-fork fiction at the start of the period to science fiction and a gothic resurgence at the end of the century, nineteenth-century periodical fiction presented a wide variety of ways through which to conceptualise, depict, and understand the world. Across this diversity of subjects and epistemological stances, the nature of the periodical format adds further complications through its serialisations, circulations and re-circulations, and a maze of intertextual connections. While scholars have long been attentive to these issues, the development of digital methods have created new possibilities for analysis and the scale of the periodical press - the main textual production of the world’s first industrialised knowledge economy – presents ongoing complexities as new texts and information broaden our understanding of the workings of genres, media, writers, editors, readers. This study day brings together scholars working on periodicals and popular fiction to ask fundamental questions about how periodicals and their fictions constructed, shaped, disseminated, complicated, and otherwise were involved with “knowledge”.

Contributors might consider knowledge as broadly or as narrowly as they wish, focussing on anything from a single page or short story to entire publications, genres, movements, and bodies of work. Papers are invited on any topic that engages with “knowledge” (however construed) within any form of Victorian periodical, but especially as it relates to popular fiction. Approaches might include (but are not limited to):

  • Gendered knowledge and class-based knowledge – the social parameters of writing, imagined audiences versus the reality
  • Empire, race, and diversity – colonial and imperial connections, nationalisms and identity, postcolonial reading and decolonising nineteenth-century collections
  • Genre issues – assumptions, world view, tone, audience, contexts…
  • Economies of knowledge – commodities, advertising, packaging, pricing, production
  • Ways of reading – close/distant, part-issue/volume, serial/anthology, etc.
  • Practical knowledge, useful knowledge, and their implied opposites (impractical/useless knowledge)
  • How texts migrate and evolve across media - intertextual connections, reprinting and re-mediating information, international republications, translations, adaptations…
  • Use of source material, authority, authenticity, and validity; what constitutes plagiarism in the nineteenth century; acknowledgement and canonicity
  • Questions of media and form – serialisations and books, illustrated texts, periodicals read aloud, fiction and poetry/music/non-fiction/photography/sewing patterns/stock market data…
  • Implicit knowledge – unstated forms of knowledge conveyed through character, plot, tone…
  • Contested knowledge – formations and representations of debate, dissent, consensus and “fact” (real or otherwise)
  • Scales and taxonomies of knowledge – anecdote, detail, thick description versus overview, statistics, and panorama
  • Moral and religious instruction versus scandal, muck, and entertainment
  • Past, present, future knowledges – the historical and the contemporary, or the contemporary as historical (and vice versa)

The VPFA invites proposals for 15-20 minute papers, which should be sent in the body of an email to  KnowledgeinthePeriodical@gmail.com by Friday 15th March 2024. Other forms of presentation will be considered. Abstracts should be maximum 250 words and accompanied by a short biographical note. Presentations will be delivered in-person, but audience members may attend via an online option.

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