The Victorian Tactile Imagination, Birkbeck 19-20th July 2013

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“This conference will explore the various ways in which the Victorians conceptualised, represented, experienced, performed and problematized touch. What does touch signal in nineteenth-century art and literature, and how is it variously coded? How are hands and skin – tactile appendages and surfaces – imagined in the period? By investigating the Victorian imaginary of touch, the conference will address and reappraise some of the key concepts and debates which have shaped Victorian studies in the past twenty years – in particular the emphasis on visuality as the dominant mode via which subjectivities and power were effected in the period: not least Jonathan Crary’s influential thesis that the nineteenth century witnessed a pervasive ‘separation of the senses’. The conference aims to investigate instead the workings of a more textured vision and reanimate the interoperability of sight and touch in nineteenth century culture.

The conference will also extend and build upon recent critical studies that have begun to explore nineteenth-century tactility in relation to material culture, bodies, and the emotions. By focusing closely on touch and tactility, it aims to establish whether and in what terms we might talk about a Victorian ‘aesthetics of touch’, and to explore how touch constructs and disrupts, for example, class and gender identities. It will also consider the historical trajectories of touch, asking, for example, in what ways does touch mark or blur the divide between Victorianism and Modernism?”

Text reproduced from http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/our-research/research_cncs/our-events/the-victorian-tactile-imagination. Image reproduced from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/victorian%20women