Book Review: Literary Bric-à-Brac and the Victorians: From Commodities to Oddities – Nineteenth-Century Studies
My review of Jonathon Shears and Jen Harrison’s edited volume Literary Bric-à-Brac and the Victorians: From Commodities to Oddities is now up on Nineteenth-Century Studies’ online forum, as part of a series of reviews of books on nineteenth-century materialities. See it here.
Victorian hand calling card, private collection.
A slightly belated Week in Review post.
As I’ve noted before, Notches and the Age of Revolutions blogs are amongst my favourite academic blogs, and both present really interesting work in their respective fields. Of late, I particularly enjoyed Notches’ ‘Femme Histories Roundtable‘ series (parts I and II), as well as this amazing post on ‘Disembodied Desire‘, focusing on disembodied Victorian limbs, as seen in the above calling card.
In case you missed me excitedly sharing this on Twitter and Facebook, here’s a Hyperallergic article on Sotheby’s first-ever auction of erotic artworks. I was particularly enamoured with this incredible painted plywood table, a copy after those supposedly held in a secret erotic salon of Catherine the Great. For this and many other fascinating objects check out the auction catalogue.
I hugely enjoyed this article on the history of the colour red from The Paris Review, and was fascinated by this touching article on the epistolary correspondence of two men during the Second World War.
I was keen to watch this webinar on ‘Exploring the Africana Historic Postcard Collection‘, which discusses the African Section of the Library of Congress’ African and Middle Eastern Division’s collection of more than 2000 historical photographic postcards. The collection is an important visual record of Africa and its people during the historically intensive years of European colonialism from 1895 to 1960.
I also really enjoyed Pat Thomson’s thought-provoking post on developing institutional writing cultures. Thomson writes compellingly about the need for rebuilding such collective practices, which is something that strongly rings true for me as a participant in an academic writing group. Thomson’s post was written a few days before my fellow writing-group attendee Lucie Whitmore wrote a post on our writing group for the SGSAH Blog, and they had a lovely synchronicity in my mind. I’m also going to write an update post on my own progress with the writing group at some point soon, so watch this space.
Publications wise, the table of contents for the first issue of the Journal for Art Market Studies (Vol 1, No 1 (2017)), also caught my attention this week, as did this call for book proposals on Gender and Culture in the Romantic Era. I was also really excited to see that Joanna Cohen’s book Luxurious Citizens: The Politics of Consumption in Nineteenth-Century America has now been published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. I’m sure this book will become an essential text for me as I expand my research to look at nineteenth-century American material culture.
CFP: Consuming Gender, Assuming Gender one-day symposium (14 July 2017, Cardiff University)
CFP: Decor and Architecture (Lausanne, 16-17 Nov 17)
CFP: French and English Rivalries in Dress and Textiles 1700-1914 (Paris, October 13-14, 2017)
CFP: “Emotions, Death and Dying” -PJHS (Winter 2017)
CFP: Queering the Transpacific: Asian American, American and Asian Queer Studies (March 31, 2017)
Finally, I noted with interest that there a number of vacancies on the Design History Society’s Board of Trustees, applications are due by mid-March.
Thanks to a 2016 Research Travel Grant from the Design History Society, I was able to conduct crucial primary research for the completion of my monograph, which is provisionally titled Home Ties: Materiality, Sociability and Emotion in British Domestic Space, 1750-1840. It is the first study to focus on the complex relationship between emotion, identity, and the material culture of the home during this period, exploring how the decoration of domestic space allowed contemporaries to express themselves, to show affection to their loved ones, and to construct the homes in which they lived.
Specifically, a Design History Society Research Travel Grant enabled me to conduct research for three of the book’s chapters, which examine descriptions of interior design in the travel writing of Caroline Lybbe Powys, reputation management and the interiors of John Wilkes’s retirement cottage on the Isle of Wight, and Anne Seymour Damer’s inheritance of Horace Walpole’s Gothic revival home, Strawberry Hill, in turn. At the British Library, I consulted the papers, journals, and correspondence of Caroline Lybbe Powys, Anne Seymour Damer, and John Wilkes, whilst at the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Wellcome Library, I viewed the correspondence of Mary Berry, a close friend of Damer and Walpole. I discovered many exciting finds in archives, including a number of previously unknown portraits, as well as a recipe for shellwork cement shared between friends, highlighting the collaborative nature of such craft practices. I also read many letters describing key elements of the interiors of Walpole and Damer’s homes, which I will continue to think about during my forthcoming research trip to Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library, where I’ll also be investigating the relationship between the two figures.
