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Conference: Victorian Truth, Investigation, and Mystery (5/21/2021-5/22/2021)

“In the Firelight,” by Thomas Gray, Belgravia Magazine, 1868


MVSA 2021 Auburn University, Virtual Host

May 21-22

The Executive Board of the Midwest Victorian Studies Association is pleased to announce - and cordially invites you to attend! - our annual meeting, to be held virtually May 21-22, 2021. 

This year’s conference will be focused around the theme from last year’s postponed conference, “Victorian Truth, Investigation, and Mystery.” 

The conference will consist of panels and seminars, as well as the annual business meeting and the awarding of the association’s Arnstein Prize.  Highlights of the program include:

The annual Stedman Lecture to be delivered by Dr. Jennifer Tucker (Associate Professor of History and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Wesleyan University) on the topic: “The Great Tichborne Trial in the Victorian Visual Imagination.” 

A plenary panel “Exploring Print and the Victorians: Views from 2021,” chaired by Linda K. Hughes (Addie Levy Professor of Literature at TCU), and featuring comments by Leanne Langley, James Merrell, Jennifer Phegley, Jonathan Rose, Andrea Korda, Paul Fyfe, and Patrick Leary, who will also be honored with the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. 

(The full conference program is included below for your perusal.  Please Note: All times are CST) 

The conference is free to any who wish to attend as an audience member.  Organizers do ask, however, that those wishing to attend register in advance, by completing this short survey here:


Organizers hope you will consider joining them for the MVSA’s usual two-days of rich papers and vibrant discussions, albeit in a virtual format.  If you have any questions about the conference, do not hesitate to contact them at: mvsacon2021@gmail.com


MVSA 2021

May 21-22

Auburn University, Virtual Host

** Please Note: All Times are CST **

Friday May 21


Conference Welcome

Christopher Ferguson, Auburn University


Plenary Panel: The Age of Secrecy and Discovery

Chair: Maria K. Bachman, Middle Tennessee State University

Secret Sharers in Dickens Elizabeth Corsun, Transylvania University

Me Too Rebel Jane! Am I Not a Feminist and a Sister? Kevin Frank, Baruch College, CUNY

Alice Meynell: Secrecy and the Sacred Fergus McGhee, St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge

Secrets of the Séance Room: Examining the Female Medium in Victorian Spiritualism and Occult Sciences Lindsey Carman Williams, Washington State University


Panel 1: Race, Ethnicity, and Empire

Chair: Madeline Gangnes, University of Scranton

Physiognomy, Orientalism, and Identification in Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood Menglu Gao, Northwestern University

Lost and Found: Victorian British-Israelism and the Discovery of Racial Destiny Eric Reisenauer, University of South Carolina at Sumter

The “Freak” Mystery of the Colonial Idol: Fact-Finding and Its Limits in Richard Marsh and H. Rider Haggard Shuhita Bhattacharjee, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad

Learning by Heart: Grace Aguilar’s Ideal Jewish Education  Lindsay Katzir, Langston University

11:30-12:00: Coffee Break

(“Coffee Break” zoom room opens now and will be available at any time throughout the rest of the conference for informal chatting space.)


The Jane Stedman Memorial Plenary Lecture

The Great Tichborne Trial in the Victorian Visual Imagination 

Jennifer Tucker, Associate Professor of History and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Wesleyan University

Introduced by Christopher Ferguson, President, MVSA


Panel 2: Reading and Writing

Chair: Melissa Gregory, University of Toledo

Thinking Periodically: Victorian Serialized Fiction and the Accessible Digital “Edition” Madeline Gangnes, University of Scranton

Writing the Line: Railway Fiction and the Industrialization of Nineteenth-Century Print Maddison McGann, University of Iowa

Decadent Pragmatism: Reading for Experience in the Fin de Siècle  Phil Hoffert, Stanford University

Investigating Rights of Way: Footpath Maps and the Creation of Thomas Hardy’s “Wessex”  Michael Martel, University of Alabama

“Capital Pains,” Poetic Publics, and Wordsworth’s Sonnets Upon the Punishment of Death  Ellen O’Brien, Roosevelt University


