CFP: “Strange New Today” Victorian Conference, Exeter, September 2011


Conference for postgraduate and early-career Victorianists

September 2011

“This English Nation, will it ever get to know the meaning of its strange new Today?” (Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present)

Chartists storm the Westgate Hotel in Newport, South Wales, 1839.

The postgraduate students in the University of Exeter’s Centre for Victorian Studies will be holding a conference for postgrads and early-career researchers in September 2011.  The conference will take place in the historic setting of the Devon and Exeter Institution, which was founded in 1813 as a private library.

Keynote speakers:

Professor Regenia Gagnier (University of Exeter)

Professor Philip Davis (University of Liverpool)


Prof. Davis will be joined by Jane Davis and Dr Josie Billington from The Reader Organisation for a discussion on crisis, Victorian literature and “the reading cure”.

Call for Papers:
In Past and Present, Thomas Carlyle conceives of modern crisis as a deadly riddle posed by the Sphinx – with a viable future or social collapse contingent upon the answer: “This English Nation, will it get to know the meaning of its strange new Today?”

This conference is intended to elicit papers that respond to the generative effects of the perception of crisis in the Victorian period.  Awareness of crisis stimulated intellectual enquiry in new disciplinary directions: in history and historiography, archaeology and classicism, evolutionary biology, economic and social theory, in literary expressions of cultural critique, and in personal and psychological narratives.  Such intellectual productivity – and the insistence upon circulating the new analyses of crisis within a public realm of discussion – constitutes a response that we might wish to draw upon in our own times of perceived crisis.

The commemorations of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and the returns to Marx for explanations of the current economic crisis exemplify a revival of interest in how thought from the Victorian period lives on in the contemporary world.  This conference is an opportunity to investigate the productive and prolific nature of the Victorians’ response to the idea of cultural and personal crisis – as theorists or as writers whose literary works could help us grasp “the meaning of our strange new Today”.

Please send proposals (of approx. 250 words) for 15 – 20 minute papers to no later than Friday the 27th of May.  Any queries regarding the conference can be directed to the same address.


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