VI conference rescheduled: October 22-23, 2021 in Charlotte, NC

UPDATE: Victorians Institute 2020 & COVID-19

We are happy to now announce our new conference date: October 22-23, 2021. We look forward to rebooting our “Reflections/Refractions: Victorian(ist) Ways of Seeing” conference in Charlotte, NC. All proposals already submitted for the 2020 conference will be automatically considered for acceptance to this event.

In the meantime, we still want to offer you the opportunity to share your excellent scholarship. The editors of the Victorians Institute Journal are always seeking quality essays for publication, and the journal goes on, pandemic or not. Stay in touch with the scholarly community and (until we meet again in person) submit your essays to the journal at For guidelines, visit the journal’s website at

Additionally, please stay tuned to the Victorians Institute website and our Facebook page for further information about the 2021 conference. Until then, stay safe. Kindest regards,

Bonnie Shishko and Casey Cothran

Refractions/Reflections: Victorian(ist) Ways of Seeing

Dates TBD, 2021 — Charlotte, North Carolina 

(PDF version)


In The Stones of Venice (1851-1853), John Ruskin writes, “The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.” Ruskin pushed his contemporaries to see the world for themselves plainly. George Eliot echoes this idea in Adam Bede (1859), writing “all truth and beauty are to be attained by a humble and faithful study of [human] nature, and not by substituting vague forms, bred by imagination on the mists of feeling, in place of definite, substantial reality.” In contrast, other writers of the period reveled in creating imaginative, sensational, or fantastical worlds that moved beyond the boundaries of the seen and known. This conference seeks essays that explore how Victorians saw their world, how they depicted what they saw, and the ways that modern scholars, in turn, see the Victorians. Papers or panels on poetry, prose, nonfiction, biography, digital humanities, or visual art are welcome, as are presentations on the pedagogy and ethics of teaching Victorian literature in 2020-21.

Possible topics include:

  • Emotional, Intellectual, Aesthetic Insight
  • Visual Print Culture, Advertising, Ephemera
  • Visual Technology: Magic Lanterns, the Diorama, Binoculars, the Stereoscope
  • Optical Illusions/Literary Allusions
  • Observation & the (Scientific) Eye: Telescopes, Microscopes, Mirrors, Glasses
  • Victorian Photography/Illustration
  • The Imagination/The Mind’s Eye
  • Seeing Ghosts & Gothic Ways of Seeing
  • The Spectacle/Spectacular
  • The Great Exhibition
  • Shadows/Secrets/Surveillance
  • Mesmerists & Spiritualists
  • Performance/Performativity
  • Victorian Theater
  • The Visible/Invisible
  • Detectives/Detection, Criminals/Crime
  • Memoir/Memory/Retrospection
  • Fantasy & Reality
  • Travel & Travelogues
  • Pornography/Iconography
  • Food & its Presentation: the Home & the Restaurant
  • Self-Perception/Self-Construction
  • Victorian Landscapes & the Natural World
  • Art/Art Criticism/The Art Gallery
  • Medieval Revival & Revisions
  • Erasure & Censorship
  • Literal/Figurative Blindness
  • Objects/Objectification/the Other
  • Neo-Victorian/Modern Perceptions
  • Pedagogy: Victorians in the Age of #metoo

Please send a 300-word abstract and 1-page c.v. to the conference organizers at (Word or PDF format) by May 1st, 2021. Proposals should include contact information. Panel proposals should include contact information for all participants, a synopsis of the panel, and abstracts for all papers.

“Folded eyes see brighter colors than the open ever do.”

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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