Panel 3: Detection and Mystery

Chair: Lindsay Katzir, Langston University

Girl Detectives Reclaim the Past, Or Attempts to De-Mystify the Nineteenth Century in Jordan’s Stratford’s The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency Series Michelle Beissel Heath, University of Nebraska at Kearney

Mysterious Waters: William Russell, Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, and the Popularization of the Detective Story Troy Bassett, Purdue University Fort Wayne

Guilty by Association: Pickpocketing and Prostitution  Heather Asbeck, University of Missouri

The Missing Woodhouse Treasures: A British Museum Mystery Tom Prasch, Washburn University

Trick of the Eye: Optical Illusion as Education in Jude the Obscure Jordan Bunzel, Indiana University

Saturday May 22


Seminar 1: Photography and the Archives of Truth, Counter-Memory, and Investigation

Seminar Leader: Jennifer Tucker, Wesleyan University

Legitimating Illegitimacy: Portraits as Evidence in the Mother’s Petitions within the London Foundling Hospital Archives Kristen Renzi, Xavier University

“Putting the Carte before” the Cullwick of Arthur J. Munby’s Archive Corey Risinger, New York University

"A Very Substantial Ghost”: The Crystal Cube Miniature, 1862-1868 Amanda Shubert, University of Chicago

Absent Presences: Hiding Maternity in Victorian Child Portraiture Andrea Kaston Tange, Macalester College

Photographic Illusion and Urban Truth: Imagining London as the New Venice, c. 1899 Christopher Ferguson, Auburn University

History through the Camera Lens: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Casa Guidi Windows Rieko Suzuki, Waseda University

The Street Children of London: Victorian Literary Culture and Horace Warner’s Photographs Greta Perletti, Università degli Studi di Trento


Panel 4: Science and Medicine

Chair: Michael Martel, University of Alabama

Fin-de-Siècle Catholicism, Truth, the New Science, and the New Spiritualit Bethany Kilcrease, Aquinas College

Enchanted Materialism: Science as Religious Analogue in the Age of the Fairy Tale Ian Caveny, University of Chicago

Politics of Aging: Pathologizing Old Age in Victorian Medical Narratives Chung-jen Chen, National Taiwan University

“Nature gives them bosoms for show, not for use”: Breastfeeding and Femininity in Trollope and Dickens Sarah Roth, Northwestern University

Suicide and the Victorian Medical Quest for Objectivity Drew Banghart, West Liberty University


Panel 5: Sound

Chair: Mary-Catherine Harrison, University of Detroit-Mercy

VENI EMMANUEL: The Appropriation of Plainchant in Hymns Ancient and Modern Sarah Amos, Independent Scholar

Is it a Strad? Forgery, Mystery, and Consumer Desire in the Late Victorian Violin World  Christina Bashford, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Codes and Secret C(h)ords: The Careers of Victorian Opera Singers in Fantasy and Reality Chloe Valenti, University of Cambridge

New Ontologies of Sound in Sensation Fiction: Deafness and Infrasound in Wilkie Collins’s Hide and Seek Jennifer Janechek, University of Iowa

Music in the Museum: Discovering and Displaying “Ancient” Musical Instruments Maia Perez, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


MVSA Lifetime Achievement Award Roundtable in Honor of Patrick Leary: Exploring Print and the Victorians - Views from 2021

Chair: Linda K. Hughes, TCU


James Mussell, University of Leeds

Leanne Langley, Royal Philharmonic Society

Jennifer Phegley, University of Missouri Kansas City

Paul Fyfe, North Carolina State

Andrea Korda, University of Alberta

Jonathan Rose, Drew University 

Patrick Leary, Independent Scholar


Panel 6: Truth

Chair: Thomas Prasch, Washburn University

The Meaningfulness Effect: Symbolic Realism in Middlemarch  Kayla Grant, University of Michigan

Olive Schreiner’s Art of Interpretation: Truth and Parable in The Story of an African Farm  Denae Dyck, University of Victoria

The Vacancy PlotEmma Adler, Harvard University

Multiple Truths: Dialogues on the Science of Landscape Painting in Nature Magazine Julie Codell, Arizona State University

Medea in 1866  Melissa Gregory, University of Toledo


Prize Award Ceremony and Final Conference Wrap-Up

Walter L. Arnstein Prize for Dissertation Research

William and Mary Burgan Prize for Outstanding Graduate Student Paper

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