Roving Victorians

Le calendrier 2023-2024:

Adrian S. Wisnicki (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

“Victorian voices”

Modératrice/ Chair: Laurence ROUSSILLON-CONSTANTY (Arts/Langages. Transitions et Relations, ALTER)



Camille Stallings (University of Oxford)

“Toxic Friendship and The Snobs of England: Thackeray, the Periodical Press, and Social Critique”

Modératrice / Chair: Françoise Baillet (Équipe de Recherche interdisciplinaire sur la Grande-Bretagne, l’Irlande et l’Amérique du Nord, ERIBIA)



Mark Chapman (University of d’Oxford, Ripon College Cuddesdon)

“Christianity & Law in Victorian Britain”

Modérateur : Jérôme Grosclaude (UMR 53137: Institut d’Histoire des Représentations et des Idées dans les Modernités (IHRIM).



Manuela d’Amore (Università di Catania, Italie)

“Labour and Poverty in the East End”

Modératrice : Béatrice Laurent (Cultures et Littératures des Mondes Anglophones, CLIMAS EA 4196)



Rémy Duthille (Laboratoire Culture et LIttérature des Mondes AnglophoneS, CLIMAS)

“Radical London (and Manchester) in the 1840s”



Jérôme Dupont (Université de Nîmes)

“Des ‘Fictionaries’ de William Morris à ‘English Magic’ de Jeremy Deller : le principe de réalité à l’épreuve de la fonction critique de l’imagination”
  • 24 mai 2024, 13h-14h30, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès :

    Battersea Reach from Lindsey Houses, 1864-71 by James McNeill Whistler. Painting, Oil on Canvas. The Hunterian University of Glasgow GLAHA:46358.

Justine Pizzo (University of Southampton)

“Atmospheric Characterisation and the Changing Climate of Victorian Fiction”

Modératrice / chair : Catherine Delyfer (Centre for Anglophone Studies)



Abstract: This talk introduces participants to critical, theoretical, and historical methods for thinking about the influence of nineteenth-century weather phenomena and the emergence of climate science on literary character—particularly female character—in Victorian realist fiction. It begins by exploring the ancient origins of character’s long-standing relationship to climate and the perceived influence of atmospheric phenomena on human health, psychology, national characteristics, and gendered identity. In Hippocrates’s influential medical treatise On Airs, Waters, and Places (400 BCE), for example, the celebrated father of modern medicine claims that ‘climates differ and cause differences in character’. More than thirteen centuries later, the Christian theologian St Thomas Aquinas argues in his Summa Theologica (c. 1225-74) that character relies on the state of the weather. ‘The production of woman’, he explains, comes from ‘some material indisposition,’ ‘or even from some external influence, such as that of a south wind, which is moist.’

These longstanding entanglements of character, climate, and biology inform what I term the ‘atmospheric characterisation’ of women in some of the most canonical realist novels of the Victorian era, such as those by Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Hardy. Using the protagonist of Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles as a case study, this presentation examines how developments in Victorian meteorology, medicine, and psychology called upon long-held associations between women and the weather to make supposedly embodied subjects like Tess Durbeyfield coextensive with the atmosphere’s pervasive reach.

The final third of the talk invites us to consider why—in view of recent new materialist and ecological approaches to literature—we continue to impose an individualist definition of character on the nineteenth-century novel. How are our readings of realist fiction influenced by the enduring assumption that subjectivity inheres within the discrete bodily envelope rather than amidst the expansive and diffuse climates of an atmospherically unstable world?