Colloque SFEVE 2022

VICTORIAN & EDWARDIAN INTERIORS (Université Toulouse Jean-Jaurès, 27-28 January 2022)

        An international conference organized by the C.A.S (EA 801) with the support of the SFEVE (Société Française d’Etudes Victoriennes et Edouardiennes)

        Confirmed Keynote speakers:
                Claudia Kinmonth (independent cultural historian, former researcher in the Furniture Department of the Victoria & Albert Museum)
                Charlotte Ribeyrol (Université Paris Sorbonne, VALE)
                Penny Sparke (Director of the Modern Interiors Research Centre, Kingston University)

As we gradually come out of a long period of enforced global confinement which has challenged us, amongst other things, to take a ‘journey round [our] room[s]’ (Xavier de Maistre) and reconsider our assumptions about inside and outside, the 2022 SFEVE conference invites scholars to look afresh at the historical emergence, material manifestations and cultural significance of the interior in the long nineteenth century. Building on recent interdisciplinary research in material studies, architectural design theory, the Victorian architectural imaginary and the poetics, politics and phenomenology of dwelling, this conference seeks to explore the multiple facets of the interior from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the end of the Edwardian era.

Central to the concept of ‘interior’ is the imbrication of the word’s spatial, physical, emotional, mystical and political meanings. ‘Interior’ came into use in the English language in the sixteenth century to mean inside as divided from outside, but also more specifically to describe the deeper, more spiritual nature of the soul within the body. Derived from the Latin ‘intus’ (i.e. ‘within’), ‘interior’ is a comparative form, whose meaning is accentuated in the superlative ‘intimus’ (i.e. innermost, deepest, most secret, most private). From the early eighteenth century, ‘interiority’ was used to evoke inner character and individual subjectivity. But from the middle of the eighteenth century the ‘interior’ was also a geo-political term used to refer to the domestic affairs of a state and to the territory that belongs to a country. It was only at the beginning of the nineteenth century that, according to the _Oxford English Dictionary_, the ‘interior’ came to mean ‘the inside of a building or room especially in reference to the artistic effect; also a picture or representation of the inside of a building. Also, in a theatre, a “set” consisting of the inside of a building or room.’

Thus, as Charles Rice notes, the nineteenth-century interior is inherently double, both a physical three-dimensional space and at the same time an image—a painting, print, theatrical backdrop—which can ‘be imagined and dreamed, and inhabited as such’ (2). While nineteenth-century conceptualizations of the interior were clearly linked to important questions of public health, territorial expansion, historical knowledge and the exploration of the body, subjectivity and the unconscious, the Victorians thus foregrounded the idea of the interior’s deliberate and artful constructedness. In some of the commemorative colour prints of colonial interiors on display at the Crystal Palace in 1851, for example, the theatricality of the interior is regularly emphasized through the presence of visitors/spectators peering through drawn curtains.

In fact, the notion of ‘interior decoration’, appearing for the first time in Thomas Hope’s 1807 _Household Furniture and Interior Decoration_ —and popularized through countless Victorian and Edwardian periodicals and manuals—firmly articulated the idea of the interior through decor. This new preoccupation led to the founding in 1837 of the London School of Design, rebranded in 1853 as the Museum of Ornamental Art (today known as the Victoria & Albert Museum). The interior became understood as the creation of a scenography, complete with adornments and furnishings which served to soften, conceal or transform—however fleetingly—the architectural structure, in order to make it livable, hospitable and culturally legible. In Vlad Ionescu’s words, the interior can thus be seen as the ‘moment when a building receives its cultural significance [and] “speaks” to its users’ (2). Such a dynamic, dialogic, relational approach to the interior is particularly striking in the nineteenth-century print culture through which a great variety of interiors were depicted and shaped. The idea of the interior as relational is also poignantly captured in numerous works of literature. One memorable example (among many) can be found in Charles Dickens’ _Hard Times_ , in the following exchange between Louisa and her dying mother: “‘Are you in pain, dear mother?’ ‘I think there’s a pain somewhere in the room,’ said Mrs. Gradgrind, ‘but I couldn’t positively say that I have got it.’” (chap.9).

