Christine Ferguson visiting at the U of Alberta this week

We’d like to draw attention to the upcoming visit of Living Archives team member Christine Ferguson to the University of Alberta this week.  Chris, who was formerly at the University of Alberta, will give talks on Wednesday and Friday, one as part of a series on Alfred Russel Wallace, the other in the Department of English and Film Studies—details below.   Please contact Rob (rwilson.robert@gmail.com) or Moyra (moyra@ualberta.ca) if you want to meet with her during her week here.

Biography: Christine Ferguson is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on late Victorian literature and culture, with an emphasis on the interconnections between science and popular fiction at the fin-de-siècle.  Her publications include Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity, and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writing, 1848-1930 (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), Language, Science, and Popular Fiction at the Victorian Fin-de-Siècle: The Brutal Tongue (Ashgate 2006), and articles and book chapters on such topics as steampunk and subcultural performance, the Neo-Victorian graphic novel, Victorian representations of disability and freakery, and the connections between decadence and science in the fin-de-siècle.  She is currently editing a volume of primary nineteenth-century spiritualist writings on race, reproduction, and human biology, due for publication by Routledge soon.

Talks:

Other Worlds: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Cross-Cultures of Spiritualism
Wednesday, October 30th 3:30pm Tory 2-58

Mapping and Selling the Summerland: Olivia Plender and the Afterlife of Spiritualist Visual Culture  Friday November 1st, 3 pm, HC L-3.

Abstract: The paper examines the afterlife of nineteenth-century spiritualism and its rich visual culture in the contemporary British fine art scene, focusing specifically on mixed-media artist Olivia Plender’s 2007 comic book adaptation of Andrew Jackson Davis’s 1867 afterlife travelogue, A Stellar Key to the Summerland. Plender’s fascinating re-working of Davis’s illustrated guide to the spiritual spheres appropriates the forgotten iconography of Victorian spiritualism to trace and satirize the movement’s absorption into a New Age consumer culture where the elevated “Summerland” has become no more than an untapped site for capitalist expansion. At the same time, the comic evinces a lingering nostalgia for the eclipsed potential of the movement’s radical ideals and populist aesthetic forms, one subdued, but never entirely neutralized, by commodification. I read the comic as an important contribution to the Neo-Victorian interest in sub-cultural excavation and to contemporary critical debates about the status and place of comics in the fine arts world.

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