Victorian Science and Spiritualism (May 1-3; Proposal due October 31st)

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Midwest Victorian Studies Association
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Victorian Science and Spiritualism
Seminar Leader: Professor Anna Neill, Department of English, University of Kansas

Midwest Victorian Studies Association
University of Iowa
May 1-3, 2015
Deadline October 1st, 2014

Spiritualized alterations of consciousness, or "dreamy mental states," as the neurologist John Hughlings Jackson described them, are richly represented in Victorian imaginative texts, which record experiences ranging from brief shifts of awareness like déjà vu to protracted experiences of unreality like expanded reminiscence, double-consciousness, cataleptic trance or hallucination. Even as these altered states point toward the supernatural, they also draw on contemporary knowledge of the physical world (from psychology, evolutionary theory, or medical science) that is fundamentally respectful of scientific reasoning. Rather than exposing spiritual experience as nothing more than reflex nervous activity, however, the strange phenomena produced by dreamy minds might be said to constitute a spiritual dimension to realist depictions of Victorian social life.

This seminar welcomes papers on any topic that brings together Victorian science and spiritual experience. Examples are: the investigation of "rappings" and other spiritual phenomena; science and religion; visionary realism; psychology and spiritual experience; madness and genius; the science of mesmerism; prophecy and prediction; consciousness, the unconscious, the non-conscious; human brains and transhuman signals; trauma and transcendence.

Participants in MVSA seminars will write 5-7 page papers that will be pre-circulated to the other participants prior to the conference. During the seminars, the seminar leader and participants will identify important points of intersection and divergence among the papers and identify future areas of inquiry and collaboration. The seminar format allows a larger number of scholars to participate in MVSA and to seek financial support from their respective institutions to attend the conference and discuss a shared area of scholarly interest. Seminars are limited to 12 participants.

Seminar proposals that are not accepted may be submitted to the general pool of MVSA conference submissions, due October 31

Send a 300-word abstract and 1-page CV (both as MWord documents) by October 1, 2014, to Anna Neill at