If, as Walter Benjamin famously put it in the 1930s, ‘[t]he nineteenth century, like no other century, was addicted to dwelling,’ this conference, however, will attempt to qualify and/or revise Benjamin’s conceptualization of the Victorian interior as ‘the étui of the private individual’ (9), as well as his rather sinister notion that the nineteenth century encased the person ‘so deeply in the dwelling’s interior that one might be reminded of the inside of a compass case, where the instrument with all its accessories lies embedded in deep, usually violet folds of velvet’ (220). Instead, we wish to broaden the scope of attention to Victorian and Edwardian interiors not limited to the bourgeois, domestic and urban. Participants are therefore encouraged to consider a diverse array of interiors. Proposals may for example consider:

        *interiors which enabled a renewed critical engagement with the exterior rather than an anti-historical retreat from the world
        *complex or problematic interiors (such as public interiors, utopian/political/militant interiors, transparent interiors, gendered interiors, queer interiors, working-class interiors, cosmopolitan interiors, colonial interiors, natural interiors, etc.)
        *the aesthetic experiences, cultural practices, or socio-economic transformations made possible through the decorating/designing of interior spaces/rooms
        *how interiors and interiorities were staged, mediated and/or marketed, and the role played by new visual technologies (stereoscope, photography, museum displays etc.)
        *how the interior was represented across political, scientific, medical and architectural discourses
        *the poetics, aesthetics, politics and economics of the interior in literature, art, magazines, book design and material culture
        *the articulation between interiors and subjectivity, objects and people, the material and the immaterial
        *various forms of dwelling, as well as the allied notions of ‘home’, homelessness and homesickness
        *issues of preservation, renovation and re-use of nineteenth-century interiors
        *contemporary re-interpretations of the nineteenth-century interior in neo-Victorian fiction, heritage cinema, etc. 

Please send a 300-500-word abstract (for a 20-minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of question/discussion) with a short bio-bibliography to Catherine Delyfer ( AND Amélie Dochy (amé

Deadline for submissions: 10 July 2021
Notification of acceptance: 30 July 2021

Publication: a selection of peer-reviewed articles will be published in a special issue of _Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens_

Languages of the conference: English and French

Bauer, Dominique. The Imagery of Interior Spaces. Punctum Books, 2019.
Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Translated by Howard Eiland, Kevin McLaughlin. Harvard 1999.
Berstein, Susan. Roomscape. Edinburgh UP, 2013.
Cohen, Deborah. Household Gods: The British and their Possessions. Yale UP, 2006.
Dillon, Steve. ‘Victorian Interior’, Modern Language Quarterly 62.2 (2001): 83-115.
Edwards, Clive. Turning Houses into Homes. Routledge, 2015.
Edwards, Jason and Imogen Hart eds. Rethinking the Interior, 1867-1896: Aestheticism and Arts and Crafts. Routledge, 2011.
Fisher, Fiona, Patricia Lara-Betancourt, Victoria Kelley & Penny Sparke eds. ‘Complex Interior Spaces in London, 1850-1930,’ The London Journal 45.2 (2020): 177-188.
Gilbert, Pamela. Victorian Skin: Surface, Self, History. Cornell UP, 2019.
Hayes, Richard. ‘The Aesthetic Interior as Incubator of Health and Well-Being’. Architectural History 60 (2017): 277-301.
Heidegger, Martin. ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’ [1954], Poetry, Language, Thought, translated and introduced by Albert Hofstadter, Harper Collins, 1971, pp. 141-160.
Hoberman, Ruth. Museum Trouble. University of Virginia Press, 2011.
Ionescu, Vlad. ‘The interior as interiority’. Palgrave Communications. 4.1 (2018): 1-6.
Leckie, Barbara. Open Houses: Poverty, the Novel, and the Architectural Idea in Nineteenth-Century Britain, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.
Logan, Thad. The Victorian Parlour: a Cultural Study. Cambridge UP, 2001.
Maistre, Xavier de. Voyage autour de ma chambre [1794]. Flammarion, 2003.
Marcus, Sharon. Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London. University of California Press, 1999.
McNeil, Peter. ‘Designing Women: Gender, Sexuality and the Interior Decorator, 1890-1940’. Art History 17.4 (1994): 631-657.
Morrison, Kevin. Victorian Liberalism, Material Culture: Synergies of Thought & Place, Palgrave 2018.
Muthesius, S. The Poetic Home: Designing the 19th-Century Domestic Interior. Thames & Hudson, 2009.
Neiswander, Judith. The Cosmopolitan Interior: Liberalism & the British Home 1870-1914. Yale 2008.
Pimlott, Mark. The Public Interior as Idea and Project. Ram Publications, 2016.
Plotz, John. Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move. Princeton UP, 2008.
Rice, Charles. The Emergence of the Interior: Architecture, Modernity, Domesticity. Routledge, 2007.
Sparke, Penny. Nature Inside: Plants and Flowers in the Modern Interior. Yale UP, 2021.

