2019 Conference — "Victorian Power"  |  Texas Christian University, April 26-28

British world power peaked in the Victorian era, when industrial might, rule of the waves, and cultural “soft power” paved the way for Britain’s “imperial century” or, as its most recent chronicler has called it, Britain’s “victorious century.” Soldiers, traders, missionaries, and others added more red to the imperial map at the same time as a range of new institutions, such as the Metropolitan Police, prison system, museums, and primary education promised greater discipline and an enlightened citizenry at home. And yet nowhere was dominion complete or unchallenged, from frontiers of colonial conflict to internal contestations over religious, political, and civil rights, as well as access to arts, education, and culture. MVSA’s 2019 conference invites papers on the subject of “Victorian Power.” Submissions are welcome from scholars working in art history, musicology, history, science, philosophy, theater, literature, and other fields of scholarly endeavor. Topics might include:
  • The aesthetic power of art, literature, and music, as well as the control that such institutions as the Royal Academy or the press wielded over these fields
  • The role of arts and culture in relation to “soft power”
  • The intersections of gender, race, and class in representing or theorizing a variety of forms of power
  • The circulation of power across spaces, whether transatlantic, imperial, or urban vs. rural
  • The science and technology of power 
  • Economic power of producers and consumers, including in the literary and artistic marketplaces where cultural products circulated
  • Religion and spiritual power
  • Political parties and pressure or interest groups, such as abolition, temperance, and constitutional reform
  • Coercive power of the state and its institutions regarding (among other things) crime, public order, censorship, conquest, as well as resistance
The 2019 Jane Stedman Lecture will be given by Dr. Pamela Fletcher, Professor of Art History at Bowdoin College; her talk is titled "Tears, Laughter, Sentiment, and Scorn: The Power of Victorian Painting." Dr. Fletcher is an expert on art and the commercial art market in nineteenth-century England. She is the author of The Rise of the Modern Art Market in London, 1850-1939, and Narrating Modernity: The British Problem Picture, 1895-1914; she is also the co-author of a digital humanities endeavor entitled the London Gallery Project.

Dr. Christopher Otter, Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University, will also deliver a keynote address. Professor Otter is a specialist in the history of science, technology, the environment, and the history of food. He is the author of The Victorian Eye: A Political History of Light and Vision in Britain, 1800-1910, and is currently writing a book on industrial Britain entitled The Vital State.

The 2019 conference will feature three seminars led by Dr. Pamela Fletcher, Dr. Purna Banerjee, and Dr. Joshua King. Seminars are open to graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars. More information available in the seminar CFP.

MVSA is an interdisciplinary organization welcoming scholars from all disciplines who share an interest in nineteenth-century British history, literature, and culture. For individual papers, panels, or lecture-demonstrations, send a 300-word abstract and 1-page vita (as MWord documents) by September 30, 2018, to


    For information on past MVSA conferences, visit the Archives section of the website.