Works-in-Progress Seminars

In Works-in-Progress Seminars, leading scholars will discuss their ongoing research on a specific topic and invite feedback and questions from participants.


Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.  Registration is open to all NAVSA 2013 attendees, but is limited to 20 participants. To register, please email with your request.



Seminar Descriptions

 Placing Knowledge:
Museums, Universities and the City in the Nineteenth Century

 Bruce Robertson, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara

Consider Michael Faraday, the discoverer of the fundamental laws of electromagnetic induction, who established the validity of his experiments by performing them before a paying audience in London in the 1830s. Or Sir Thomas Huxley, popularly known as “Darwin’s bulldog” and the leading evolutionary scientist after Darwin, who worked in a college housed in a museum and never held a university professorship. Or William Whewell, the Cambridge geologist who invented the term “scientist,” which he modeled on the word “artist” in response to a challenge from the poet Coleridge in June 1833.  Knowledge production, so comfortably centered for us in university today, inhabited a very different world in the nineteenth century.

This seminar will examine the material relations between civic museums and universities as they develop in the nineteenth century, and their relationship to the production of modern academic disciplines. My goal is to look at the nature of knowledge production, how it is placed both physically and institutionally, how it assumes its modern shape. Two questions will be our concern: First, how did museums compete successfully with universities as the location for the development of modern academic disciplines, and how did they lose this role by the end of the nineteenth century? Second, how is knowledge production located physically, within structures and within the urban fabric?  What are the material, spatial and urban dimensions of knowledge production?

In 1800 only a few European capitals had public museums; by 1900 even provincial towns boasted them, along with universities, academies, learned societies and other knowledge production sites. Historians have tended to look at these phenomena separately. Intellectual historians and historians of science have studied the development of academic disciplines as social or intellectual phenomena; urban historians have focused on the expansion of urban amenities in terms of transportation and sewer infrastructure, leisure sites and public housing. Historians of universities have not considered competing knowledge sites, and historians of museums have divided themselves between historians of natural history museums and art museums.  We will consider the ways in which physical constraints and opportunities shaped these inter-related phenomena, a concern most naturally sited in museum studies and urban planning. The material discussed will focus on London as the primary case study.

Bruce Robertson is Professor of Art History and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as the Director of UCSB’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum.  His wide-ranging publications include Sargent and Italy (Princeton, 2003); Ruth Harriet Louise and Hollywood Glamour Photography (with Robert Dance; UC Press, 2002); Twentieth Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection (National Gallery of Art, 2000); Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (contributor; Yale, 1999); Marguerite Makes a Book (Getty, 1999); Marsden Hartley (Abrams, 1995); Reckoning with Winslow Homer: His Late Paintings and their Influence (Indiana UP, 1990); Views and Visions: American Landscape before 1830 (in collaboration with Edward Nygren, 1987), which won the first Charles Eldredge Prize of the National Museum of American Art (now SAAM); and The Art of Paul Sandby (Yale, 1985).


 Literature of the Mind

Julie Carlson and Kay Young, Department of English, University of California, Santa Barbara

Kay Young and Julie Carlson will present chapters and lead a seminar on how the various mind disciplines of philosophy, psychology, psychoanalysis, and cognitive neuroscience think about literature, narrative, and symbolic processes in their accounts of mind.  They will consider as evidence somatic and linguistic representations that register and help humans to analyze unconscious processes.  Professor Carlson will be presenting part of her work on books and friends in post-1790s British radical culture. She will focus on new philosophical conceptions of books as better friends than the persons charged with educating the rising generation, arguing that this was central to writers' pursuit of justice and applicable to contemporary debates regarding the ethics of care.  Kay Young will present work from her current project on the narrative aesthetics of mind that focuses on representations of object relations and transformations in both nineteenth-century literature and psychoanalytic cases as evidence for how the human mind uses objects to imagine change.  Janis Caldwell will consider “Emotion and Evidence” as she thinks about the metaphors of distance and detachment that have accompanied the development of forensic science.  She will reflect on the range of psychological engagement in forensic narratives, from the friendships of investigational partners to the attitude toward the corpse or missing object in the case.

Julie Carlson is professor of English and member of the Literature and the Mind concentration at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  She is the author of In the Theatre of Romanticism:  Coleridge, Nationalism, Women (Cambridge, 1994), England's First Family of Writers:  Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Mary Shelley (Johns Hopkins, 2004), guest-editor of Domestic/Tragedy (SAQ, 1997), and co-editor with Elisabeth Weber of Speaking about Torture (Fordham, 2012).  She is the recipient of the 2010 Keats-Shelley Association of America's Distinguished Scholar award, and currently is working on a book on friends and books in post-1790s British radical culture. 

