The Nineteenth-Century Research Group

Promoting an interdisciplinary approach to the nineteenth century at the University of Lincoln

Category: Events (page 1 of 18)

Dr Richard Fallon, ‘Literature and Borderline Geoscience’, 28th April 2021

The next Nineteenth-Century Research Seminar will be ,online at 4.15pm (for a 4.30pm start) on Wednesday 28th April 2021
We will be joined by Dr Richard Fallon(University of Birmingham), who will be talking to us about ‘Literature and Borderline Geoscience: The Case of Paranormal Paleontology in the Late Nineteenth Century’
You can register for the event using the EventBrite link below, by the end of the day on 27th April


During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, researchers in Britain and North America locked horns over fundamental aspects of planetary prehistory, from evolution to continental drift. Figures both within and beyond the elite scientific community addressed these controversies, frequently relating them to religious belief or exploring their implications in fiction. The story of deep history was far from unified in a climate characterised not only by disputing experts but also by occultists’ claims to see through time and the re-emergence of young-earth creationism. Novelists, meanwhile, took advantage of the most sensational geo-theories, turning lost worlds like Atlantis into literary mainstays – sometimes making more serious truth claims than their fictional garbs implied.

Focusing on print, my current project seeks to map this little-understood culture of ‘borderlinegeoscience’ and to determine how researchers and the general public navigated its amorphous terrain. This paper introduces the project before turning to a case study of clairvoyant visionaries, including the freethinking Anglo-American family of William and Elizabeth Denton. I show how literary techniques formerly developed to encourage imaginative ‘seeing’ through time were literalised in the Dentons’ writings of the 1860s and 1870s. These writings claimed to recount genuine visions of the prehistoric past made through the power of ‘psychometry’.



Richard Fallon is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Birmingham. His collection of nineteenth-century palaeontological literature,Creatures of Another Age: Classic Visions of Prehistoric Monsters, is published this month by Valancourt Books. His monographReimagining Dinosaurs in Late Victorian and Edwardian Literature: How the ‘Terrible Lizard’ Became a Transatlantic Cultural Iconwill be published in November by Cambridge University Press.

4.15pm (4.30 start) Tuesday 12th January 2021, Matthew Bayly on ’Rabbits, Wheat and Laudanum: Agricultural and social change on the Lincoln Heath, c.1815-1850’

Apologies that the C19 Research Group did not hold a session last Semester. Despite our name, this was not because we were busy researching a COVID-19 vaccine.


However, we do have two sessions lined up for Semester B, both of which will take place online for obvious reasons. The first will take place at 4.15pm (4.30pm start) on Tuesday 12th January 2021, when Matthew Bayly will talk to us on ‘Rabbits, Wheat and Laudanum: Agricultural and social change on the Lincoln Heath, c.1815-1850’. If you would like to attend, please email and ask for the meeting link. All are welcome.


Please find an abstract and biography below. We hope to see lots of you there!


All best,


Owen, Alice, Pietro and Annise.



‘Rabbits, Wheat and Laudanum: Agricultural and social change on the Lincoln Heath, c.1815-1850’


A visitor to the Lincoln Heath in 1800 would have been presented with an agricultural landscape dominated by sheep and rabbit warrens; in contrast, by the mid-nineteenth century, the area typified Victorian ‘high farming’, characterised by mixed-agrarian wheat production. Such a change was at its most intense in the decades after 1815 and went far beyond agricultural practice, influencing such things as demography; the built environment; employment structures; social interactions; and the political-cultural landscape of the Lincoln Heath. Indeed, it can be argued that the period 1815 to 1850 was instrumental in defining the socio-economic expression of many areas of rural Lincolnshire until the mid-twentieth century. This paper will explore the development and impact of such changes within ten parishes in the Lincoln Heath, utilising three lenses to do so: rabbits, wheat and laudanum.



Matthew Bayly is a Senior English for Academic Purposes Tutor at the University of Lincoln and currently completing a PhD in History at Nottingham Trent University with a thesis titled ‘The Human Ecology of Need on the Lincoln Heath, c.1790-1850.’ His current research pivots around nineteenth century social history, with a specific interest in the English Poor Laws, the history of welfare and the politics of the parish.

4pm Weds 4th March, Prof David Laven on gondoliers and British gay men (MB2204)


Prof David Laven (University of Nottingham) will talking us on:

Amedeo, Angelo, and Antonio: agency, allure and annuities. Gondoliers, British gay men, and the economics of homosex in Venice in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’

This paper looks at a number of well-known British men (Horatio Brown, John Addington Symonds, Frederick Rolfe) who, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, bought sex in Venice. There has been something of a historiographical tradition – typified by the work of Robert Aldrich – of suggesting the Italian boys and young men who sold their bodies to older north European men regarded their ‘patrons’ benignly and with affection. There is another widespread approach to prostitution that sees it as entirely exploitative. In this paper, I want to suggest another model. I propose an interpretation of the sale of sex by Venetian boys and men to visiting or resident Britons based on the – unsurprising – starting point that it was an essentially economic transaction in which those selling the sex had considerable agency. They were not merely passive victims of exploitation, but rational economic agents, albeit ones with an often limited range of choices. What they were selling, however, was not simply physical gratification but also the chance to transcend class and cultural barriers, offering an understanding of a Venice as a simultaneously exotic and domestic place. British clients sought not simply penetration of the body, but penetration of venezianità. Relationships between British punters and Venetian men – often gondoliers who came to represent an ideal of masculine beauty – who prostituted themselves also built on an imaginary of Venice as a site of hetero-erotic excess, which referenced both art (from Titian to Fildes) and literature (Aretino, Casanova, Byron). I hope my paper will both puncture the Aldrichian myth of the ‘happy rentboy’ – the narratives of love and affection and mutual gratification were artful constructs – and restore some agency to the Venetian men who sold their bodies.