The Grant also allowed me to visit Strawberry Hill itself, which has been the subject of a sensitive restoration and was reopened to the public in 2010. Being able to walk through the spaces so lovingly described by its owners and viewers was immensely important and highly evocative, particularly for a project concerned with issues of emotion and experience. The visit also revealed that despite the importance of Damer and Walpole’s relationship, the narratives of queer inheritance and ownership that are at the heart of my book chapter are entirely absent from Strawberry Hill’s current public presentation.
I’m excited to utilise this archival research in my forthcoming monograph, and would like to thank the Design History Society, the British Library, the Royal College of Surgeons and the Wellcome Library for making this research possible.
N.B. A version of this post will also appear on the Design History Society blog.
Inspired by a number of reflective end-of-year blog posts (including this and this) I thought I’d map out my aims and activities for 2017. If you’d like to gain a sense of what I achieved in 2016, you can check out my series on being a year post-phd here, here, and here.
Yale Center for British Art
As always seems to be the case, 2017 is shaping up to be a very busy year.
In January, I’m primarily working on editing my PhD thesis for publication: firstly, I’m editing the sample chapters of my book that will be submitted for review, and secondly, I’m revising an article on needlework and visual culture, which is currently at revise and resubmit stage with a peer-reviewed journal. As a broader research aim, I also want to develop a sustainable daily writing habit during this month.
January is also the month in which I return to teaching, and this term I’m teaching four courses, one of which is completely new to me. I’m excited (and slightly apprehensive) about the challenges of a heavier teaching load, and interested to find ways of balancing my time between teaching and research commitments. Indeed, while teaching and marking dominate the months of January, February and March, I’m also planning on revising another article, this time on the interior decoration of A la Ronde, during this time. In February, I’m working on hosting a public event on Queer Material Heritage to tie in with this year’s LGBT History Month theme.
In April, I’ll be finishing off some marking, but more excitingly I’m off to Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library for a two week-research trip. I’ll be researching an exciting mixture of things for both my monograph project, as well as my postdoctoral project on collage in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Directly following on from this, I’m spending the month of May as a Visiting Scholar at Yale Center for British Art, during which time I’ll also conduct research for the collage project, this time on composite albums, botanical paper collages, and a number of mourning objects.
In June I’ll be travelling to Umeå, Sweden for the International Society for Cultural History 2017 Conference, which this year is on ‘Senses, Emotions and the Affective Turn: Recent Perspectives and New Challenges in Cultural History’. My presentation, ‘Lost Objects & Loss Objects: Intersections of Absence and Presence in Eighteenth-Century Material Culture’, will hopefully provide the perfect opportunity to tease out some of the key issues for the Introduction of my book.
In July, I’m off to another conference, this time in London. At Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period, I’ll be presenting my recent work on Romantic commonplace books, which has functioned as a sort of pilot study for my collage project.
Finally, in August, I’m spending a month as a research fellow at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. Other than providing a gorgeous setting for research, I’ll be using the Wintherthur’s library and museum collections to conduct research on a form of paper collage known as ‘scrapbook houses’. I’ll definitely be posting about all my research trips so stay tuned!
I’ll also be running Edinburgh’s Eighteenth-Century Research Seminars again this year (with the first session on Jan 25th) and Katie Faulkner and I are hoping to develop a project from #WaysofSheing, which will look at the contribution of female art historians across history – watch this space.
From September onwards, things are a little more hazy, although I’m a hundred per cent sure that I’ll be working on publications as much as possible, having kept various articles and the book ticking over during the first 8 months of the year. So 2017, let’s do this.
