NTU hosts major international conference on Victorian studies, held for the first time outside Australia & New Zealand
Leading lights of Victorian literary, historical, and cultural studies are converging in Singapore for a major international conference that begins today. The three-day “Re-Orienting Victorian Studies” Conference, organised by the Australasian Victorian Studies Association (AVSA), is hosted by the Centre of the Liberal Arts & Social Sciences (CLASS) and the Division of English at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). This is the first time that the conference is being held outside Australia and New Zealand.
The theme of the conference “Re-Orienting Victorian Studies” reflects this move to Asia. Besides enhancing ties between Victorian scholars and researchers in the region with their counterparts in Europe and the United States, the conference also aims to encourage scholars to consider reformulating and re-conceptualising historical understandings of cultural and geographical relations during the 19th century Victorian era and beyond. Additionally, the event offers students from around the region an opportunity to present their work in a broader setting beyond the classroom.
Associate Professor Cornelius Anthony Murphy, Head of NTU’s Division of English says, “This is a very exciting time for the Division of English. This past year we celebrated the graduation of our first cohort of undergraduates, we significantly increased our number of faculty members and course offerings and, acquired one of the most important humanities databases in the world (Early English Books Online). Taking the lead as the first Southeast Asian host of the AVSA conference demonstrates the rising international recognition of NTU as a world-class centre for research in the humanities, offering a unique mix of global perspective with a strong Asian focus.”
AVSA President Joanne Wilkes, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, says, “The Association is delighted to be having its first conference in Singapore. This move has encouraged the participation of scholars from Asian countries, while also attracting papers from the US, the UK and Europe as well as from Australia and New Zealand. We have been very impressed with the enthusiasm and the organisational skills of our colleagues at Nanyang Technological University, and are expecting the conference to foster many valuable scholarly contacts.”
The conference has been designed to highlight the richness and interdisciplinary nature of Victorian studies. In all, about 70 scholars and graduate students from among the top universities in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Singapore, are slated to debate and discuss a broad spectrum of issues, such as to what extent did the colonial forces and colonised peoples interact with one another, and whether local methods of resistance and rebellion influenced colonial perceptions of others.
This diverse representation reflects the changing landscape of Victorian scholarship, highlighting the scholarly community’s increasing recognition of the mutual interchange of Eastern and Western cultural influences in the Victorian era. The history of Singapore demonstrates – to a rare degree – the success that comes from vibrant cultural interchange. In this way, the conference theme and location richly complement each other.
Fifty one academic papers by leading experts, including those from NTU’s Division of English, will be presented at the conference. The keynote speech was delivered today by Dr Talia Schaffer, an Associate Professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), who has written widely on late-Victorian popular culture, material culture, domestic conditions, and non-canonical women writers. In her address entitled, “Reorienting Family: Beyond Romantic Marriage”, Schaffer attempted to re-orient common perceptions of Victorian marriage. She discussed some of the major texts of Victorian fiction, from Mansfield Park to Jane Eyre and The Mill on the Floss, along with work by Charlotte Yonge and Margaret Oliphant, to show that familial marriage was a surprisingly robust category in the 19th century.
On Sunday 27 June, distinguished scholar, Professor Jan Jêdrzejewski from the University of Ulster (United Kingdom) will deliver the closing lecture, “Reorienting Victorian Studies: A European Perspective”. He intends to challenge some of the insular perceptions of 19th century British writing by considering it as not so much against, but as an integral part of the continent’s thriving literary cultural development, and in the context of the political, social, and intellectual trends which shaped the history of Europe – from Portugal to Russia, and from Britain to the Ottoman Empire – during that period.
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About the Australasian Victorian Studies Association (AVSA)
Founded in 1973, the Australasian Victorian Studies Association (AVSA) is an interdisciplinary and international organisation dedicated to research in the chronological period of the “Victorian Era” (1837-1901) and beyond. AVSA is a network of scholars in the southern hemisphere – particularly Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore – with ties to organisations in the United Kingdom and United States. Its global focus reflects its interest in reorienting historical understandings of cultural and geographical relations. AVSA also runs the refereed journal Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies.
For more information, visit www.avsa.unimelb.edu.au/
About Nanyang Technological University