‘Purity and Contamination in Victorian Popular Fiction and Culture’

deadline for submissions: 
February 28, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Victorian Popular Fiction Association
contact email: 

Victorian Popular Fiction Association’s 14th Annual Hybrid Conference

‘Purity and Contamination in Victorian Popular Fiction and Culture’


13th – 15th July, 2022

Loughborough University

Hosted in person and online with MS Teams


 Keynote 1: Claire O’Callaghan, ‘“A dangerous woman & of impure mind”: Queerness, Scandal and Fiction –The Curious Case of Emily Faithfull’

 Keynote 2: Andrew Smith, ‘Poisoned by Books: Reading and Writing in the fin-de-siécle Gothic’

 Reading Group: TBC


Call for Papers

The Victorian Popular Fiction Association is dedicated to fostering interest in understudied popular writers, literary genres and other cultural forms, and to facilitating the production of publishable research and academic collaborations amongst scholars of the popular.

We invite a broad, imaginative and interdisciplinary interpretation on the topic of ‘Purity and Contamination’ and its relation to any aspect of Victorian popular literature and culture that addresses literal or metaphorical representations of the theme. Inter- and multidisciplinary approaches are welcome, as are papers that address poetry, drama, global literature, non-fiction, visual arts, journalism, historical and social contexts. Papers addressing works from the ‘long Victorian period’ (i.e. before 1837 and after 1901) and on neo-Victorian texts/media are also welcome.

Please send proposals for 20-minute papers, panels of three papers (by individual scholars, or affiliated with another Learned Society), or non-traditional papers/panels, on topics that can include, but are not limited to:

  • The purity and contamination of canonicity, canon formation and critical recovery: what is ‘popular’; neo-Victorian subjects and texts; 
  • 19th-century ideas of classification, taste and cultural value, high-culture/popular culture divide; popular culture as contagious or a contaminant; the theatre, circus, music hall, opera; three-volume novel, penny bloods, railway literature;
  • Generic purity and contamination: genre boundaries; serialisation; media and transmedia; material culture; what is meant by ‘the Victorian period’ (from Victorian to Edwardian or Romanticism to Victorian)
  • Academic purity and contamination in regards to inter and multi-disciplinary studies; Victorian popular fiction in the ‘digital age’; publishing practices, teaching pedagogy;
  • Moral purity and contamination: chastity; respectability and the related social purity campaigns re (child) prostitution; ‘white’ slavery; incest; sexuality-transmitted disease and the Contagious Diseases Acts, etc;
  • Purity and contamination in educational discourse; conduct books;
  • Social purity and contamination: equality, diversity and inclusion; the ‘Other’, ostracization;
  • Racial purity and contamination: race; ethnicity; cosmopolitanism; crossing cultures;
  • Imperial purity and contamination: empire; (post)-colonialism; nationhood; national identity; borders; the periphery; im/migration; regionalisms; invasion and war;
  • Purity and contamination in relation to sex, gender, the ‘third sex’;
  • Purity and contamination in the body politic: class; politics; Chartists; Radicalism; socialism; anarchism; the crowd/mob;
  • Purity and contamination in relation to science; innovation; Darwinism; evolution; eugenics; vivisection; germ theory;
  • Bodily purity and contamination: health, wellbeing and illness; pandemic/epidemic disease; doctors, nurses, patients, medicine and treatments; the senses and emotions; medical humanities; disability studies; age and ageing; life and death;
  • Ecological purity and contamination: nature as ‘pure’; nature writing; travel writing; industrialisation, polluted environments and anti-pollution legislation and discourse; apocalyptic writing;
  • Gothic purity and contamination: vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies; ghosts and haunting; binaries; boundaries breached;
  • Contaminating influences: gossip; rumours; lies; scandals; sensation;
  • Religious purity and contamination: orthodoxy and heterodoxy; world religions; atheism and agnosticism; Spiritualism, Theosophy, etc;
  • Policing: boundaries; laws; including by/of the press; representations of the police, criminals, victims and the courts; reform;  
  • Metaphors of purity and contamination: cleanliness as purity; immigrants, anarchists, radicals, communists as invasive microbes.

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words, a 50-word biography, twitter handle (if you have one), your availability/time zones over the conference dates, and if you are thinking of attending in person or online, in Word format to Drs Anne-Marie Beller, Ailise Bulfin and Janine Hatter at: vpfaconference@gmail.com.  

Deadline for proposals: 28 February 2022.


Speakers should be members of the VPFA. To find out more, please visit the VPFA website: http://victorianpopularfiction.org/vpfa-annual-conference/.