Event: The End of Empire: Women Artists in Britain and Russia, 1880-1917

Elena Polenova, "Wall Cabinet", c.1880-1890 (V & A)

Elena Polenova, “Wall Cabinet”, c.1880-1890 (V & A)

Art, Craft, and the Fin-de-siecle: Britain and Russia (Part 2)

The End of Empire: Women Artists in Britain and Russia, 1880-1917
Friday, 9 January 2015
Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

In the second half of the 19th century women became dominant players in the art scene in both Britain and Russia. At the turn of 19-20 centuries women in both countries became prominent as progressive sculptors, applied artists and painters. Women’s patronage of the arts was also especially strong at the time – they opened art schools and studios as well as art academies and galleries.

Our conference will look at the aspects of women’s artistic practice in Britain and in Russia at the fin-de-siècle. It has been inspired by the exhibition ‘A Russian Fairy-Tale: The Art and Craft of Elena Polenova’ (Watts Gallery, 15 November 2014 – 8 February 2015), which intends to draw attention to the important role played by women in rural areas within the Arts and Crafts Movement and also as educators and agents of social change. Mary Seton Watts (1849-1938), the second wife of British artist G.F. Watts, and Elena Polenova (1850-1898), the younger sister of Russian artist Vasily Polenov, were almost exact contemporaries. Both women trained as painters, but became leading artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement in their respective countries. Each woman also coupled her artistic talents with a desire to bring about dramatic and lasting transformations in their local communities. Continue reading

Resource: BRANCH – Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History

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Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following web-based resource, edited by Dino Franco Felluga:

BRANCH, which is intertwined with Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, provides users with a free, expansive, searchable, reliable, peer-reviewed, copy-edited, easy-to-use overview of the period 1775-1925.  Unlike dry chronologies that simply list dates with minimal information about the many noteworthy events of a given year, BRANCH offers a compilation of a myriad of short articles on not only high politics and military history but also “low” or quotidian histories (architecture design, commercial history, marginal figures of note, and so on).  Since no one scholar could hope to provide a complete overview of an entire century of British society, BRANCH compiles material from a host of scholars working on all facets of the British nineteenth century.  Authors come from History, Art History, and English departments across the world. The site differs from wikipedia in so far as all articles have undergone peer review, copy-editing, and proofing.  Each article also seeks to interpret the events being discussed.  Indeed, many events are discussed by more than one scholar.

Thanks to its site structure, BRANCH offers users an innovative approach to history itself, suggesting that any given bit of historical information can branch outward in often surprising directions. Rather than provide a linear timeline of history from the perspective of the victors, BRANCH wishes provide a history that comes closer to what Walter Benjamin famously termed jetztzeit or “the time of the now,” an impacted history that explores the messy uncertainties and possibilities of any given historical moment.

See more here.

Review: Una L. Silberrad’s ‘The Good Comrade’ and Elizabeth Robins’s ‘The Convert’

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Una L. Silberrad, The Good Comrade, edited by Kate MacDonald (first published 1907; this edition and introduction 2014, Victorian Secrets)

Elizabeth Robins, The Convert, edited by Emelyne Godfrey (first published 1907; this edition and introduction 2014, Victorian Secrets)

Early on in Una L. Silberrad’s The Good Comrade (1907) the novel’s heroine, Julia Polkington, is described as sorely lacking skills that might reverse the circumstances of her debt-ridden family:

[To earn] any sum was impossible to her; she had no gifts to take to market, no ability for any of the arts, not enough education for teaching, no training for commerce. The only field open to her was that of a nursery-governess or companion; neither was likely to enable her to pay this debt of honour quickly.

As well as being virtually unemployable, Julia, we learn, is also bereft of many important feminine accomplishments. As one character snidely remarks, ‘she cannot sing nor play, she has read no science, she cannot draw, nor model in wax, nor make paper flowers, nor do bead work; she could not even crochet till I showed her how’. Unable to work or to fulfil the role of pleasing female relation, Julia is an emblematic Edwardian heroine: a young woman bound by an era in which, despite the pioneering activities of New Women in the 1890s, it remained unclear what middle-class women with energies and talents ought to do with their lives (she may not be able to crochet, but Julia is quick-witted, hard-working and resourceful). Even those young women who, unlike Julia, had enjoyed hard-won access to a proper education faced the problem, once their studies were over, as to how they might use their knowledge and skills afterwards. The second half of Alice Stronach’s A Newnham Friendship (1901), for example, depicts talented female graduates assisting with work in the East London Settlements before channeling their intellectual training into the familiar female roles of wife and mother. Continue reading

