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Fifth Digital DACH Victorianists Workshop: Victorian Affects, 08 December

With its burgeoning interest in materialism, physiology, and the body, Victorian culture can be seen as anticipating contemporary critical formulations of the affect concept (Cohn; Jaffe). Nineteenth-century writers like Alexander Bain (The Emotions and the Will, 1859), George Henry Lewes (Problems of Life and Mind, 1874–79), and Grant Allen (Physiological Aesthetics, 1877) explored the materiality and the somatics of emotions in ways that resonate with contemporary theorisations of affect. Modern affect theory, in turn, has developed an analytical language and a conceptual toolkit which provide, in Elisha Cohn’s words, a “provocative critical vocabulary and approach for Victorian studies” (564).
Commonly defined as a set of pre-linguistic, pre-cognitive, and unconscious physiological intensities capable of moving and connecting bodies, affect has been understood as a force that crosses boundaries between the material and the immaterial as well as the human and the non-human. Located on the threshold between the body and its environment, affective energies “make things matter” (Ngai 54) without determining identity, orientation, or direction.
Whereas the “affective turn” (Clough and Halley) has prompted research in various fields within the humanities and social sciences, Victorianists have only recently begun to explore the potential of affect for the study of nineteenth-century literature and culture. As a series of important book chapters and monographs (see Ablow; Cohen; Dames; Gilbert; Gooch; MacDonald; Morgan; Samalin) as well as a recent cluster of essays in Victorian Studies (64.4, 2022) demonstrate, however, affect is emerging as one of the most exciting subjects in the field.
This workshop aims to bring Victorian notions of affect and contemporary theorisations of the concept into dialogue with one another. We seek to address a number of related questions:

  • What can an affect-oriented criticism contribute to our understanding of Victorianism and its private, social, and “political emotions” (Nussbaum)?

  • What methodological potential does affect theory have for readings of canonical and non-canonical Victorian writing?

  • Conversely, what can the study of Victorian (con-)texts contribute to the critical vocabulary of affect-based literary and cultural criticism?

We are happy to announce that the workshop programme will feature a keynote lecture by Elisha Cohn. The workshop is supported through funding from Deutscher Anglistenverband e.V. The workshop will take place on December 08, 2023. For our CfP, please click here.

We look forward to meeting colleagues old and new - as always, feel free to pass our invitation on to any colleagues who might be interested in joining DACH Victorianists or redirect them to our website. Many thanks!

Very best wishes
Anja Hartl and Tim Sommer