2009 Conference: Tipping Points
April 17-19, 2009
Indiana University East, Richmond, IN
REGISTRATION, 12:00-3:15pm.Community Room, Whitewater Hall, IU East campus
WELCOME, 1-1:15p.m.: MVSA President Linda K. Hughes (Texas Christian U)
SESSION ONE, 1:15-2:45 p.m.
Tipping Victorian London
SESSION TWO, 3:15-4:45p.m.
Darwinian Tipping Points
JANE STEDMAN LECTURE & RECEPTION
Sponsored by Univ.of Dayton Dept. of English 5:15-6:15pm, Whitewater Art Gallery
Keynote speaker: Jonathan Smith, author of Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture
"1859: A Tipping Point for Evolution?"
Dinner—Unscheduled: see packet suggestions
SATURDAY, APRIL 18th
Wayne County Historical Museum, A Street & 11th Street, downtown Richmond
CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST, 8:30-9am
SESSION THREE, 9-10:30 a.m.
Competing Spirits of the Age
SESSION FOUR, 10:45-12:15 p.m.
Tipping Points in the Literary Marketplace
LUNCH, BUSINESS MEETING &
12:30-2 p.m, Museum
Keynote speaker: Ivan Kreilkamp, co-editor of Victorian Studies and the inaugural winner of the MVSA First Book Prize
"Victorian Studies Unbound"
SESSION FIVE, 2:15-3:45 p.m.
SESSION SIX, 4-5:30 p.m.
Musical Tipping Points
5:30-6:15pm: Walking Tour of the Historical District & to Gennett Mansion, Main & 19th
Gennett Mansion, 6:30-7:30pm Musical Concert, 7:30-8:30pm: “Popular Victorian Songs in the Novels of Charles Dickens” sung by IU East voice students
SUNDAY, APRIL 19th
Hayes Library, Hayes Hall, IU East campus
SESSION SEVEN, 9:00-10:30am
Men in Transition
SESSION EIGHT, 11-12:30 p.m.
Women in Transition
Library Lobby, 12:30-1:30pm, sponsored by the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, IU East & the IUE Humanities Club
The Burgan Award, Stedman Lecture Appeal, & Concluding Remarks: Thomas Prasch (Washburn U), MVSA Vice-Pres.
A year after publishing Prometheus Unbound, Shelley wrote in A Defence of Poetry (1821): “The most unfailing herald, companion, and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution, is Poetry.” His words were unusually prophetic since Hubert Parry’s 1880 choral cantata, Scenes from Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, has generally been understood to initiate the so-called English Musical Renaissance (1880-1940), a national composition movement linked to moral improvement. Given the piece’s iconic stature, it is strange that Parry’s Prometheus Unbound was rarely performed then or now. The reason for the choral cantata’s undeniable importance thus seems to be because of the poem and the poet, suggesting that the idea of the English poem was interchangeable for the ideal idea of English music.
Two years later, Maude Valérie White set a small selection of Prometheus Unbound as “My Soul is an Enchanted Boat” (1882), which Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1889) declared to be “one of the best [settings] in our language.” White’s soprano song with piano accompaniment was, in contrast to her friend Parry’s cantata, widely performed. Intriguingly, it was structured as a verse prelude, recitative, and arioso, suggesting a series of elevations from verse to song.
Focusing on Parry’s Prometheus Unbound, and informed by White’s “My Soul is an Enchanted Boat,” this paper addresses how Prometheus Unbound acted to awaken “a great people”, both in ideology (Parry) and in the concert hall (White).
“1824: Setting a Victorian Agenda”
Lawrence Poston, University of Illinois at Chicago
This paper proposes 1824 as a “canonical” date, along with 1832 or 1848 (if not of the same magnitude as those better-known years) for two reasons: first, because Walter Houghton enshrined it in the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900 as the first year of the appearance of the new Benthamite journal, The Westminster Review; and second, because it is also marked by the death of Byron. Byron and Bentham, Romantic and Utilitarian, could conceivably be seen as symbols of contrasting cultural initiatives, competing currents in Victorian thought, although the connection of Byron’s executor John Cam Hobhouse, with the new radical review suggests that such a distinction may collapse on closer examination. John Bowring’s account (secondhand) of Byron’s last days in Greece, published in the Westminster’s first year, and William James Fox’s opening essay in the very first issue of that journal, “Men and Things in 1823,” a utilitarian panegyric to progress but also an arguably Byronic condemnation of despotism, help to confirm the ideological connection between the new journal and the recently-dead poet. Within the necessary limits of a conference paper like this one, two other works seem particularly useful in characterizing the year. Carlyle, a commentator on both Byronism and Bentham, becomes something more than an essayist with his translation of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, a sign of the new importance of Germany to the late Romantic imagination, and Scott’s Redgauntlet, in confirming the importance for Scott of the 1688-9 settlement, also anticipates the debates on legitimacy and historic claims that marked the reform agitations of 1828-1832, years which, in the influential view of historian J. C. D. Clark, effectively demarcate the end of the English confessional state. 1824 may not have been a tipping-point in the sense intended by the conference title, but it was unmistakably a fashioning moment for the first Victorian generation, from Carlyle (born the same year as Keats) to Tennyson, who at the age of fifteen was carving the words “Byron is dead” on a rock in Lincolnshire. The chief advantage of an intensive study of a single year, I suggest, is that it helps us to see more accurately a cross-section of culture at a particular moment, and offers a point of resistance to our tendency to think of periods teleologically, as leading to something rather than synchronizing backward- and forward-looking views through which contemporaries read the significance of their own moment. By that standard, it needs to be added, the title of this paper is an absurdity, a point made at the very beginning so that conference attendees could, if they wished, walk out.