Kay Young is professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCSB.  She recently completed a 5-year Academic Fellowship at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles.  She is the author of Ordinary Pleasures: Couples, Conversation, and Comedy and, most recently, Imagining Minds: the NeuroAesthetics of Austen, Eliot, and Hardy.  Currently, she is working on a collection of essays on object relations and transformations and the narrative aesthetics of mind.



Ruling the world?
Egyptomania and Imperialism in Two Constitutional Monarchies, Britain and Belgium, 1850 to 1900

Debora Silverman, Department of History and Art History, University of California, Los Angeles

Debora Silverman will present some of her new research on British and Belgian Egyptomania after 1850, highlighting the ways that two limited constitutional monarchies adapted Pharonic forms and fantasies for distinctive national purposes. This material grows out a book she is now completing on Belgian “imperial modernism” in the 1890s, Art Nouveau as a “Style Congo,” and the cultural history of violence in 19th century Belgium and its relationship to patterns of violence in The Congo Free State (1885-1908).

Debora L. Silverman is Distinguished Professor of History and Art History at UCLA where she has taught since 1981. Professor Silverman is the author of Selling Culture: Bloomingdale’s, Diana Vreeland, and the New Aristocracy of Taste in Reagan’s America (Pantheon, 1986); Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siècle France: Politics, Psychology and Style (University of California Press, 1989); and Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000), awarded the 2001 PEN America/Architectural Digest Prize for outstanding writing on the visual arts as well as the Emerson national Prize for the Humanities. She has recently published “Marketing Thanatos: Damien Hirst’s Heart of Darkness,” American Imago vol. 68, Fall 2011, 391-424; and a three part series of articles on Belgian art nouveau, stylistics of violence, and the Tervuren Museum called “Art of Darkness, Art Nouveau: African Lineages of  Belgian Modernism, Parts I, II, II, in West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, 2011-2013, which workshop participants may want to consult.


Forgiving Fictions: Law, Feminism, and the Problem of the Victorian Novel – or, what would Anthony Trollope do?

Hilary M. Schor, Departments of English, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies and Law, University of Southern California

In the middle of Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope’s 1864 novel and the first of the Palliser series, Lady Glencora and her cousin Alice Vavasor walk through Gothic ruins in the night air, much to the horror of Cora’s husband, Plantagenet Palliser, the “prime minister” of subsequent volumes and the voice of liberal rectitude. Only Alice, the putatively unforgiveable heroine of the novel, is blamed for their night rambles– even though the women have neither seen a ghost, committed adultery, nor even caught a cold. But apologize she must – and forgive her, we do.

I raise this comic gothic scene not only to highlight a tiny moment of transgression, regret and forgiveness in the novel, but to ask what the role of the law is for feminist readers of 19th century novels. My argument is that far from rendering the law a purely specular phantom, the Victorian novel takes law seriously: that while critics, anti-nomians all, dismiss the law as mere obstruction or spurn it as discipline all the way down, Victorian novelists saw in law a force for transformation, not only through political reform and the gradual widening of a domain of rights, but as a way of negotiating complicated human relationships – as much a weapon of desire as a formal device. This is particularly vivid in the relationship of the novel to feminism. The larger project of which this is a part engages the origins of contemporary “law and literature” readings of Victorian fiction by taking up the relationship between radical and liberal feminists and their debates over marriage, contract and consent – and then returning those questions of feminist theory to “reading for the law” in fiction. This leads me, however peversely, to take seriously the fictional, world-making possibilities of legal fictions, in particular the way that novelists stage the heroines’ thorny progress through the haunted landscape of the marriage plot by way of a series of complicated legal negotiations.

Thus is is that although the heroine who eponymously needs our forgiveness, Alice, is in no way involved in the law (her “crime” is jilting her fiancé, but it is doubly not a crime – there is no legal structure in which a man could sue for breach of promise, and her fiancé simply refuses to acknowledge her breaking off of the engagement), I read Trollope’s novel as entangled in legal questions that continue to haunt feminism and the law today: what is the status of female consent; what kind of contract is a marriage contract; and what does it mean to offer, to receive, or even to reject forgiveness, whether within the formal structures of law or in the most intimate (or ghostly) of settings? Against our own expectations that the law can do nothing for us but get out of the way as soon as possible, repeatedly it turns out that the heroine’s progress towards freedom leads through rather than away from the law; that the law becomes a weapon in her, and the novelist’s hands. And in this way, the Victorian novel transforms itself into a how-to book of legal fictions, one that allows readers not only to forgive the unforgiveable, but to imagine a domain in which women in particular learn how to remake the world through the law.