Birkbeck Forum for Nineteenth-Century Studies

The Birkbeck Forum for Nineteenth-Century Studies offers a space in which to share the latest interdisciplinary research in the field from a range of internationally-renowned scholars. We host regular lectures and panel discussions throughout the year, as part of a flexible programme of events.

Trooper George’s shooting gallery turned refuge in Dickens’s Bleak House encourages us to think about the interleaving of military and domestic cultures in mid-Victorian Britain. I take George and his shooting gallery community as representative of the Victorian investment in domesticating the military man. At the same time soldiers themselves made strenuous efforts to forge connections between their military and home identities, often using art and craft to keep in touch with family and friends and to emphasise shared skills and experiences. After a Dickens prologue, this paper focuses on my research for the current exhibition ‘Created in Conflict: British Soldier Art from the Crimean War to Today’, exploring continuities in the emotional work of soldier art and considering the ways in which soldiers’ creativity can be deployed to make us feel both better and worse about war.

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The collision of the sublime and the ethical is as unavoidable as the political crises that make us attend to antique ruins with sudden and renewed urgency.  This presentation addresses the difficulty of reaching a perspective on damaged objects—a challenge that is both methodological and conceptual.  The Comte de Volney’s memorable evocation of Palmyra in his widely influential Reflections on the Revolutions of Empires (1791) and John Ruskin’s searching reflections on the power of ruins and the creative drives of modernity in Modern Painters (1843-1861) offer an opportunity to explore the implications of a question that has never been more pressing: is the surveying of damage always only synonymous with overlooking it?  Responding to the acute pressures of a not too-distant past, Volney and Ruskin enjoin us to consider how looking over ruins might become a new mode of seeing.  The much publicized situation of antiquities at risk in zones of conflict, and the challenges posed by the movements of displaced peoples in (and out of) those same regions make it all the more vital for us to understand the ethics of over-looking.

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Unless otherwise noted, all sessions take place in the Keynes Library (Room 114, School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD), and sessions are free and all are welcome, but since the venue has limited space it will be first come, first seated.

For more information on how to find us, please go to Birkbeck’s interactive map.

Please contact Shijia Yu, the Events Intern for the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies at for further information.


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