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Open Cultural Studies: Victorians Like Us - Domesticity and Worldliness

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Dr Ana Cristina Mendes (University of Lisbon) and Dr Iolanda Ramos (Nova University of Lisbon) 


From novels to government reports, the Victorians attached unprecedented significance to domesticity. The household was a central institution  , and their occupants played out their different roles according to custom and circumstance. Within its sphere, gender, class, economic and political conflicts were played out as the household provided the background for important social practices. These practices ranged from the kitchen to the       parlour, from the street to the Houses of Parliament, from the colonial metropole to the British colonial outposts in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific.     

The discourses of Victorian domesticity have been the subject of quite a few publications over the last decades. These approaches stress the interdisciplinary potential for interpretation of the characteristics of the period and often underline the strands of radical thought which encouraged aspirations for upward social mobility. However, the inquiry into the performance of domesticity and the management of privacy by, for instance, some of the leading figures of the Victorian period remains still rather unexplored, with untapped critical potential. 

Bringing domesticity into the big picture and foregrounding paradoxes of historical continuity and disruption, the focus of this special issue will be on the various forms, objects and modes of circulation that have been invested in the Victorians’ unprecedented attachment to domesticity, across a wide range of literary, artistic, cultural and political texts. This issue aims to reclaim texts that have been heavily trespassed by earlier readings structured around the public/private and virtue/vice antinomies, across disciplinary boundaries (literature and history; cultural, gender and film studies; English literature, postcolonialism and transnational contexts). Furthermore, this issue also intends to bring the Victorians to the present by examining post-Victorian revisitation of both earlier texts and leading protagonists in fictional and real-life stories. We welcome contributions from established scholars in Victorian studies and researchers who are newer to the field. 

Suggested topics for articles for the special issue include:

  • Practices of reading – paper and book circulation, the publication of popular fiction and anthologies
  • Practices of collecting  and the emergence of art galleries and museums
  • Art and interior decoration
  • Gender roles and familial relations 
  • Democracy, party politics and parliamentary reform
  • Revisitations of the empire and imperial expansion in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries 

Contributions beyond the scope of those listed here will also be considered on a case-by-case basis, where a clear argument for strengthening the diversity of the issue can be made. 


(Ana Cristina Mendes, Universidade de Lisboa, and Iolanda Ramos, Nova University of Lisbon) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0054

A late Victorian Family Life: The Typically Untypical World of the Collingwoods of Lanehead
(James Connelly, University of Hull)  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0053

Hothouse Victorians: Art and Agency in Freshwater
(Kristine Swenson, Missouri University of Science and Technology) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0017

Clutter and the Clash of Middle Class Tastes in The Domestic Interior
(Kathryn Ferry, architectural historian) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0011

How the Other Half Lives: Under the Arch with Lady Henry Somerset
(Joanne Paisana, University of Minho) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0015

“Troubles Which You Do Not Understand”: The Expanded Domestic Sphere and The Working-Class Household as a Socio-Political Battleground in Annie Besant’s “Democratization” of Birth Control
(Flore Janssen, Birkbeck, University of London) Talking about Birth Control in 1877: Gender, Class, and Ideology in the Knowlton Trial Flore Janssen DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0025

A Victorian Gentleman in The Pharaoh’s Court: Christian Egyptosophy And Victorian Egyptology in the Romances of H. Rider Haggard
(Simon Magus, University of Exeter) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0045

R. F. Burton Revisited: Alternate History, Steampunk and The Neo-Victorian Imagination
(Iolanda Ramos, Nova University of Lisbon) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0056