Posted on 10/03/2017
by Anya Eastman, third year English Literature student at Royal Holloway.
Royal Holloway’s Centre for Victorian Studies has been host to a number of fantastic guest speakers this year. As a third year undergraduate student, attending these lectures has enabled me to indulge and nurture my passion for the subject beyond the remit of my degree. My involvement with the centre has allowed me to experience research culture first hand, which has undoubtedly contributed to my love for Victorian studies. I have gained a sense of confidence and direction as I consider my options for postgraduate study.
Walking in the Dead of Night: Dickens' Nocturnal London
Professor Matthew Beaumont’s talk on Dickensian night walking was an opportunity for me to experience research culture for the first time within my personal area of interest: Dickens. This event tied in wonderfully with the third year Dickens module at Royal Holloway. It was invaluable to myself and my fellow undergraduates and was brought into discussion often in subsequent seminars. A particularly interesting aspect of Professor Beaumont’s lecture was the idea that walking at night allows a detachment from the presented self, enabling a freedom to explore alterations of identity unbound from the restraints and judgements of the waking hours. Considering how much emphasis the talk placed on space, it was incredibly apt that the lecture was situated in the incomparable space of Royal Holloway’s picture gallery, with Sir Luke Fildes’s Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward within view.
Professor Beaumont drew on this grim scene of a cold London night as a visual extension of his lecture, making this a perfect talk for any aspiring or accomplished Dickens enthusiast.
Living With Feeling in the Nineteenth-Century
Professor Thomas Dixon, Dr Sarah Chaney and Dr Jennifer Wallis each gave fascinating insights into feeling and emotional health in the 19th century. The actual format of the lecture was brilliant. Each academic gave a different perspective on emotional understanding in historical, philosophical and psychiatric lights. Dr Jennifer Wallis’s section on 19th century psychiatry and asylum records was of particular interest to me personally as one who hopes to focus postgraduate study on psychology in Victorian literature.
From an undergraduate perspective this talk was extremely accessible and engaging and it created a very inclusive atmosphere element to research culture.
Inside Out: The Enclosed Garden in Pre-Raphaelite Painting and Poetry
Dr Dinah Roe’s lecture provided an insight into enclosed spaces in poetry and visual art. One element of Dr Roe’s lecture focused on Charles Allston Collins’s Convent Thoughts. In particular Dr Roe looked at how the enclosure of the garden is heightened and intensified as a result of the multiple spheres of isolation surrounding the nun. This idea was expanded by Dr Roe inclusion of the framing of the painting itself; the frame’s door-like shape offering an insight into the isolating scene. Dr Roe continued to argue that this gave the impression that the viewer is gazing into a closed off space. This argument grew to consider the ways in which these boundaries could be broken down. This lecture provided a cultural and artistic perspective to Victorian studies which was invaluable to anyone aiming to transition from an undergraduate degree to specialise in Victorian studies in postgraduate study.
The Music of Edward Lear
Through the use of new recordings of Lear’s songs Dr Sara Lodge’s lecture transported viewers to post-dinner party socialising in the 19th century, a time when there was always a piano present and when children and adults were witness to the expression available through both vocal and piano music. The concept of ‘contrafactum’ was introduced by Dr Lodge which founded the interesting idea that by setting new words to old music a parody is created. But more than that, listeners hear a familiarity in the music, this imitates the memory residing within listeners from the first time they heard the music, both familiarising and de-familiarising the piece, creating an echo of music within memory. Building on this Dr Lodge went on to discuss the comic exploration of uncontrollable emotion and the delight in the possibility of music to simultaneously provoke laughter and crying, arguing that to be subject to one is to consequently invite the other.From an undergraduate perspective it was interesting to consider the relationship between Lear and Tennyson, in light of the prominence of Tennyson on my final year 19th century literature and culture module and the lack of Lear. Attending this lecture provided me with a context for Tennyson’s work that I would otherwise not have considered. Despite not being well versed in the works of Edward Lear this lecture was extremely accessible and engaging, not to mention thoroughly enjoyable and funny.
The variety of events that have been put on by the centre this year have enabled me to establish and develop my academic niche. The centre has helped me to discover and fulfil my desire to undertake 19th century postgraduate studies and I will be doing so next year as I embark on my Masters degree with hope to continue onto doctoral study in the future.