Over three days 15-17 July, the annual conference of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association (VPFA) was held by the University of Greenwich. It was the second year in a row that we held the conference – the Association’s President is Professor Andrew King (HSS) – but the first it was held virtually. 103 delegates from 5 continents came together on Teams to discuss topics such as Medical Encounters, Science and the Supernatural, Vampires, Travel, and Disaster.
Professor Alexis Easley from the University of St Thomas, Minnesota, gave a stunningly researched paper which (literally) mapped and quantified the contributions of hundreds of women writers to the famous Chambers’s Journal, the first periodical to aim at a truly mass market in a modern sense. She showed how women were absolutely central to the founding of mass-market reading, and that, contrary to expectation, they suffered from less than a 3% pay discrimination. Such repositioning of women as core producers in the cultural industries and our narrative imaginary is fundamental to the VPFA’s mission, and almost all of the papers confirmed this.
A handful of the best papers will be selected for publication in Victorian Popular Fictions, the organ of the VPFA, edited by Andrew King and by Prof Mariaconcetta Costantini (University of Chieti-Pescara).
Conference delegates were unanimous that the conference was a great success: they were especially grateful that we found a way to go ahead when so many others have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed. Given the huge cuts in research budgets across the globe as well as the greener credentials of online conferences, what we have pioneered here may well be the way forward. In whatever form, planning for the 2021 conference at Greenwich is already underway. The successful conference was coordinated by Karen Ward from FLAS Research and Enterprise Support Office.
Congratulations to Professor Andrew King for stealing the online spotlight!