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Victorian Review special issue on “Victorians and Risk”

16 January 2013

Victorian Review seeks proposals for articles for a special issue on “Victorians and Risk,” to be published in Fall 2014 and guest edited by Dr. Daniel Martin.

Since the publication of Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society (1992), sociologists and historians have interrogated the frequency of risks of all kinds in modern life: railway accidents, colliery explosions, natural and industrial catastrophes, spills, fires, and collisions, among countless others. However, the emergence of risk as a sociological and economic reality of everyday life in the nineteenth century still lacks significant scholarly theorizing in the humanities. Current scholarship about Victorian contributions to a modern “risk society” requires a sustained dialogue about how the Victorians conceived of accidents, disasters, catastrophes, and risks of all kinds beyond the limited scope of the local. For this issue, we seek papers that address such a dialogue through analysis of Victorian culture’s fascinations with and anxieties about risky activities, behaviors, industries, legalities, philosophies, and forms of expression.

In general, risks have a peculiar temporality. To “run a risk” is to operate in that space between the historian or statistician and the prophet or sage, to exist in a present moment that requires a continual reconsideration of simple linear or chronological time. Risks mark themselves off against past accumulations of data and past accidental phenomena, but they also anticipate spaces and developments for future prevention. We seek original essays that attempt to situate such theoretical and abstract notions of risk within literary, historical, and cultural contexts. We are especially interested in essays that draw connections between specific risk events and Victorian theorizing about the constantly accumulating risks and accidental phenomena of modern life.

Interested scholars may wish to develop their ideas according to the following topics:

Risk and the Victorian railway network

Representations of accidents in the Victorian press

Risk and Victorian theories of temporality

The subjectivity/performance of risky activities and behaviors

Victorian insurance and the origins of risk management

Insurance frauds and risky business

The phenomenology of bodies at risk

Risk, athletics, and bodily performance/techniques

Risk and the limits of the body

Risky bodies and the origins of statistical personhood

Rethinking, revising, reevaluating the notion of a “risk society”

Risks in their local and global contexts

Genres of risks and genres of the accidental

Risk and the periodical press

Danger, affliction, and disability

Transformations in Victorian concepts of space and time

Industrial or human-made disasters and catastrophes

Risk and catastrophic thinking in Victorian social theory

Risk and decadence/ the aesthetics of risk

Please submit abstracts of 500 words or address enquiries to Dr. Daniel Martin (dmartin@wlu.ca) by Sept 1, 2013. Final essays will be due by Feb 1, 2014.

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