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Victorian Apocalypse: The siècle at its fin, Conference 2: Nightmares and Resurrections: The Temporalities and Endings of the fin de siècle
8:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m. PST each day
Literary critics, historians, and art historians have long noted the distinctiveness of the Victorian fin de siècle as a period of self-conscious conclusions, in which an aging monarch, a fragile empire, and wistful literary attempts to gauge progress or decline over the course of the nineteenth century culminated in a sense of loss and anxiety. The narrator of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1899) ends his story by emphasizing death or artificial life, as he imagines that the “busy multitudes” of London are no more than “phantasms in a dead city, the mockery of life in a galvanised body” after the Martian attack. Yet the last years of the nineteenth century are not only distinctive because of their historical singularities or even their doomsday zeitgeist. In part, scholarship on the fin de siècle has thrived in light of fears and anxieties about the late twentieth century, with the 1890s receiving attention because of potential parallels with the 1990s. Scholars of fin-de-siècle writing have since the 1990s, however, attempted to imagine an approach between historicism and presentism, or what Sally Ledger and Scott McCracken described in 1995 as “a sophisticated historical criticism which is capable of standing back not only from the period but also from our own time, and then examining the dialectical relationship between the two.”
Taking its cue from Ledger and McCracken, this conference focuses on the fin de siècle’s ability to provoke critical examination of the concepts of temporality and eschatology, as well as the proliferation of temporalities allowed by historical, scientific, and cultural developments of the late nineteenth century. The Victorian fin de siècle provokes questions about the boundaries of literary, artistic, and historical periodicity and invites critics and scholars to explore previously ignored temporalities related to science, religion, and nation. What is the relationship between, for instance, the fin de siècle and the temporalities of territories and cultures outside of England, in light of the adoption of Greenwich Mean Time in 1884? How do late-Victorian discoveries in Egyptology, geology, and archaeology shape the understanding of the fin de siècle by scholars of the period? How does the period’s fascination with spiritualism, the occult, psychical research inform Victorians’ understandings of time and endings, or, alternatively allow them to imagine new forms of continuity beyond death or the extinction of humanity? What are we to make of the fin de siècle emergence of science fiction in the scientific romances of H. G. Wells and M. P. Shiel, or the prominence of apocalyptic destruction in late-Victorian Gothic writing by Arthur Machen or Marie Corelli? How does our understanding of the Victorian fin de siècle shift when we consider Einstein’s subsequent discoveries about time, gravity, and velocity beginning in 1905 or, alternatively, developments in early twenty-first century physics that dismiss time as an obsolete scientific concept?
Full program schedule is available on our website: http://www.1718.ucla.edu/events/core-nightmares-resurrections/
Stephen Arata, University of Virginia
Dennis Denisoff, University of Tulsa
Eleanor Dobson, University of Birmingham
Jessica Straley, University of Utah
Will Tattersdill, University of Birmingham
Gauri Viswanathan, Columbia University
This conference is free of charge, but you must register in advance to attend. All audience members will receive instructions via email after registration. Click below to register directly with Zoom: