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Religion and Victorian Popular Literature and Culture

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A keynote and six panel discussions considering new perspectives on the relationship between Victorian religion and popular culture.

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The category of the popular has played a significant role in the ‘religious turn’ in Victorian studies over the last two decades. Historians of Victorian religion have turned to popular culture and folklore to challenge traditional paradigms of decline and secularisation. Amongst scholars of Victorian literature and visual culture, there has been an upsurge of interest in the influence of new religious movements on popular literary and visual forms. This colloquium aims to extend our understanding of the relationship between religion and popular culture in the Victorian period by bringing together researchers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds to explore the expression and representation of religion in popular culture texts of all kinds.

The event will open with a live keynote paper by Anne-Marie Beller and Kerry Featherstone, titled '“No greater spiritual beauty than fanaticism”: Women Travellers’ Encounters with Islam in the Nineteenth Century' on Thursday 6 May (17:00-18:00 GMT). Focusing on accounts of Afghanistan, Egypt, India, and Algeria by Florentia Sale, Amelia B. Edwards, Emily Eden, and Isabelle Eberhardt respectively, Beller and Featherston will examine their representations of Islam and Islamic culture in the countries through which they travelled, to evaluate the extent to which their own respective religious, political, ideological and social positions shaped the encounters about which they wrote.

This session will be followed by six discussion panels split over two days (15:00-18:00 GMT, Friday 7 and Saturday 8 May). These sessions will provide an opportunity to consider themes and topics raised by recorded papers, which will be made available to attendees from Thursday 29 April. Please see below for the full programme.

Please note that separate tickets have been made available for the keynote session on Thursday 6 May and the panel discussions on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 May. If you wish to attend both parts of 'Religion and Victorian Popular Literature and Culture' please ensure that you select both types of tickets in order to be sent all requisite Zoom links and access to recorded papers.

Please contact Clare Stainthorp and Naomi Hetherington with any queries: vpfareligion@gmail.com

*This online event is supported by the Victorian Popular Fiction Association, British Association of Victorian Studies, the University of Sheffield, and Queen Mary University of London*

Full Programme

Please see the VPFA website for all paper abstracts and speaker bios. All sessions (recorded and live) will have closed captions.

Thursday 6 May, 17:00-18:00 GMT

Keynote: Anne-Marie Beller & Kerry Featherstone - “No greater spiritual beauty than fanaticism”: Women Travellers’ Encounters with Islam in the Nineteenth Century

Although there is now considerable scholarly research into Victorian women travelers, relatively little criticism exists about their negotiations with the religious cultures they encountered. Florentia Sale, Amelia B. Edwards, Emily Eden, and Isabelle Eberhardt produced travel accounts of Afghanistan, Egypt, India, and Algeria respectively. We examine their representations of Islam and Islamic culture in the countries through which they travelled, to evaluate the extent to which their own respective religious, political, ideological and social positions shaped the encounters about which they wrote. Each of these women was able to respond in their narratives to Muslims and Islamic culture in a way that was not defined by the specific context in which they found themselves. Both Sale and Eden were in positions of privilege due to marriage, but their responses to Islam were not solely dictated by colonial ideology or gender. Edwards and Eberhardt lived very different lives, but both defined themselves (and were posthumously defined) through their passionate relationships with North Africa and the religions & cultures (both ancient & modern) they encountered there. Both have been celebrated as independent and/or rebellious 19th century women who challenged dominant gender and racial orthodoxies. Yet such readings overlook the complexity of their responses to Islam, to Muslims, and to European colonial ideology.

Friday 7 May, 15:00-18:00 GMT. Discussion panels for recorded papers available for attendees to view from Thursday 29 April.

15:00-15:45: Writing for Children

Karen Gardiner – Growing up by growing down: Time, Space and a Theology of Eternity in Kingsley, MacDonald and Carroll

Cath H. Kennedy – Where are the Bible Heroines?: Women and Narrative in an example of the Child Temperance Press

Steven Spencer – “Daddy, My Pwayers”: Narrative and song in The Little Soldier of The Salvation Army

16:00-16:45: The Shock of the New

Alicia Barnes – Religious Imagery and the Railway: John Herapath’s Railway Magazine

Matthew Crofts – ‘God will aid us up to the end’: Religious Protection in Victorian Vampire Fiction

Marie S. Heneghan – The Ecstasy of the Everyday: Idolatry as Sacrament in Oscar Wilde’s Salomé

17:00-17:45: Glancing Forwards and Backwards

Mary Going – “Tarry thou, till I come”: Salathiel, Supersessionism, and George Croly’s Wandering Jew

Helena Goodwyn –S̶e̶x̶ Religion Sells! The Preacher, the Journalist and the Novel

Maddalena Ruini – The Popular Reception of Gladstone’s Religious Syncretism in the Homeric Thesaurus

Saturday 8 May, 15:00-18:00 GMT. Discussion panels for recorded papers available for attendees to view from Thursday 29 April.

15:00-15:45: Sin and Fallenness

Jen Baker – Revisiting limbus infantium and inflicting Purgatorial Punishments: Navigating the Sacro-Secular Afterlife of the Victorian Child

Laura Gill – Sensation Fiction, Genesis, and Milton’s Paradise Lost

Isadora Quirarte-Ruvalcaba – My journey through Hell: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh and the spiritual Fall as a path towards Illumination

16:00-16:45: Militarism, Socialism, Pacifism, Anarchism

Flore Janssen – ‘Life’s a Misery, and I’m Such a Big Sinner!’: Reforming People and Society through the Salvation Army Press

Lindy Moore – From Christian Socialism to Tolstoyan Christian Anarchism: Isabella Fyvie Mayo in the popular religious press

Petros Spanou – The ‘God of Battles’ and the ‘Prince of Peace’: Religious Debates in the Crimean War

17:00-17:30: Prejudicial Fictions

Daniel Grey – Faith Off: Toxic Masculinity, Hinduism and The Moonstone (1868) in Imperial Britain

Monika Mazurek – Roman Catholicism in the Tractarian and Anti-Tractarian Victorian Popular Novel

17:30-17:40 Closing Remarks and Launch of CFP for Special Issue of VPFJ on Religion and Popular Fictions

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