CFP: Taking Sides: Reassessing the Great Victorian Debates (9/15/06; NEMLA, 3/1/07-3/4/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Michael DiMassa
contact email:

Call for Papers
38th Convention Northeast Modern Language Association (NEMLA)
March 1-4, 2007
Baltimore, Maryland

It has become a cliche to refer to the Victorian period as an "Age of Doubt," a
time when the presuppositions of religious belief-increasingly challenged
in the
preceding century by a growing spirit of skepticism-finally crumbled before the
onslaught of physical science and scientifically-based biblical scholarship.
The fact remains, however, that (religious questions notwithstanding) many
Victorians remained supremely confident in their opinions on any number of
issues. Indeed, in the case of certain individuals, this confidence often
bordered on dogmatism and frequently expressed itself in an almost pugnacious
disputatiousness directed at an equally contentious-but other-minded-adversary.

This panel seeks to examine and reassess some of the important intellectual
debates of the Victorian era as they are embodied in the conflicts of specific
individuals. In particular, panelists are encouraged to address this question:
does our current understanding of a host of issues (environmentalism,
systemic economic/political abuses, mass consumerism, educational theory,
literary theory, etc.) confirm or militate against the conventional wisdom that
has traditionally declared specific parties in these nineteenth century
"the winners"? Moreover, where our contemporary views differ from those
prevalent in previous generations, what influences (cultural, historical,
gender-based, etc.) have helped to shape both our perspectives and those of our
critical predecessors?

All critical approaches are welcome. Possible topics for papers may
include, but
are not restricted, to the following:

T. B. Macaulay and Robert Southey: Views of History and Paradigms of Progress.

Robert Buchanan and D. G. Rossetti: The Ethics of Decorum in Poetry and

Robert Browning and John Ruskin: Allusive Poetry and the Literal-Minded Reader.

Matthew Arnold and Thomas Huxley: The Uses/Abuses of Culture/Science.

Thomas Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce: Religion as Science/Science as Religion.

Charles Kingsley and John Henry Newman: The Role of the Catholic as "Other" in
Victorian Society.

Charles Dickens and Jeremy Bentham: Utilitarianism vs. the Cult of the

Abstracts of 250-500 words should be submitted to Michael DiMassa via e-mail
( by September 15, 2006. Please include with your
abstract your full name, affiliation, postal address, telephone number, and any
A/V requirements your presentation may require.

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Received on Sat Jul 01 2006 - 07:12:06 EDT

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