CFP: Materialising Modern Identities

British Medical Association Building, 1908 (with sculptures by Jacob Epstein)

British Medical Association Building, 1908 (with sculptures by Jacob Epstein)

Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following CFP:

Materialising Modern Identities: Architectural sculpture after 1750
AAH2015: 41st Annual Conference & Bookfair
SA, UEA, Norwich
9 – 11 April 2015
Paper proposals, to be sent to the session convenor in accordance with proposal guidelines. Paper proposal deadline: 10 November 2014

Session Convenors:

Katie Faulkner, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, katie.r.faulkner@gmail.com 
Ayla Lepine, University of Essex, katie.r.faulkner@gmail.com 

In recent years, sculpture studies within art and architectural history have grown exponentially, increasingly taking diverse themes into account including materiality, gender, postcolonialism and affect. In the rapid transformations of state power and imperial activity in the 18th century, through into the post-revolutionary political atmosphere of the 19th century, nations appeared to sponsor the celebration of the public citizen and actively projected imperial stability in the midst of change and resistance. Despite its association with permanence, sculpture was charged with representing change: materialising new identities and formulating representational traditions. Continue reading

Review: Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy

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Helena Gurfinkel, Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2014.

In Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy (2013) Helena Gurfinkel analyses the ways in which the literature preceding, during and postdating the Edwardian period presents father figures, sons, and parental-filial relationships that deviate from the traditional conception of oppression and submission which, she argues, typify our conventional understanding of patriarchy. While the conventional patriarch was an important figure within late-Victorian and Modern British literature and culture, Gurfinkel suggests, there nevertheless also existed what she terms the “unconventional” or “queer” patriarch.

As her title suggests, Gurfinkel understands the notion of a conventional patriarch as the law-giving father: the male, heterosexual head of the household who asserts his social, God-given dominance over his family and enforces devotion in women and children by establishing boundaries that they may not cross. She claims that this economically, socially and intellectually powerful paterfamilias is traditionally the figure identified by cultural, historical and literary criticisms of patriarchy. Continue reading

Essay: Bennett Amongst the Modernists

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On October 17th-18th, the Edwardian Culture Network will host a symposium entitled ‘Arnold Bennett and his Circle’ (see our ‘events’ pages for more details). In the following short essay, Dr. Andrew Glazzard, one of the co-organizers, anticipates some of the issues we intend to cover in our discussions.

I’d like to try a thought experiment – a game of matching the novel with the writer. Take two novels, both written in 1922 – ‘the year of Modernism’. One is set in a city, but very little happens. This novel is narrated with ironic detachment, and dwells on the drab lives of ordinary people who fail to understand each other. The other is an adventure story, set on the French coast during the Napoleonic Wars. It is about a pirate, features buried treasure, includes a love story between a dashing soldier and a beautiful woman, and ends with an exciting chase featuring Horatio Nelson.

One of these novels was written by an early modernist – an innovator who remains a fixture on university syllabuses, and has been widely acknowledged for his technical achievements and for bringing a sceptical, disillusioned world-view to British fiction. The other writer became immensely popular in his lifetime, was regarded by his younger contemporaries as an exemplar of everything that was wrong about the Edwardian novel, and today in the world of academic Eng.Lit is almost completely disregarded. Which author do you think wrote which novel? Continue reading

CFP: M.R. James and the Modern Ghost Story

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M. R. James and the Modern Ghost Story: a one-day conference hosted by the University of Leeds, to be held at The Leeds Library on 28 March 2015

Confirmed Keynotes: Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck College, University of London);  Darryl Jones (Trinity College, Dublin); Helen Grant (Author)

The conference will be followed by a public screening of ‘A Warning to the Curious’ (1972) and a Q & A session with writer/director, Lawrence Gordon Clark

The ghost stories of Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) are amongst the most influential in the English language. Never out of print, they have been adapted numerous times for stage, screen and other media and their formal and thematic features have come to embody the very model of the traditional English ghost story.

This one-day symposium is the first such event dedicated entirely to M.R. James’s ghost stories. The aim of this conference is to bring together researchers with an interest in James’s fiction in order to assess the significance of his ghost stories from a range of theoretical, literary and historical perspectives.

Although widely read and tremendously influential, James’s fiction has received little academic attention. The aim of this event is to foster further discussion and analysis of these tales and their place in late-Victorian and Edwardian literature and culture. Continue reading