David Laven is Associate Professor of History at the University of Nottingham. He has held positions in both early modern and modern history as well as in Italian Studies, and has published on Italian history from the late fifteenth to the twentieth century. The focus of his work at present is on the way in which historians – Italian, British, German and Austrian, Swiss, French and American – writing on the Venetian Republic in the 150 years after its fall negotiated questions of identity when addressing Venice’s past. He has also published extensively on Austrian rule of Venice, on Italian identity in the Risorgimento and Liberal period, on British attitudes to Italy. He is engaged heavily in contemporary Italian struggles to challenge state-fostered myths of the Risorgimento as a successful mass movement. He is additionally involved in a project to reclaim the history of southern Italy’s industrial heritage, while addressing the imbalance in Italy’s UNESCO sites which are disproportionately and absurdly clustered in a few regions.

4pm Weds 5th Feb, Dr. Jonathon Shears on Hangovers (MB2204)

Our first session of 2020 is a topic to which surely no-one in the nineteenth-century group can relate: hangovers. More specifically, Dr. Jonathon Shears from Keele University will be talking to us on ‘Penitents and Egotists: Hangover Literature of the Long Nineteenth Century’.


The session takes place in MB2204 (Minerva Building, 2nd Floor). Refreshments are at 4pm and the paper is due to start at 4.15pm. All are welcome. Please find Jon’s abstract and biography below:




While research into the hangover is now a subfield of medicine and psychology, the topic has rarely featured in the field of drinking studies in the humanities, which has preferred to focus on drinking cultures and customs, particularly male and female sociability. Yet, hangover literature has much to tell us about the ways in which drinking is governed not only by physiology but also ‘cultural beliefs and social practices’ of the sort that Jonathan Herring has identified as central to understanding the representation of alcohol. In this paper, I will explore the presence of the hangover in literature of the long nineteenth century, considering what it tells us about the relationship between an individual and their environment, the politics of controlling alcohol consumption and the complex ways in which alcohol affects our perception of body and mind.




Jonathon Shears is Senior Lecturer in English at Keele University. He has recently completed work on a monograph on the hangover in literature (published by Liverpool University Press in March 2020). He has also published books on Milton and the Romantics, Lord Byron, The Great Exhibition and Victorian bric-à-brac. He was Editor of The Byron Journal from 2012-2019. He is currently editing the Oxford Handbook of Lord Byron.

Weds 4th Dec, Dr. Renée Ward on ‘The Earliest Beowulf for Victorian Children’

Our final C19 of 2019 features Dr. Renée Ward talking on ‘The Earliest Beowulf for Victorian Children: E. L. Hervey’s “The Fight with the Ogre”’. The session will take place on Weds 4th Dec in MB3201. Refreshments will be served from 4pm, with the paper due to start at 4.15pm.


This talk introduces to modern audiences the short story “Roderic’s Tale: The Fight with the Ogre,” by Eleanora Louisa (Montagu) Hervey (1811-1903), a forgotten but prolific and well-known children’s writer in the nineteenth century. This previously unrecognized and unexamined tale, which appears in Hervey’s volume The Children of the Pear-Garden (1878), may, in fact, be the earliest known adaptation in English for children of the Old English poem Beowulf, as it predates more widely recognized early adaptations. Hervey’s story, “The Fight with the Ogre”, speaks directly to the nineteenth century’s heightened fascination with and concern for heritage, history, and empire, transforming its source into an highly condensed narrative, one which effaces much of the original’s material that grapples with questions of humanity, identity, and otherness (racial, behavioural, and religious). It ignores narratorial digressions (genealogies and contextual tales); eliminates the final battle between Beowulf and the dragon; and employs a heavily Christianized tone. Presented as an entry in an ornamental gift book, the story includes an illustration of Grendel as far more human than the original poem or Hervey’s adaptation suggest. Additionally, the story-telling framework positions the male child as the precursor to the adult patriarchal head and provides instruction on how he should rule himself and his household.


My research has two main branches: medieval and post-medieval. Much of my research on the medieval period concerns the literature and culture of the high to late Middle Ages, with particular emphases on monsters; the romance genre and its cultural contexts; and relationships between English and Continental narratives. My published works to date on medieval romance explore embodiments of liminality and their connections to violence, and investigate how medieval authors use these representations to challenge or reinstate social hegemonies. These interests likewise inform my current book project, The Werewolf in Medieval Romance (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan) and my research on medieval outlaw figures.

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