Organising committee: Catherine Delyfer, Amélie Dochy, Alice Guerrin, Leslie C. Howard, Lilia Louati

Scientific committee:

Philippe Birgy (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)
Catherine Delyfer (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)
Amélie Dochy (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)
Isabelle Keller-Privat (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)
Laurent Mellet (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)
Fabienne Moine (Université Paris Est Créteil)
Christine Reynier (Université Paul Valéry Montpellier)
Laurence Roussillon-Constanty (Université de Pau Pays de l’Adour)
Laurence Talairach (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)
Gilles Teulié (Aix-Marseille Université)
Nathalie Vanfasse (Aix-Marseille Université)

Colloque SFEVE 2021

Popular forms and practices of reading and writing in the Victorian and Edwardian periods

Le compte-rendu rédigé par Shadia Uteem :

Compte rendu Colloque SFEVE 2021 Shadia Uteem

Les captations vidéo du séminaire :

Conference 1: Pr. Kirstie Blair (University of Strathclyde)

     ‘Prating of the Pit: Reading and Writing in the Northern Mining Districts’

Conference 2: Pr. Fabrice Bensimon (Sorbonne Université)

    ‘L’histoire ouvrière au prisme des autobiographies en Grande-Bretagne au XIXe siècle’.

2021-CFP colloque SFEVE_Creteil

Popular forms and practices of reading and writing in the Victorian and Edwardian periods

International conference organized by the SFEVE (Société Française d’Études Victoriennes et Edouardiennes), with the support of IMAGER (Institut des Mondes Anglophone, Germanique et Romans, EA 3958) and Université Paris-Est-Créteil (UPEC)

Friday 29 -Saturday 30 January 2021

Université Paris-Est Créteil, UFR des LLSH, Campus Centre, 61 avenue du Général de Gaulle, 94000 Créteil

Contacts : Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay and Fabienne Moine,

Keynote speakers 

Kirstie Blair (University of Strathclyde, Scotland)

Fabrice Bensimon (Université Paris Sorbonne)

The adjective “popular” pertains to three main fields: the social and sociological one (related to the working class and the “people”, in accordance with its etymology), the literary and generic one (popular art and culture), and, broadly, that of reception, when “popular” means well liked, or in vogue and fashionable. It is a wide-ranging, multi-layered, ambivalent, and ideologically connoted notion.

It is used to designate literary and cultural productions that sharply distinguish themselves from more “canonical”, classical, scholarly and highbrow ones. Popular works and texts are “intended for or suited to the understanding or taste of ordinary people”, “as opposed to specialists in a field” (OED entry 4.a), and they encompass “forms of art, music, or culture with general appeal; intended primarily to entertain, please, or amuse” (OED, entry 7b). Popular art, whether or not produced by “the people”, is meant for “the people”, hence the crucial role of “popular” (low-priced) editions and of periodicals as the vehicles of these popular forms of writing in the Victorian period. 

The notion constantly hovers in the collective imaginary between the positive (when it is seen as a common, vigorous, level-headed heritage shared by the people), and the negative, as cheap, lowbrow, unrefined, or even vulgar and “plebeian”. Popular culture has, however, amply been rehabilitated by Cultural Studies from the 1960s onwards. Therefore, the aim of this conference is not to contest traditional critical distinctions between “high” and “low”, or to study the forms and modalities of popular literatures and cultures against the aesthetic, intellectual and social norm of the “high”. Our aim, rather, will be to focus on these popular forms of culture for their own sakes. 

From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, the dramatic increase in literacy rates, the wider and cheaper circulation of books and newspapers, and the growing interest for reading this fostered, created a high demand for popular works across the social spectrum. This was a particularly favourable context for the emergence and development of popular forms, formats and practices of reading and writing, and the aim of this conference will be to explore the conditions for this emergence and development in the Victorian and Edwardian periods from complementary perspectives. 

We wish to address the various modalities of these writing and reading practices, together with their roles, social significance, and the diverse and sometimes heterogeneous motivations accounting for their emergence and development. These popular forms and practices of reading and writing could have an improving mission; besides, they were frequently vehicles for sociability and integration, strengthening the family and communal fabric and a sense of belonging. Or, alternatively, they could also respond to more individual needs and be escapist pastimes and forms of entertainment, or in the case of marginal/ized subjects such as prison or asylum inmates, have curative, liberating and integrating roles. 

We welcome proposals from all disciplines (language and literature, cultural studies, history, sociology, visual studies…) which address the modalities and roles of, and the motivations accounting for, these popular forms and practices of reading and writing and we encourage a variety of critical approaches that will highlight the polysemy of the term “popular”.

The following aspects, themes and fields, not merely in isolation but also in their interdependence and various interactions, could be dealt with (but the list is by no means restrictive):

* The various media and channels for the reading, reception and diffusion of popular culture (thanks to the rising literacy rate): the popular press (local newspapers, family or women’s magazines; magazines of domestic economy; periodicals, low-cost publications, W.T. Stead’s Penny Poets, Penny popular novels, Penny weeklies, Penny dreadfuls…), lending libraries… 

* The various (non-literary) environments, places, and circles in which these popular forms of writing were produced (and read): coffee houses and factories, Mechanics’ institutes, popular clubs. Analyses focusing on the production and consumption of written works in institutions such as prisons, workhouses, hospitals, or asylums, would be particularly welcome as these places are not traditionally seen as environments conducive to a culture of reading and writing. 

