Dickens Project Graduate Winter Conference at UT, February 2015



On a snowy Saturday in late February, faculty and graduate students who attended last summer’s Dickens Universe in Santa Cruz convened in Knoxville, Tennessee for the Graduate Winter Conference. Funded by the Dickens Project, this year’s conference was  co-organized by Professor Nancy Henry (English, UT) and Professor Ellen Rosenman (English, UK). Graduate student Kat Powell (English, UT) assisted in organizing the conference along with a committee of UT graduate students in the nineteenth-century literature division, including Becky McCann, Alli Clymer, John Stromski, and Matt Smith.

Dickens Project Graduate Winter Conference, Moderators and Presenters                                     Left to Right: Sophia Hsu, Mark Celeste, Jackie Harris, Brianna Beehler, Lily Zhu, Kathryne Ford, Amy Billone, Carol MacKay, Nancy Henry, Kristin Smith, Ellen Rosenman, Matt Smith, Kat Powell, Becky McCann, Kevin Sigerman, Anne Sullivan, Tara Thomas, Pritika Pradhan

Dickens Project Graduate Winter Conference, Moderators and Presenters                                       (Left to Right): Sophia Hsu, Mark Celeste, Jackie Harris, Brianna Beehler, Lily Zhu, Kathryne Ford, Amy Billone, Carol MacKay, Nancy Henry, Kristin Smith, Ellen Rosenman, Matt Smith, Kat Powell, Becky McCann, Kevin Sigerman, Anne Sullivan, Tara Thomas, Pritika Pradhan



For this conference, faculty members serve as mentors, providing feedback on student papers in advance of the conference. This year’s mentors included Dickens Project Director John O. Jordan (UC, Santa Cruz), Ryan Fong (Kalamazoo), Elizabeth Meadows (Vanderbilt), Carol MacKay, (U of Texas), and Ellen Rosenman (U of Kentucky). Professors MacKay and Rosenman also served as panel moderators along with Amy Billone (U of Tennessee), Nancy Henry, and Kat Powell.

Representing universities from the west to east coast, Canada to Texas (and Australia!), the graduate students presented engaging papers on diverse subjects from the rhetoric of nineteenth-century beards to the “behindance” of parentheticals in fiction to the musical mechanics of poetry. As always, the warm and collegial atmosphere associated with Dickens Project events helped make the conference a success. After a long and lively day of exchanging ideas, graduate students and faculty braved winter weather conditions to explore Knoxville’s unique charms.

We look forward to this summer’s Dickens Universe in Santa Cruz on Aug. 2-7, which takes for its focus Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit and American Notes. The Universe will be preceded by a conference on The Long, Wide Nineteenth Century, July 31-Aug. 2. Besides the scholarly program, attendants look forward to the nightly celebrations guided by this summer’s capable Cruise Directors, Anne Sullivan (UCR) and Kevin Sigerman (Rutgers). In the words of Nicholas Nickleby, “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” Hope to see many of you there!


Professor Michelle Meinhart visits UT on Friday, Jan. 30th

On Friday, January 30th at 3:30 p.m. in 1210 McClung Tower the Nineteenth-Century British Research Seminar will hold a seminar-style discussion with Michelle Meinhart (Music Department, Martin Methodist College) to discuss her work on Music in Nineteenth-Century British Women’s Travel Writing.

Michelle is an Assistant Professor of Music at Martin Methodist College in Tennessee, where she teaches courses in music history. She earned her PhD in musicology at the University of Cincinnati in 2013, and her research focuses on British women’s music collections and life writing in the long nineteenth century. She is currently completing a monograph titled Sites of Performance, Sites of Healing: Sheet Music Collections and Memorializing the First World War in the English Country House from which her March 2014 article in the Journal of Musicological Research was derived. In 2014 she was a fellow at the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Research Institute, “World War I and the Arts: Sound, Vision, Psyche,” and her archival work has been funded by the American Association of University Women, the English Speaking Union, and the Presser Foundation. She also plans to write a book on music in nineteenth-century British women’s travel writing. Her essay “Variations on the Grand Tour: Musical Seduction and Catholic Communion in the Italian Travel Diaries of Lady Anne Noel Blunt, 1853-4” will appear in Perplext in Faith: Essays on Victorian Belief and Doubts, edited by Alisa Clapp-Itnyre and Julie Melnyk, forthcoming this year. Currently she also is completing a journal article on nineteenth-century music collections at the Columbia Athenaeum, formerly a girls’ school in middle Tennessee.

Professor Meinhart’s forthcoming article, and the subject of discussion, is available upon request. If you would like to attend the seminar, please contact graduate student coordinator, Kat Powell.

Nancy Henry workshops her book chapter on Tuesday, January 20th


Professor Henry will workshop a chapter from her current book project on Women and the Nineteenth-Century Cultures of Investment at 3:45 p.m. in Melrose E-102 this Tuesday. An abridged version of Dr. Henry’s chapter on the economic contexts of Elizabeth Gaskell’s works is available on the Nineteenth-Century British Research Seminar’s group page on Blackboard. For more information contact graduate student coordinator, Kat Powell.

Virginia Zimmerman (Bucknell) visits UTK Thursday, Sept. 25th

Virginia Zimmerman, professor of English at Bucknell University, will give a talk entitled, “Stone Hinges: Archaeological Fantasy and Time Travel in Late-Victorian Children’s Fiction” from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. in 1210 McClung Tower. Professor Zimmerman is the author of Excavating the Victorians (SUNY 2007), A Sketch in Time (Cruïlla 2012), and This Powerful Rhyme (forthcoming from Clarion). The event is free and open to the public.

