Getting organized for conferences in 2016

I thought I’d share the table I put together to help me work out which conferences I’m going to to try to attend this year. It’s a very subjective selection, but might be of use to others interested in nineteenth-century women’s studies.

Conference Dates Location CFP date
INCS (Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies): ‘Natural and Unnatural Histories’ March 10-13 Asheville, North Carolina (USA) NA (passed)
‘Charlotte Brontë: A Bicentennial Celebration of her Life and Works’ May 13-14 Chawton House Library, Hampshire (UK) January 15
BWWC (British Women Writers Conference): ‘Making a Scene’ June 2-5 University of Georgia, Athens (USA) January 15
Literary London: ‘London and the Globe’ July 6-8 Senate House, London (UK) February 15
Victorian Popular Fiction Conference: ‘Victorian Popular Genres’ July 13-15 Senate House, London (UK) April 1
Brontë Society Charlotte Brontë Bicentenary August 19-21 Manchester (UK) NA
BAVS (British Association Victorian Studies): ‘Consuming (the) Victorians’ August 31-September 2 Cardiff University (UK) March 1
NAVSA (North American Victorian Studies Association): ‘Social Victorians’ November 2-5 Phoenix, Arizona (USA) February 1
Big BERKS (Berkshire Conference of Women Historians triennial conference): ‘Difficult Conversations’ June 1-4 (2017) Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York (USA) February 5 (2016)

As you can see, this selection rather reflects how split I am at the moment between the US and the UK. So far I know I’m going to INCS and probably to BWWC, but the UK conferences are more difficult as I don’t yet know when I’ll be able to make trips back. I hope to at least make it to BAVS this year.

NAVSA in November and BERKS in 2017 just seem too far away for me to plan at the moment, but I definitely want to submit abstracts for those – I’ve heard good things about NAVSA, and the last big Berks in Toronto was quite an experience.

In any event, they all look like they’re going to be great. Thanks and good luck to everyone involved in organizing!


Considering Brontë’s ‘everyday’: Angharad’s postcard from Haworth

My contribution to Placing the Author’s literary tourism ‘postcard project’.

Placing the Author

Angharad outside St Michael and All Angels Church, Haworth. Summer 2009. Angharad outside St Michael and All Angels Church, Haworth. Summer 2009.

Why I went…

I fell in love with Charlotte Brontë when I was eleven years old and read Jane Eyre and Villette in quick succession. I had always pretended to be above literary tourism so had never visited the Parsonage before. This summer, though, we were in the area just as I was thinking about how Charlotte Brontë would fit into my PhD project, which was shaping up to be more focused on life-writing – and less on novels – than I had expected. I realised that I needed to think more about how the life of the author might be interwoven with her novels.

What I got out of the experience…

As I walked through Haworth, peered into the Sunday school and wandered past the Church, Brontë became more than just an author for me. At the same…

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I never know what to call myself. It’s been over a year since my PhD was awarded and, like most of my peers, I’m not yet settled in a ‘proper’ academic job. In fact, just after I finished my thesis corrections, I moved to the States where my husband had got a job in an education non-profit, and where it proved far more difficult than I’d imagined to get permission to work and find a job. As a result, apart from some tutoring, I’m not teaching at the moment. I’m also not currently carrying out any research for anyone. So I’m not a PhD student anymore, not a fully-fledged ‘academic’ yet, not a research assistant, teacher or adjunct. I have to come down on ‘independent scholar’, which I hate for its obvious lack of affiliation with any status-giving institution, but perhaps should learn to love for its comparative freedom.

Anyway, it’s been over a year since I finished my PhD. It’s also been over a year since I last published on this blog.

This last year has been tough at times. Leaving London for me meant the loss of my scholarly community and peer group. I’ve also really missed the British Library and Senate House. I hadn’t fully realised how important these things are for helping ward off self-doubt and inspiring new ideas.

But this year has also been exciting. In May last year I presented at the triennial Big Berks conference on the History of Women, where I felt almost like I was being initiated into their amazing, international, academic (feminist) community. I also had papers accepted at the British Women Writers Conference (held in Binghampton NY) and the Victorians Institute Conference (held in Charlotte NC). I also made six applications last year for grants of various kinds – and got one! So in the next couple of weeks I’m heading to the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin to look at the papers of Charlotte Brontë’s friend Ellen Nussey.

This blog was mainly started as a promotional tool for various conferences I was involved in. While I probably will still use it to promote events and publications, I hope to also use it to curate interesting work on women, religion and writing, and to share my experiences of postdoctoral life and research activities. I’ve found that I far prefer following and reading fellow-researchers’ blogs than scouring Twitter for interesting snippets – maybe for the same reasons that I prefer novels to poetry? – so I’m hoping to discover new and interesting blogs or websites out there in my field.

Even after four years of study, and even a year on from my PhD, I still find myself fascinated by how women writers in the nineteenth century expressed, represented and wrestled with their faith. Religion was part of their emotional as well as intellectual experience, and this can explain why women writers don’t always say what we think they should, or why their characters behave in ways we don’t understand. In the nineteenth century the emotional and subjective experience of being a woman was different from what it is now. This seems like an obvious thing to say, but the ways in which Victorian women’s experiences differed from ours, especially where religious faith was concerned, is still only just being explored. I hope my work contributes to this exploration, and that even this blog in its own small way can be useful to those finding their way through research questions, PhD courses and the postdoctoral experience.