Saturday, October 08, 2011

Reminder: NVSA 2012: Victorian Clichés and Orthodoxies (10/15/2011; 4/13-15/2012)

This message is a reminder that the October 15 deadline is approaching to submit proposals for this year's NVSA conference. The topic this year is Victorian Clichés and Orthodoxies.  The conference will be held at Columbia University on April 13-15, 2012, and will feature a keynote panel including Nicholas Dames, Yopie Prins, and Jim Secord as well as a visit to the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The text of the official CFP follows below. If you'd like a PDF copy of the call for papers emailed to you in order to post it in your department, please contact this year's program committee chair, David Kurnick, at

The Northeast Victorian Studies Association calls for papers on cliché and orthodoxy in and about the Victorian period. We encourage papers that reflect on Victorian conceptions of conventional thinking, practice, and expression as well as on the critical orthodoxies that govern contemporary approaches to the period. How did the Victorians understand cliché—a term that comes into its current use only in the 1890s—in literary culture, or in aesthetics (art, music and theater) more generally? What orthodoxies organized scientific inquiry, and what was science's relation to religious orthodoxy? How do we understand the marriage of heterodoxy and orthodoxy in religious movements as various as the Oxford movement and low-church revivalism? How did orthodoxy regulate education and domestic life? While the supposed political stability, liberalism, and realistic aesthetics of the Victorian period have often been contrasted with the social and artistic experimentation of Romanticism and modernism, such features of the period have been both vigorously debunked and vigorously defended as more dynamic than previously thought. We invite papers that reflect on the status of those critical shibboleths (and on the catch-phrases used to express them: “age of equipoise,” “the marriage plot,” “the gospel of work”) as well as on the literary touchstones that the nineteenth century seems to have produced in higher volume than any other. We also invite reconsiderations of older and newer critical texts—from The Victorian Frame of Mind to Culture and Imperialism and beyond—that have set the terms of debate for generations of scholars.

Topics for consideration:

Form and Cliché
Victorian melodramas and tearjerkers
ideology and form
“normal literature” and extraordinary texts
the invention of genre fiction
readers’ pleasures in repetition and recognition
canonicity as critical orthodoxy
poetic and prosodic orthodoxies
parody as ridicule of literary convention

Religious and Scientific Orthodoxies
religious authenticity and belief
religious orthodoxy as an adventure
Christian orthodoxy and its opponents (atheism, agnosticism, free thinking, spiritualism, etc.)
revivalism and the Oxford movement
scientific naturalism’s attack on orthodoxy
science as orthodoxy
scientific orthodoxies

Victorian Cliché
“We are not amused”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child”
“The angel in the house”
“The dismal science”
“Lie back and think of England”
clichés in Victorian advertising
cliché and mass media (cliché as a function of printing technology)
the history of clichés; how do innovations become clichés?
ready-made phrases, generic expressions

Victorian Social and Cultural Orthodoxies
political and economic orthodoxies
were the Victorians sexually orthodox?
unspoken orthodoxies; what goes without saying in the Victorian period?
orthodoxy as truth and as convention: did the valence of orthodoxy change in the period?
orthodoxy and authority
conduct manuals, self-help, etiquette guides
educational orthodoxies

Our Critical Orthodoxies
separate spheres
“Always historicize!”
prudery and repression
the marriage plot
the ideology of progress
liberalism and individualism
the hermeneutics of suspicion
modernist clichés about the Victorian period
angel/whore view of women
round vs. flat characters
the Bildungsroman

Critical Stock Phrases
“the crisis of faith”
“the gospel of work”
“the age of equipoise”
“the age of doubt”
“the age of compromise”
“the Victorian sage”
“the two nations”

Canonical Critical Texts
Buckley’s Victorian Temper
Armstrong’s Victorian Poetry
Langbaum’s Poetry of Experience
Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity
Marcus’s Other Victorians
Gilbert and Gubar’s Madwoman in the Attic
Williams’s Culture and Society
Houghton’s Victorian Frame of Mind
J. Hillis Miller’s Disappearance of God
Levine’s Realistic Imagination
D. A. Miller’s Novel and the Police
Sedgwick’s Between Men
Said’s Culture and Imperialism

Literary Touchstones
“Reader, I married him.”
“Theirs not to reason why,/ Theirs but to do and die.”
“Why always Dorothea?”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
“The Everlasting Yea/Everlasting No”
“nature red in tooth and claw”
“sweetness and light”
“How do I love thee?”
the “Dickensian” and Dickens’s characters’ tag-lines
Trollope’s titles

*     *     *

Proposals (no more than 500 words) by Oct. 15, 2011 (e-mail submissions strongly encouraged, in Word format):
Professor David Kurnick, Chair, NVSA Program Committee (
English Department, Rutgers University, 510 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Please note: all submissions to NVSA are evaluated anonymously. Successful proposals will stay within the 500-word limit and make a compelling case for the talk and its relation to the conference topic. Please do not send complete papers, and do not include your name on the proposal. Please include your name, institutional and email addresses, and proposal title in a cover letter. Papers should take 15 minutes (20 minutes maximum) so as to provide ample time for discussion.

The Coral Lansbury Travel Grant ($100.00) and George Ford Travel Grant ($100.00), given in memory of key founding members of NVSA, are awarded annually to the graduate student, adjunct instructor, or independent scholar who must travel the greatest distance to give a paper at our conference. Apply by indicating in your cover letter that you wish to be considered. Please indicate from where you will be traveling, and mention if you have other sources of funding.