Neo-Victorian Trajectories of Wealth: Negotiations of Class and Material Inheritance
In the guise of her narrator in A Room of One’s Own (1928), Virginia Woolf wittily ponders the material foundations of the equality of the sexes:
"My aunt, Mary Beton, I must tell you, died by a fall from her horse when she was riding out to take the air in Bombay. The news of my legacy reached me one night about the same time that the act was passed that gave votes to women. A solicitor’s letter fell into the post-box and when I opened it I found that she had left me five hundred pounds a year for ever. Of the two – the vote and the money – the money, I own, seemed infinitely the more important" (Woolf 1945: 38-39).
Quite blatantly, equality boils down to money: colonial India provides the wealth required for women’s liberation in Britain. This special issue will explore the trajectories of wealth in the sense of the transmission of money, property and material possessions from the Victorian Age to the present, the ensuing social stratifications, and cultural representations of inherited fortunes. In whose hands are nineteenth-century riches concentrated today and in what ways does their conveyance through time impact on current cultures, particularly in the face of what Rolf Becker and Andreas Hadjar (2013) criticise as the “death of class”? How can neo-Victorianism be understood in economic terms to incorporate a self-conscious critique of the transmission of property into its body of research? If Victoriana has its origins in collectibles, as Cora Kaplan has shown (2007), it also seems worthwhile asking who owns Victoriana today. In what ways do trajectories of wealth influence how Victorian inheritances are negotiated publically and culturally by way of exhibitions and museums, trusts and foundations, donations and bequests? Several recent critical studies (Glendening 2013, Voigts, Schaff and Pietrzak-Franger 2014) have focused on inheritance in terms of evolutionary tropes employed to re-imagine the Long Nineteenth Century. In contrast, the more specific theme of neo-Victorian inheritance in terms of property, material objects, private collections, and handed-down social affluence and status remains underexplored. This special issue will investigate the manifold modes and modulations of the period’s legacies of wealth and accompanying sociocultural and political power and influence. We invite interdisciplinary contributions from scholars in the fields of literary, cultural and media studies, sociology, economics and history. Possible topics may include, but need not be limited to the following:
- cultural legacies of the Victorian class system and period discourses on class
- tropes and representations of individual, familial, ancestral, and national inheritance
- the material, economic and social trajectories of inherited wealth
- legal frameworks for the transmission of property (e.g. wills, primogeniture, bequests, charitable endowments, trusts, etc.)
- the impact of birthright and inherited wealth: definitions, forms of transmission, (re-)distribution, and (mis)appropriation
- (un)earned wealth
- competing claims to the inherited past: contested ‘ownership’ of icons, monuments, properties, artworks, celebrity memorabilia, and public spaces
- preserving legacies: museum and exhibition practices, donations/bequests, art markets, liabilities
Please send 250-word proposals to the guest editor Nadine Boehm-Schnitker at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by 2 August 2018, with 8000-word articles for selected proposals due by 1 March 2019. (Contributors will be advised of their abstract selection by 1 October 2018.) To be considered for inclusion, proposals should specifically address the special issue themes of inherited wealth in relation to class and material legacies.