" Victorian Fun, Amusement and Delight," For the Humanities Congress at the University of British Columbia, June 1-7th, 2019

deadline for submissions: 
November 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
VSAO-Sponsored ACCUTE Joint Session

From Edward Lear’s owl-and-pussycat elopement, the Queen’s laughable rage in Wonderland, to the visual wit found in illustrations by Phiz and the Punch artists, the Victorian era was no stranger to delight and merry-making. In one sense, the Victorian era was a bastion of prudish puritanical “no nonsense,” of earnest rationalism in its documenting positivism and nascent naturalist sciences. In another sense, this historic moment also saw the flowering of imaginative merriment through the emergence of leisure time for working and bourgeois classes, which inspired a myriad of humorous and nonsense artistic forms to proliferate. Such forms made for a rich tapestry of fun: from fashionable séances, picnicking in garden cemeteries, to circuses, vaudeville, drawing room revels, sartorial joys and circulating erotica. In short, the Victorians took fun seriously, and the results were alternately paradoxical, unexpected, grotesque or outright entertaining. From their overt etiquette manuals comingling with sexual discourses, to emerging police forces emerging alongside sensational tales of Jack the Ripper and popular crime novels, “fun” in the Victorian era could be both trivial and political.


This panel invites papers that examine, broadly speaking, the ways in which fun was imagined, represented and conceived in this era. In addition, papers might inquire as to how the imagined and lived amusements of Victorians could be seen as cultural representations of the following: their hidden anxieties, their emotional histories, their desires for escapist revelry (and, for some, a fleeting chance to seek ephemeral moments of agency), of carnivalesque fun, or as responses or abstractions of looming concerns pertaining to various others’ daily struggles for survival. Possible themes might include but are not limited to:


  • print culture and the emergence of humour writing, editorials and comic illustration
  • landscapes of merriment, from theme parks and circuses, to concert halls, vaudevillian culture, cartographies of fun and amusing voyages
  • literary representations of fun, leisure, laughter, play, silly joy, wordplay, nonsense, absurdity, puns, or the amusingly bizarre
  • Empire’s imperial amusements
  • revisiting theories of the carnivalesque and counternarratives of historic revelry
  • feminist/cultural/queer/intersectional theories exploring representations of fun
  • narratives of pleasure: erotica, pulp, penny dreadfuls, celebrity, children’s fiction, speculative fiction, detective fiction, romance fiction
  • visual representations of fun (advertising, illustrations, comics, etc.)
  • interior design histories and/or design print culture (catalogues, pamphlets, journals, magazines) which informed spaces of fun in domestic and childhood culture


Please send an email attachment of your 300-to-500-word paper proposal, without personal
identifying marks, and the 2018 Proposal Info Sheet available on the ACCUTE website to, Emily
Rothwell and Lin Young c/o ACCUTE’s email: info.accute@gmail.com, by November 15, 2018.