VSAWC Conference 2024

Victorian Nature and Artifice

April 26th and 27th; Canmore, Alberta

This year’s VSAWC conference will take place in Canmore, Alberta, a charming Rocky Mountain town that lies right outside of Banff National Park. At this location – on the border of an area that has been set apart as “natural” – we will gather to consider and complicate the ways that Victorians understood the concepts of nature and artifice. While designer Christopher Dresser described nature as providing “an inexhaustible mine” of ideas for new decorative designs, Oscar Wilde warned that “all bad art comes from returning to Life and Nature.” Taking these two perspectives as a starting point, we ask: what are some of the ways that Victorians understood the relationship between nature and art, and between the natural and the artificial? How did they complicate or challenge those relationships? 

Our keynote speakers this year will be Dr. Margaret Diane Stetz and Dr. Lianne McTavish. Dr. Stetz is Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at University of Delaware. She will be giving a virtual keynote address on her recent curated exhibits by key fin-de-siècle aesthetic figures. Dr. McTavish, Professor of Art, Design, and Visual Culture at the University of Alberta, will deliver an in-person keynote address on the history of zoos, with an emphasis on critical animal studies and on Banff Park Zoo as the key case study. 

See below for the conference’s Call for Papers.

Call for Papers

We welcome proposals for papers, panels, and workshops that reflect on nature and artifice as it relates to either research or teaching, or that complicate the relationship between nature and artifice in the Victorian period. Topics for exploration include (but are not limited to): literary and artistic representations of nature and/or artifice; remaking the natural world in art, craft, or aesthetic writing; innovations in natural sciences; definitions or categorizations of natural and artificial; Aesthetic movements; Victorian back-to-nature movements and urban renewal projects; colonialist impositions of nature; bringing nature indoors and artifice outdoors; natural and artificial borders between geographic areas or disciplines; and bringing nature into the classroom. 


Please submit a proposal (maximum of 300 words) and a biographical statement (maximum of 75 words) via this form or by sending an email to VSAWC2024@gmail.com no later than November 20th, 2023. For panels, applicants are asked to share the title of the proposed panel in addition to the individual paper titles. Please send questions or comments to conference co-hosts, Dr. Heather Marcovitch (Red Deer Polytechnic) and Dr. Andrea Korda (University of Alberta), at VSAWC2024@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Victorian Review Travel Grants

A number of grants in the amount of $500 each will be offered to partially offset travel and conference costs for graduate students and underemployed faculty. Applications will be due in early February. Please indicate if you would like an application form when you submit your proposal.

Conference Hotel

All events will be held at the Canmore Coast Hotel at the conference rate of $155 per night.

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