CFP: [Victorian] Victorian Underworlds (10/15/07; NVSA; Toronto 4/11-4/13/07

full name / name of organization: 
Jonah Siegel
contact email: 

University of Toronto: April 11-13 , 2008

"A sail / That brings our friends up from the underworld”
--Tennyson, “Tears, Idle Tears,” 1847.

NVSA solicits submissions for its annual conference; the topic this year is Victorian Underworlds.


They opened popular museums of geology. They dug vast sewer systems and subways and
excavated archeological sites around the world. They imagined new regions deep within the
earth and developed new methods for peering into the lower strata of their social hierarchies and
the depths of the physical body, places where desire and disease were thought to develop. The
human mind, the deepest oceans, and hell itself were just some of the nether regions reimagined
throughout the Victorian period.

This year’s conference seeks not to catalogue the many underworlds of the Victorians, but to
understand why the very idea of the underworld was such a powerful concept during the
Victorian era. Why were the Victorians so eager to peer beneath the surface of what was known
or acknowledged? Why did they keep finding there not merely depths, but articulated worlds? Are
there basic similarities among these many underworlds, or do they differ from one another in
important ways? The conference is also interested in mining our own scholarly practices: what
underworlds do we look for?


-Beneath the public sphere: the worlds of the poor; the criminal; the insurgent
-Colonial underworlds
-Below stairs: the world of servants quarters
-Fallen women
-Hierarchies of alterity (the sub in subordination)
-Victorian bases/Victorian superstructures
-Transgression and its discontents: the virtues or vices of (studying) the abject and subaltern


-Demi-mondes and sub-cultures
-Communities of losers and wastrels
-Secret societies or groups
-Beggars and beggar-kings
-Orchestra pits
-Underwords: secret languages; thieves' cant; soldiers' slang; Cockney
-The underneath in art: pentimento; undercoats; bohemia


-Under where? Under what?
-Burial of the body
-The sewer system as world
-The Underground
-Transatlantic cable
-Urban design for the underclasses
-Geological underworlds: strata; fossils; volcanic eruptions; caves
-"Dreadful hollows": mines; tunnels; secret passages; dungeons
-Deep waters: undersea excavation and building; charting; exploration; below decks;
fishing; submariners
-Fantastic antipodes


-The mind as world/the brain as world
-Paranoid worlds
-Mediums and séances
-Lingerie and dress reform
-The body as underworld: circulation; germs/microbes; sexuality
-The Fiery Pit: Orphic & Eurydicean; Persephonic & Demetrian; Victorian Satans
-Creatures of the underworld: Mermen; sirens; Kraken; dwarves; gnomes; Morlocks;
   vampires; and others
-Delirious depths: from wine-cellars to Venusberg

[The conference will feature a presentation on magic lanterns, as well as visits to the special
collections of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto and a
distinguished keynote panel.]

* * *

Proposals (no more than two double-spaced pages) by Oct. 15, 2007 (e-mail submissions
strongly encouraged):

Professor Amanda Claybaugh, e-mail:
Chair, NVSA Program Committee
English Department
Harvard University
Barker Center
12 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Please note all submissions to NVSA are evaluated anonymously. Successful submissions will
make a compelling case for the talk and its relation to the conference topic.

Please do not send complete papers, and do not include your name on your proposal.

Please do include your name, institutional and email addresses, and proposal title in a cover
letter. Papers should take 15 minutes (20 minutes maximum) so as to provide ample time for

The Coral Lansbury Travel Grant ($100.00) and George Ford Travel Grant ($100.00), given in
memory of key founding members of NVSA, are awarded annually to the graduate student,
adjunct instructor, or independent scholar who must travel the greatest distance to give a paper
at our conference. Apply by indicating in your cover letter that you wish to be considered (and
mention if you have other sources of funding).

To join NVSA, or to renew your membership for the 2007-2008 membership year, please print
up and return to Prof. Joan Dagle the form at the bottom of this document.
Jonah Siegel, President, NVSA
Department of English Rutgers University New Brunswick,
NJ 08901
phone: (732) 932-7679
fax: (732) 932-1150

To: Professor Joan Dagle, Secretary/Treasurer. NVSA
Dept. of English, Rhode Island College
Providence, RI 02908

I wish to renew my dues or become a member of the Northeast Victorian Studies Association. I
have enclosed a check to NVSA for ---$15 in U.S. dollars (regular membership) or ---$10


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Received on Tue Aug 07 2007 - 08:57:57 EDT