Seminars

Information on how to sign up for seminars is forthcoming...

Whom the Trees Loved: Queer Ecologies

Dennis Denisoff, University of Tulsa

In 1866, Ernst Haeckel coined the term “ecology” to mean the science of “the relationship of the organism to the surrounding exterior world…. These are partly organic, partly of inorganic nature.” Queer ecology studies engages with the sexual, sensual, and affective relations among the organic and inorganic, while also problematizing distinctions between the natural and unnatural. Sexuality, gender, trans, and affect studies engage with, among other things, Anthropocene studies, deep green religion, and notions of urban, frontier, and indigenous ecologies. This seminar invites papers that offer explorations of and preliminary inquiries into new possibilities and problems arising from issues such as vegetal ontology, geoethics, trans-species affections, eco-pagan feminism. How does an eco-focus alter our understanding of queer works? Why did so many Victorians turn to “nature” to evoke inchoate or nonnormative feelings? And how has Victorians’ love of animals and the environment impacted our own environmentalisms?

Forms of Religious Belief

Mark Knight, Lancaster University

Writing in Religion as a Chain of Memory (2000), Daniéle Hervieu-Léger urges us to “look for covert signs of religion in every sphere of human activity.” Her call has been embraced by several identifying with the “religious turn” in the humanities, and for good reason. But the danger of looking for religion everywhere is that it can lose its distinctiveness and end up being seen nowhere. Thinking about different forms of belief—creeds, practices, genres, sacred spaces, etc—can help make religion more visible, while also registering that expressions of faith are always in formation and can be found inside and outside religious institutions. And exploring different forms of religious belief introduces other issues, too: the way in which forms carry with them a disciplinary impulse, and the capacity of forms to unsettle existing modes of thought. Seminar participants may respond to the topic in any way they wish.

Empire and Environment

Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, University of California, Davis

The Victorian period marked a turning point in environmental history as in the history of empire, and this seminar will concern itself with the intersections of accelerating imperialism and accelerating ecological devastation in the Victorian world. We will conceptualize British imperialism in its formal and its informal registers, as it stretched to appropriate other natures in the Global South, the Arctic and Antarctic, and all corners of the British Isles, and as it shaped such domains as investment, infrastructure, resource exploitation, science, and culture. Participants might engage various topics and frameworks including ecological imperialism, indigenous studies, environmental racism, the Anthropocene/Capitalocene and world ecology, animal studies, habitat loss and species extinction, or wilderness preservation and other settler environmentalisms. All disciplinary perspectives – literary studies, history, art history, history of science, cultural studies, ethnic studies – are warmly welcome.

Contrapuntal Reading

Nasser Mufti, University of Illinois at Chicago

What happened to contrapuntal reading? Edward Said introduced the term in Culture and Imperialism as an interpretive method that attends to imperialism and resistance to it across geographic, national and historical delineations. Said’s models for contrapuntal reading are C.L.R. James, George Antonius, S.H. Atlas and Ranajit Guha, all leading anticolonial/postcolonial intellectuals of the twentieth century, whose audience spans the general and the specialized. Not only are all of these figures absent from scholarship on Victorian literature and culture, little reference is made to them in contemporary scholarship on Victorian literature and culture. What does Victorian studies resist reading about the demise of Victorian society’s greatest political and cultural achievement, empire? What might it mean to recover contrapuntal reading, be it through these or other intellectuals? Finally, are there useful limits to contrapuntal reading? Is there value (political or intellectual) in highlighting the limits of comparison?

Indigenous/Cross-cultural Collaborations

Deanna Reder and Sophie McCall, Simon Fraser University

This seminar addresses the role of collaboration on Indigenous literary archives, and explores collaboration as a method of literary engagement. As a case study, we introduce participants to our co-authored booked project, Indigenous Writing since 1867: Once Neglected Now Celebrated, which collects and studies one of the most neglected literary archives in English Canada. This archive has been neglected in part because settlers used literature to consolidate a narrative of Canada that prioritized settler writers, resulting in university curricula that featured British and American canonical works. Despite significant barriers, Indigenous people continued writing and circulating literary works through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. As a result of their loud and persist action against prejudices in the publishing world, their work has become increasingly recognized and valued in the university and beyond. Now, scholars and writers are systematically gathering the extraordinary archive of Indigenous writing of the past 150+ years.

Victorian Studies and Settler Colonialism

Philip Steer, Massey University

“There is a great difference…between looking to a place and looking from it,” wrote E.g. Wakefield in 1829, advocating a new kind of colonialism by pretending he was in Sydney. J.R. Seeley, looking back half a century later at the settler empire Wakefield helped found, argued that “the expansion of England involves its transformation.” Somewhere between these two points, this seminar seeks to explore methodologies that allow us to consider Britain and its settler colonies—or other configurations of the “Victorian” centered on settler colonies—within the same analytical frame. What are the ethical implications of engaging with settler archives? How to acknowledge the brutal and complex Indigenous experiences of empire? And what difference does this all make to our understanding of metropolitan literary culture? We invite papers seeking to put Victorian Britain in meaningful conversation with the settler empire it created, sustained, and profited from.

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