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On Weds 5th Nov we had an enormously enjoyable session on ‘Approaches to Materiality’.




We had a panel of three speakers, each of whom gave a short presentation.

Jim Cheshire (History and Heritage) spoke about the reconstruction of interiors owned by Elizabeth Gaskell. Jim asked us to think about what an analysis of Gaskell’s own interiors might say about the concern with interiors in her novels.

Hannah Field (English and Journalism) talked about book jokes as a way of thinking about the book as a material object, analysing the tendency for authors to play with the grubby material concerns of print culture – including the economic motivations for publishing books – even as literary critics typically ignore them.

Finally, Kate Hill (History and Heritage) discussed museum donations and research approaches to objects, including network theory and object biographies. Drawing on her work with museum donations, Kate assessed the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches – what they enable us to do as researchers, as well as their possible limitations.

We then had an excellent open discussion of materiality. We talked about the benefits of using objects and the challenges we confront when discussing them, not least the every-tricky necessity of using language!

Thanks to the three speakers and also to the group members for such an excellent session!

We meet again on the 28th Jan. Details to follow.

The next event of the Midlands Interdisciplinary Victorian Studies Seminar is to be held on Friday 23 January 2015 at the University of Northampton.

The theme is ‘Victorian Education’ and the keynote speaker is Dr Phillippa Bennett, whose theme is ’Educate and Agitate: William Morris and the Meaning of Education’.

Proposals are invited for papers of 20 minutes in length, which should be sent to Rebecca Styler rstyler@lincoln.ac.uk by/on 28 November. A more detailed CFP is pasted in below. The committee hopes to confirm the programme by 5 December.

If you are interested in leading a discussion on the day’s theme, then please also get in touch with Rebecca by the same date.

CFP: ‘Victorian Education’

 “Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life…”

 23 January 2015, University of Northampton (time tbc – approx. 11–4)

 Keynote Speaker: Phillippa Bennett – ‘Educate and Agitate: William Morris and the Meaning of Education’

The next Midlands Interdisciplinary Victorian Studies Seminar, hosted by the University of Northampton, will explore the theme of Victorian education. We seek papers that address this theme from various disciplinary and multi-disciplinary perspectives. Topics could include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • Nineteenth century theories of education / Victorian and C21 pedagogies
  • Sites of learning (schools, museums, clubs)
  • Methods of teaching in etiquette books, guides and domestic manuals
  • Children’s literature, didacticism, anti-didacticism
  • Education of the poor / Purposes of education
  • The figure of the teacher / Literary representations of education
  • Nature and education / the Romantic legacy in Victorian education
  • Public schools (‘flogging and fagging’)
  • Educational Reforms
  • Women and education

Please send ideas for papers of 20 minutes length to Rebecca Styler (rstyler@lincoln.ac.uk) by Friday 28 November.

This is an informal event and we do not require full conference-type proposals – and please do not exceed 250 words. You do not have to live or work in the Midlands, but preference may be given to those who do.

As usual, travel bursaries will be available to postgraduate students on a first come first served basis – there will be 5 bursaries of £20, though if there is not much uptake we may be able to provide more help with travel costs to individuals. Please contact Kate Hill (khill@lincoln.ac.uk) if you are interested in applying for a travel bursary.

MIVSS is supported by the British Association for Victorian Studies.

Mark Hocknull spoke to us last week about the Victorian autodidact George Boole, most famous today as the inventor of Boolean logic and hence – along with fellow nineteenth-century luminary Ada Lovelace – one of the founders of our contemporary digital environment. Mark’s talk centred on Boole’s ‘On the Philosophical Remains of Bishop Grosseteste’, an unidentified, probably mid-Victorian offprint held in the library of the Lincoln Cathedral. Boole’s subject was the great twelfth-century Bishop of Lincoln Robert Grosseteste, who, like Boole himself, was a polymath – both a theologian and a (perhaps practicing) scientist. Boole identifies Grosseteste’s greatest ‘philosophical remains’ as his break away from syllogisms when examining the natural world: his move into a less rigid line of thought or argument in his works. At the same time, though, Boole was entranced that completely different methodologies could produce the same (correct) answer to a particular question, so that the Panglossian optimism that Grosseteste brought to his consideration of the natural world might yield similar results to Boole’s own more rigorously scientific investigations of, for example, lines and angles in the nineteenth century.

Mark Hocknull is Chancellor of Lincoln and Senior Visiting Fellow in the School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln, where he teaches history of science.

Image: Roundel woodcut illustration of Robert Grosseteste, from a broadside depicting famous astronomers printed in Zurich in the sixteenth century.

Roundel woodcut illustration of Robert Grosseteste, from a broadside depicting famous astronomers printed in Zurich in the sixteenth century.


Boole colour

Our programme for the autumn term is now confirmed! All meetings will take place at 4.15pm in Room MB1013 of the Minerva Building (previously the Main Admin Building).

1 October: ‘George Boole on Robert Grosseteste’ | Mark Hocknull (History & Heritage)

5 November: Panel – Approaches to Materiality | Jim Cheshire (History & Heritage), Kate Hill (History & Heritage), Hannah Field (English & Journalism)

26 November: ‘Boosterism: Place Promotion and Provincial Newspapers, a Lincoln Case Study’ | Andrew Jackson (Bishop Grosseteste)

Please contact me or Owen if you have any questions. Tea and cake for those who can make it, and – in case you were wondering – the pensive chap at top is George Boole, the illustrious Lincoln-born mathematician who is the subject of Mark’s paper on 1 October.

MRS TENNYSON: 'You know, Mr. Woolner, I'm one of the most un-meddlesome of women; but—when (I'm only asking), when do you begin modelling his halo?'

MRS TENNYSON: ‘You know, Mr. Woolner, I’m one of the most un-meddlesome of women; but—when (I’m only asking), when do you begin modelling his halo?’


This year’s Tennyson Society Annual Lecture will be delivered by Dr Robert Douglas-Fairhurst (Oxford) on the subject ‘At Home with Tennyson’. The lecture will take place on Saturday 14 June at 3p.m. at Bishop Grosseteste.

Robert is a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. His last book, Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist, won the 2012 Duff Cooper Prize for biography.

At top, Max Beerbohm’s ‘Woolner at Farringford, 1857′, from Rossetti and His Circle (1922).

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