Zimmerman poster

2014 Dickens Universe

Recently, UT faculty and students visited sunny Santa Cruz, CA, where they attended the Dickens Universe. Professor Nancy Henry, who serves as the Professional Relations Director on the Executive Committee of the Dickens Project, has been taking two students  with her to the “Universe” since 2008, when she joined the UT faculty. She also brings one faculty member each year, and this year she brought Assistant Professor Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud before he leaves for his Fulbright Fellowship year in Morocco. Nancy co-taught a graduate seminar on this year’s text, Our Mutual Friend with Chris Pittard (University of Portsmouth, UK).


Left to right: Becky McCann, Matt Smith, Nancy Henry, Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud

Besides attending the fascinating presentations, graduate students Matt Smith and Becky McCann participated in more intimate workshops as well as a range of scholarly and festive activities. Matt attended a graduate student seminar led by Dan Bivona (Arizona State) and Peter Capuano (University of Nebraska-Lincoln). He participated in the pedagogy workshop led by Priti Joshi (University of Puget Sound) and Susan Ziegar (UC-Riverside) and attended the “Shapes of Dissertations” professionalization seminar given by Catherine Robson (NYU). Matt had this to say about his experience with the workshops: “The dissertation workshop will certainly prove invaluable when it comes time for me to begin structuring and organizing my project. The pedagogy seminar was perhaps the most fruitful, particularly the sessions we spent creating and workshopping rough drafts of syllabi for 19th-century literature courses.”

Becky took part in a writing workshop under the direction of Elisha Cohn (Cornell) and Jill Galvan (OSU). Along with five other graduate students, Becky had the opportunity to discuss and receive feedback on her current project on artificial resuscitation in Our Mutual Friend. She also spent most of her afternoons in a graduate seminar led by Claire Jarvis (Stanford) and Amanpal Garcha (OSU). During the professionalization workshops, Becky chose to attend a publishing seminar with Rae Greiner (Indiana), and editor of Victorian Studies, and Jonathan Grossman (UCLA), who serves as an editor for Nineteenth-Century Literature. Becky reflects on her experience:
“The writing workshop provided me the unique opportunity to have professors and grad students from other universities review my work. The range of interests in the group was exciting and impressive, the perspectives of my peers from other consortium schools refreshing and invaluable. I felt so fortunate to receive feedback from a group of scholars who were intimately familiar with the text with which my essay is concerned, and I enjoyed catching a glimpse of the kind of work other students are producing while reading excerpts from their dissertation chapters and the like.
“The graduate seminar was an absolute blast! Our group engaged in conversations that spanned the novel’s narrative necessities and thematic underpinnings, the daily lectures, and professional approaches to presentation and pedagogy. Again, the Universe experience–of forming relationships and working with peers and future colleagues from other consortium schools–was itself unique and altogether invaluable.
“The presentation seminar, too, proved illuminating. Professors Greiner and Grossman did a superb job of demystifying the process of publication at their respective journals. I left with a more thorough understanding of what publication entails and a clearer sense of purpose than I had coming out of similar seminars at UVA or UT.”

Graduate students and faculty also made time for the Universe’s many festivities. Participants socialize at PPPs (post-prandial potations), Victorian high tea, and even a Victorian dance (complete with quadrilles!). Matt and Becky also attended the annual play. This year thespians of all ranges participated in “OMFG: A Dickensian Travesty”–a farce performance based on Our Mutual Friend.


Becky and Matt take time to snap a photo with “Charles Dickens” post-farce

Students who attend the Universe will also be fully funded for attendance at the corresponding Dickens Project Winter Conference in Spring of the following year. This year’s Winter Conference, organized by Professor Henry and Graduate Student Conference Coordinator Kat Powell, will take place at The University of Tennessee. Next summer’s Universe will take on Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit and American Notes. UT students need not be specialists in Dickens or even in Victorian literature to attend the conference, but students who have attended the Universe have also participated in the 19th C British Research Seminar. Applications to represent UT at the Dickens Universe are usually solicited in February by Dr. Henry.

Nancy Henry (UTK) gives keynote at BWWC June 2014


photo 1


Professor Nancy Henry gave a keynote address on Friday, June 20, 2014 for the British Women Writer’s Association‘s 22nd annual conference, “Reflections,” hosted by SUNY, Binghamton. In her talk, “Fiction Reflected in Lives/Lives Reflected in Fiction,” Henry encouraged critics to seek out connections between biographical material and literature, but she cautioned them to do so responsibly. Henry explored the critical history of the misuse of biographical and literary evidence in the example of George Eliot and her biographers, which can be read in further detail in her recent book, The Life of George Eliot: A Critical Biography (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

Henry also addressed the rich potential found in the intersections between biography and literature in the case of Charlotte Riddell and the influence of the Bankruptcy Act of 1869 and the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 on her personal life, her literary career,  and her fiction. These cases and others will appear at length in her book-in-progress, Women and the Nineteenth-Century Cultures of Investment.

photo 3Henry also chaired the panel, “Reflecting on ‘Progress': Technology and Economics, which included UTK graduate student, Kat Powell. Kat’s paper, “Reflecting on Sour Grapes: Cognitive Dissonance & Innovative Shunts in 19thC Railroad Fiction,” comes from her dissertation-in-progress on Railroads and Regret.

After the conference, Nancy Henry joined some of her current and former dissertation students for a relaxing brunch by the lake.

Left to Right: Claudia Martin, Susan Ray, Kat Powell, Nancy Henry, and conference organizer, Angela Runciman.

Left to Right: Claudia Martin, Susan Ray, Kat Powell, Nancy Henry, and conference organizer, Angela Runciman.