Victorian Things

Nineteenth-Century Literature and Material Culture

22 September 2012, Oxford Brookes University

This one-day symposium will reflect on, and respond to, the current materialist turn in Victorian Studies and Thing Theory. Nineteenth-century literature is crowded with objects, but traditional methods of interpretation have directed us to focus on characters and plots. Through three thematic sessions, ‘Desirable Things’, ‘Anatomical Things’ and ‘Objects and Memory’, this symposium aims to explore the story of objects as ‘things’ with specific values and meanings in Victorian culture. This exciting day of presentations and discussion will be concluded with a plenary lecture by Professor Isobel Armstrong: The Thing-Character of the World: four artefacts in the nineteenth-century novel and four materialisms.’


  • Dr Tatiana Kontou, Oxford Brookes University
  • Dr Verity Hunt, University of Southampton
  • Dr Andrew Mangham, University of Reading
  • Verity Burke, University of Reading


10am-10.30am Registration
10.30-11am Welcome and Coffee: Tatiana Kontou, Verity Hunt and Andrew Mangham

Panel 1: Desirable Things

Erika Kvistad, University of York – Objects for Desire: Sex Toys in Villette

Kara Tennant, University of Glamorgan – Elegant Exotics: Fur, Feathers and Fashionable Femininity in Mid-Victorian Britain

Tatiana Kontou, Oxford Brookes University – Paste Jewellery: Courtship in Florence Marryat’s actress novels

12:30–1–30 Lunch

Panel 2: Anatomical Things

Katherine Inglis, University of Edinburgh – No sympathy for the revenant? The resuscitated body in Scott, Dickens and Eliot

Andrew Mangham, University of Reading – Collateral Objects and the Science of Suicide: Rereading The Pickwick Papers

Helen Hauser, Independent Scholar – Hand on my heart: The consequences of taking people apart and putting icons together

15:00–15:30 Coffee

Panel 3: Objects and Memory

Adelene Buckland, University of East Anglia – James Tennant’s mineral shop, 149 Strand

Verity Hunt, University of Southampton – ‘Please keep this for me’: Memories and Souvenirs of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham

Martin Willis, University of Glamorgan – A Solidified Fantasy of Things: Archaeologists and Travel Writers Memorialize Egypt


Plenary Lecture

Isobel Armstrong, Birkbeck College, University of London – ‘The Thing-Character of the World’: four artefacts in the 19th Century Novel and four materialisms.