The latest meeting of the Midlands Interdisciplinary Victorian Studies Seminar, at the University of Nottingham on 16th January, explored the theme of Victorian Masculinities. Holly Furneaux’s (University of Leicester) keynote on gender and care in the Crimean War started the day, seeking to overturn the narrow popular and academic focus on Florence Nightingale’s role in the Crimean War to look at the work of male solider orderlies on military wards. Through a range of diaries and accounts of the war, Furneaux presented a fascinating and complex picture of the gendering of solider orderlies: forging emotional connections with one another, performing physical acts of care, and undertaking typically feminine arts of embroidery and quilting, all contributed to a vital reassessment of military masculinity.
Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that gray vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.
Derek Walcott’s poem “The Sea is History” was one of our starting points for the symposium on Sea Narratives organised as part of the Travel and Mobility Studies Network at Warwick. When we formed the idea for this symposium, we hoped to create an interdisciplinary forum that would generate multiple and intersecting perspectives on the rich histories, geographies, and narratives of the sea. We were certainly not disappointed, and the 6 speakers that presented throughout the day provided a fascinating array of insights into the places, practices, and politics that shape the sea.
The programme for the next Midlands Interdisciplinary Victorian Studies Seminar is now available, taking place on Thursday 16th January at the University of Nottingham. The theme is Victorian Masculinities and I’m presenting a paper titled “‘A brown sunburnt gentleman’: the travelling male body in Victorian literature”. By happy coincidence, I’m presenting a (longer) variation of this paper the day before, Wednesday 15th January, at a research seminar at Nottingham Trent University. The research looks at the return of male travellers from hot climes, focusing here on Woodcourt’s return in Bleak House to examine the class, race and gender implications of his becoming ‘a brown sunburnt gentleman’. This is drawn from work in my current book which I’m starting to extend in a couple of new pieces that will develop these ideas further.