Victorian Culture and the Origin of Disciplines

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Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, Durham University
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Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies One-Day Conference
12 March 2016
Durham University, UK

Keynote Address: Professor Bernard Lightman (York University, Canada)

'The term 'discipline' has two principal modern usages: it refers to a particular branch of learning or a body of knowledge, and to the maintenance of order and control amongst subordinated groups . . . From the beginning, the term 'discipline' was caught up in questions about the relationship between knowledge and power.' (Interdisciplinarity, Joe Moran) Philosophically intractable and educationally contentious, the concept of a discipline haunts modern academe with a long Aristotelian shadow, but how did Victorians define a discipline? What factors impinged upon that definition; how did they respond to disciplinary understanding; and why did Victorian disciplinarity exert such defining influence on its own and later generations of thinkers?

This one-day interdisciplinary conference aims to address these questions by focusing on Victorian culture and its creation, maintenance and promulgation of disciplines, covering the period of the long nineteenth-century. The conference will address Victorian disciplinarity from as many perspectives as possible from the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences; for example: architecture, musicology and art history; classics, history, religion and theology; anthropology, law and psychology; and biology, mathematics and physics. Speakers are free to explore the relationship between Victorian culture and all disciplines of the time.

We invite academic and institutional staff, postgraduates and other researchers to submit abstracts of 300 words for 20-minute individual papers, and 500 words for panels (three papers). Topics might include, but are not limited to:

• Who were the most influential people creating, maintaining, or transforming a discipline; what were their motivations, approaches and significance?
• What were the social and cultural channels of communication reflecting and promulgating the disciplinary agendas of important individuals and groups, and what role did popular and elite culture play?
• What disciplines were already established in this period, how did they evolve, and what new disciplines were founded?
• What role did the British empire play in crystallizing disciplines, and what European and other trans-continental intersections influenced the creation of disciplines?
• What, if any, was the relationship between professionalization and the founding of new disciplines?
• How were Victorian disciplines defined: through their presence in academic institutions (through professorship, degrees, or departments); through professional institutions (such as societies, associations, or institutes); through literary institutions (such as professional journals, handbooks, or textbooks); and/or through cultural institutions (such as shared histories and disciplinary creation myths or shared methodologies)?
• What impact did the creation of disciplines have, and how and why did it challenge pre-disciplinary ideologies?
• What were the relationships between Victorian disciplines and how did they function; what is the place of interdisciplinarity in discussions of Victorian disciplinarity?

Please send abstracts to Andrew Moss at by Monday 3 August 2015.

Confirmation of acceptances will be made by Tuesday 1 September 2015.

For more information, please contact Bennett Zon at or visit the conference webpage:

Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies
Durham University | Department of Music | Durham | DH1 3RL
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