What is “Victorian Popular Fiction” and why should we care? (VPFA)
Andrew KingLecture Theatre (Conference Room for overflow)
This 75-minute panel session, led by Professor Andrew King (Greenwich), Dr Janine Hatter (Hull) and Dr Helena Ifill (Aberdeen) is a showcase for the work of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association and its journal Victorian Popular Fictions.
Our research has shown that, contrary to appearances, a comparatively small set of authors still form the core canon of research published in Victorian studies: what is new about such research is how that small core is placed in relation to other texts which, nonetheless, remain on the periphery. The VPFA is dedicated not only to expanding the range of texts so that the periphery is studied in its own right - popular writers, literary genres and other cultural forms of the long
nineteenth century across the globe - but also how we conceptualise and study the wider field of nineteenth-century culture from the perspective of the “popular”.
The experience of members of the Association shows that students respond unusually well to Victorian popular fiction. Since such fiction was usually written in order to capture the general reader for commercial ends, there are few problems with basic understanding. As teachers, we can therefore more easily take the opportunity to explore the many issues of cultural and social hierarchy that such texts raise – issues which are still with us.
Victorian popular fiction has enormous potential to generate research beyond the traditional kinds of output such as the article and monograph authored by experts. Since many Victorian popular texts are available gratis online but have not received modern editorial treatment, they offer great potential for collaborative undergraduate and postgraduate research and assessment in, for example, the generation of online editions of various kinds, in creative writing, design, acting and video-making. This hands-on, participatory panel will comprise brief introductions from the panel members, before we share short extracts from Victorian popular texts and jointly consider how we have used them and might use them in the future, both in the classroom and in our research.
LEARNED SOCIETIES STRAND: Victorian Popular Fiction Association