Each year I try (and usually fail) to participate in #AcWriMo, and write a corresponding post on this blog. You can read 2014’s and 2015’s posts here and here. This year, I had a vague #AcWriMo plan. As ever, I wanted to write more, but I didn’t have specific goals and I wasn’t at a point in my research process where I could spend a full month writing many thousands of words. What I did end up doing this year however, ended up being even more important than my previous frustrated attempts at participation. Inspired by a twitter conversation with @LucieWhitmore we set up a weekly writing group, something that has completely changed my attitude towards writing.
I’ve written before about being a habitual binge writer. Someone who spends vast chunks of time writing and revising in advance of an ever-looming deadline. I don’t write daily. There’s always a valid reason: too much teaching prep, too many emails, too many job applications to do instead. And this term has been no exception – I’ve been teaching five classes a week on two different courses, and have fired off numerous job and fellowship applications since October. What has made the difference however, is the writing group, which has made writing a non-negotiable part of my week. Like teaching, writing is now deliberately and specifically factored in to my week. I can’t not attend, as I’ll be letting my fellow group members down. I can’t do anything else whilst there but write, thanks to the gentle peer-pressure that attendance exerts. It’s this non-negotiability that is so important. Writing was always the first thing to go, but now (thanks to twice weekly sessions) I know I have dedicated writing time each week.
The group roughly employs the format from TORCH’s own Academic Writing Group, which you can find more information about here. There’s a lot of great literature on starting you own academic writing group available online, but this post on Pat Thomson’s blog Patter is an excellent starting point.
For me, our little Writing Group has fixed an issue that I was long trying to achieve via my participation in #AcWriMo – establishing better writing routines. And while I’m not quite at the point of maintaining a daily writing practice, this seems more achievable than ever before.
Gertrude Menough, Clematis Lodge Collage Album, c. 1895. Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been awarded a Short-Term Research Fellowship from the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, which I’ll be taking in August 2017. The award will facilitate research for my postdoctoral research project, which is provisionally titled, Crafting the Self: Assemblage & Identity, 1770-1900. As I’ve noted previously, the project will provide a history of ‘assemblage’ produced in Britain, North America, and British India between 1770 and 1900, highlighting its pervasiveness across an array of artistic, literary, and cultural practices, and its enactment in disparate geographic locations. The project will accordingly examine a broad variety of assemblages made by men, women, and children across the Atlantic world and Britain’s colonies in order to understand the universality of assemblage during this period.
Primarily, the Winterthur Short-Term Research Fellowship will facilitate research on the Winterthur’s collection of ‘collage albums’. Also known as ‘scrapbook houses’, collage albums comprise imagined interior spaces arranged from carefully clipped images of interior furnishings. My research will examine the collage albums in relation to women’s self-fashioning in the mid-late nineteenth century, arguing that their production both expressed and reflected women’s creative and domestic identities during this period.
As the project develops, I’ll post more information about my motivations, methodologies, and the specifics of what I’ll be examining in each of my six case studies. For now, however, I’m concentrating on revising my doctoral thesis for publication, a process that I’m also keen to write about on the blog. Stay tuned for posts on going from PhD to published, and if there are specifics of this journey that you’d like me to discuss, get in touch with me via my twitter handle, @Freya_Gowrley.
My chapter ‘Taste a-la-Mode: consuming foreignness, picturing gender’, has just been published in Jennifer Germann and Heidi Strobel’s edited volume Materializing Gender in Eighteenth-Century Europe (Ashgate/Routledge).
A description of the book is available below:
“Art history has enriched the study of material culture as a scholarly field. This interdisciplinary volume enhances this literature through the contributors’ engagement with gender as the conceptual locus of analysis in terms of femininity, masculinity, and the spaces in between. Collectively, these essays by art historians and museum professionals argue for a more complex understanding of the relationship between objects and subjects in gendered terms. The objects under consideration range from the quotidian to the exotic, including beds, guns, fans, needle paintings, prints, drawings, mantillas, almanacs, reticules, silver punch bowls, and collage. These material goods may have been intended to enforce and affirm gendered norms, however as the essays demonstrate, their use by subjects frequently put normative formations of gender into question, revealing the impossibility of permanently fixing gender in relation to material goods, concepts, or bodies. This book will appeal to art historians, museum professionals, women’s and gender studies specialists, students, and all those interested in the history of objects in everyday life.”
More information on the book, including some initial reviews, is available on the Routledge website.