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The Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies

Victorian Interdisciplinarity International Conference 2018 

Durham University

12 May 2018

CfP Deadline: 1 March 2018

Hosts: Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies & Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies

Organising Committee: Rosemary Mitchell, Efram Sera-Shriar (Leeds Trinity University); Bennett Zon (Durham University); Helen Kingstone (University of Glasgow)

Keynote speaker: Gowan Dawson (University of Leicester)

The Victorian Interdisciplinarity project combines expertise at Durham and Leeds Trinity to build upon a current project called Victorian Culture and the Origin of Disciplines, led by cultural historian Bennett Zon (Durham) and historian of science Bernard Lightman (York University, Canada). Begun at Durham’s Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, that project explores the factors underpinning the coalescence of modern disciplines, while problematizing conventional notions of disciplinary crystallization and exposing deep channels of interdisciplinary interaction. Led by a combination of scholars at Durham and Leeds Trinity, including cultural historians Helen Kingstone and Rosemary Mitchell, historian of science Efram Sera-Shriar and Bennett Zon, Victorian Interdisciplinarity extends this project by magnifying focus on the dynamics of interdisciplinary interaction in the formation and promulgation of individual disciplines. It tests the nature of Victorian Britain’s interdisciplinary project by probing mutual implications in the genesis of arts and sciences, including hard and soft sciences, social sciences, humanities and performative arts. These topics are reflected in a series of three main events comprising two separate workshops: Victorian Disciplinarity and the Arts (Saturday 25 November 2017, Durham); Victorian Disciplinarity and the Sciences (Friday 23 February 2018, Leeds Trinity); and an international conference (Saturday 12 May 2018, Durham). Related events are also being planned, including a CNCS workshop and guest lecture led by Bernard Lightman, and activities at Leeds Trinity.

According to Joe Moran ‘‘interdisciplinarity’ provides a democratic, dynamic and co-operative alternative to the old-fashioned, inward-looking and cliquish nature of disciplines. And yet this straightforward interpretation begs a number of questions: how exactly does interdisciplinary research aspire to be warm, mutually developing, consultative? Can disciplinary divisions be so easily broken down or transcended? Is it not inevitable that there should be some means of ordering and structuring knowledge?’ (Interdisciplinarity, 2011)

This project seeks to probe the ways Victorian ordered and structured knowledge by viewing their intellectual landscape as non-disciplinary. Testing modern disciplinary and interdisciplinary configurations of professional disciplinary coalescence, Victorian Interdisciplinarity draws upon the methodology underpinning Peter’s Bowler’s transformative concept of the non-Darwin revolution. While Bowler argues that Victorian evolutionary ideas failed to produce crystalized ideological hegemonies, Victorian Interdisciplinarity proffers a transformative disciplinary landscape in constant flux – effectively a non-disciplinary revolution.

Within discussions of interdisciplinarity the Arts and Science have tended to reflect S.P. Snow’s dichotomous concept of Two Cultures. This project synthesises rather than separates our methodological insights to produce a holistic and comprehensive understanding of Victorian interdisciplinarity.

  • How was Victorian knowledge organized – is it disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, or even non-disciplinary?
  • Is interdisciplinarity a legitimate concept to apply to Victorian disciplinary interrelationships? What were the politics of disciplinary borders, and how did they facilitate/impede interdisciplinarity?
  • What were the processes, practices, mechanisms, discourses, and publication modes of Victorian interdisciplinarity?
  • What role did individuals and networks (such as learned societies) play in the coalescence of Victorian interdisciplinarity?
  • What were the counter-trends working against disciplinary formations, and what caused them – eg. tensions between elite and popular practitioners and forms, or peripheral/provincial v. central locations; issues of gender, class, and ethnicity/race; religion; rural and urban; colonial, imperial and global/transnational dimensions of knowledge?
  • How can studying Victorian interdisciplinary help to inform the theory and practice of interdisciplinarity for us today?

Individual Proposal abstracts for a single speaker (20 minutes + 10 discussion) should be 350 words and clearly describe the argument, evidence, and research findings, situate the work in relation to previous scholarship, and articulate how the research contributes to research into Victorian interdisciplinary.

Panel Proposal abstracts for 3 speakers (1 ½ hours) or 4 speakers (2 hours) should be 350 words and provide an outline of the main argument, evidence, and research findings of the panel, as well as situating the panel’s work in relation to previous scholarship and articulating how the research contributes to research into Victorian interdisciplinary. The panel organizer should also include an individual proposal abstract for each paper following the guidelines for Individual Proposals, along with each panelist’s contact information. Panel Proposals will be considered only as a whole, the session’s coherence being an essential part of the evaluation process.

Submission information

Please send your proposals as Word documents to cncs@durham.ac.uk no later than 1 March 2018. The following format should be used:

  • Name, affiliation (if applicable) and contact details (postal address, email and phone)
  • Type of presentation (individual or panel)
  • Abstract title
  • Audio-visual and other requirements (the following are available: Data projector or large plasma screen; Desktop PC; VGA, HDMI and 3.5mm audio inputs; CD player; DVD player; Visualiser; Piano)
  • Brief biography (150 words)