* The brevity of the forms adopted because of the publishing media and the conditions of production (material and financial reasons such as time, lighting, cost and availability of paper, ink, or pens, etc.): the short story (ghost or detective stories, for instance), poems, letters, usually short autobiographical texts, and more infrequently, diaries; political pamphlets; “educational” booklets on miscellaneous subjects such as hygiene, gardening, spiritualism, rational recreation, etc. 

* The question of minor literary forms and voices within gender, genre, social or political perspectives: underrepresented, undervalued, marginal/ized people (women, the working class, prison or asylum inmates) getting a “voice” through authorship and the practice of writing. 


Please send a 300-500-word abstract (for a 25-minute presentation) with a short bio-bibliography to Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay and Fabienne Moine:,

Deadline for submissions: 10 July 2020

Notification of acceptance: 20 July 2020

Publication: A selection of peer-reviewed articles will be published in Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens (CVE)  

Languages of the Conference: English and French 

Scientific committee

Fabrice Bensimon (Sorbonne Université) 

Marie-Françoise Cachin (Université de Paris, ex « Paris 7 Diderot »)

Neil Davie (Université Lyon 2)

Laurence Dubois (Université Paris Nanterre) 

Cassandra Falke (UiT, The Arctic University of Norway) 

Kate Flint (University of Southern California (USC), Dornsife College) 

Georges Letissier (Université de Nantes)

Kevin Morrison (University of Connecticut / Henan University, Chine) 

Michel Prum (Université de Paris, ex « Paris 7 Diderot »)

Sabine Reungoat (Université Paris Est Créteil)

Laurence Roussillon-Constanty (Université de Pau Pays de l’Adour) 

Jean-Yves Tizot (Université Grenoble 3)

Select Bibliography 

Altick, Richard D. The English Common Reader. A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800-1900 (1957). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Beetham, Margaret and Kay Boardman, eds. Victorian Women’s Magazines: An Anthology. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2001.  

Bensimon, Fabrice, ed. Les Sentiers de l’ouvrier. Le Paris des artisans britanniques (autobiographies, 1815-1850). Paris : Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2017.

Bensimon, Fabrice, ed. Bamford Samuel, La Vie d’un radical anglais au temps de Peterloo. Paris : « Histoire », Les Éditions sociales, 2019.

Blair, Kirstie, ed. Class and the Canon. Constructing Labouring-Class Poetry and Poetics, 1780-1900. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Blair, Kirstie, ed. The Poets of The People’s Journal. Newspaper Poetry in Victorian Scotland. Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2016.

Blair, Kirstie. Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press, Community. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2019.

Cachin, Marie-Françoise. Une nation de lecteurs? La lecture en Angleterre (1815-1945). Villeurbanne : Presses de l’ENSSIB, 2010.

Don Vann, J. and Rosemary T. Van Arsdel, eds. Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society (1994). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994. 251-277. (See in this volume: Olwen C. Niessen, “Temperance”, 251-277; and Jonathan Rose, Workers’ Journals”, 301-310).

Falke, Cassandra. Literature by the Working Class. English Autobiographies, 1820-1848. Amherst, New York: Cambria Press, 2013.

Flint, Kate. The Woman Reader 1837-1914. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.

Fraser, Hilary, Stephanie Green, and Judith Johnston. Gender and the Victorian Periodical. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Hobbs, Andrew and Claire Januszewski. “How Local Newspapers Came to Dominate Victorian 

Poetry Publishing”. Victorian Poetry (Victorian Periodical Poetry, eds. Alison Chapman and Caley Ehnes), Volume 52.1 (Spring 2014): 65-87.

Hoggart, Richard. The Uses of Literacy. Aspects of Working-Class Life (1957). London:        Penguin Modern Classics, 2009.

King, Andrew and John Plunket. Popular Print Media 1820-1900. 3 vols. Routledge, 2004.

Mitchell, Sally. “Reading Class”. Victorian Literature and Culture 33 (2005): 329-337.

Morrison, Kevin. Victorian Poetry and Philanthropy. Reading London’s East End. Edinburgh University Press, Cognella, 2016.

Morrison, Kevin, ed. Companion to Victorian Popular Fiction. Jefferson: McFarland, 2018.

Reed, David. The Popular Magazine in Britain and the United States, 1880-1960. London: The British Library, 1997.

Rose, Jonathan. The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. Newhaven: Yale UP, 2001.

Vicinus, Martha. The Industrial Muse: A Study of Nineteenth Century British Working-Class Literature. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1974. 

Vincent, David. Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: a Study of Nineteenth-Century Working-Class Autobiography. London and New York: Methuen, 1981.