Interdisciplinary Conference

The Business of a Woman’s Life:

female authorship, celebrity, and fandom in the long 19th century


University of Reading Logo with crest

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Conference Details

An interdisciplinary conference hosted by the University of Reading, 26th March 2018.

Supported by the British Association of Victorian Studies.

Keynote Speaker: Prof. Alexis Easley, University of St. Thomas

Online Registration is open now.

Authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney will also participate in a panel discussion about women’s literary friendships, drawing on their research for their recent book A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf (Aurum Press, 2017).

Draft Programme and abstracts for download in pdf format.

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates about the event.

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Programme and Registration

A painting of a blonde woman in Victorian dress, writing. 'Letterwriter' by Johanne Mathilde Dietrichson

Registration is online, through the University of Reading.

Fees will be £55 for those in employment and/or with travel funding, and £17 for students and the unwaged. If you have any questions about this, please get in touch.

Tea, coffee, and lunch will be provided on site as part of the attendance costs, and we will be taking the dietary requirements of the attendees in consideration.

The draft programme is available to download as a pdf in two formats:

Draft Programme Large Print

Draft Programme

Please also download posters to circulate and display at your institution, library or other suitable venue:

Poster ACF A4

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Location, Accommodation and Access


The conference will take place in the Conference Room and Seminar Room, at the Museum of English Rural Life, on the University of Reading’s London Road Campus on 26th March 2018.

Full details regarding access, and directions, are available on MERL’s website.


Parking is limited, so please do consider the many public transport options through Reading buses. There is a 3 minute walk from the nearest bus stops on routes from the train station and town centre.

If attendees are interested in sharing taxis from the railway station or accommodation locations, the organisers will be glad to facilitate contact between individuals in advance, once registration is open.

Dedicated parking spaces are available for disabled visitors, and there is a step-free entrance, with automatic door and wheelchair lifts for all stairs. The fully-accessible toilets are on a different floor to the conference space, however. The conference room has a projector and sound system, and we will ask all speakers to use the microphone. The building is Victorian, and while it has been modernised in many respects, some corridors are still narrow and not all doors are automated.


The university hotel The Cedars provides bed and breakfast accommodation. However, please note all rooms have stair access of one or two flights, and thus cannot accommodate wheelchair users. This accommodation is based on the main Whiteknights Campus, and is thus a 6 minute bus ride (21, 21A), 1 mile from the venue.

There are local hotels in the immediate vicinity of the venue:

The Hillingdon Prince Hotel – Modernised Victorian building, some accessible rooms. avg. room price £55, .6 mile from venue.

Premier Inn Reading – Modern building with accessible rooms. Avg. room price £45, .7 mile from venue.

The Great Expectations Pub – All rooms accessed by stairs. Avg price £60, .6 mile from venue (on 21, 21a bus route).

Town Centre hotels include:

Ibis Styles Reading – Modern building, accessible rooms. Price from £55, .7 mile from venue.

Mercure George Reading – Very old building, not all rooms accessible. Price from £50 -£70, .8 mile from venue.

Royal County Hotel – All rooms accessed by stairs. Avg. price £70, .7 mile (on 21, 21a bus routes).

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Call for Papers

No more abstracts will be accepted after 5th December 2017.

This interdisciplinary conference aims to explore the wide variety of women’s engagement with literary and theatrical cultures in the long-nineteenth century as authors, performers and audience members. Literary and dramatic pursuits brought women into the public consciousness not only as creators and critics, but also as fans and consumers.

This conference develops the transdisciplinary perspectives of fan studies and audience engagement research back into the pre-twentieth century era. Scholars are invited from the fields of literary studies, social history, cultural studies, readership studies, book history, fan studies, and history of leisure and recreation to foster dialogues on the subject of nineteenth-century female creativity.

We invite proposals of 300 words for 20 minute presentations relating to the conference theme. If you cannot afford to travel to the venue, submit a poster idea!

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

• Responses to women’s literature – reviews, articles in periodicals and newspapers, letters written to female authors, advice on reading offered to women

• Women’s ephemera – scrapbooks, commonplace books, marginalia, correspondence, diaries

• Female authors in conversation – intertextual references to other works, correspondence between authors and/or publishers

• Gender and performance – theatrical and musical fandoms, public readings of poetry and prose, women’s public speaking

• The promotion and marketing for cultural events and publications featuring women, and/or aimed at a female audience

• Women and the literature of professionalization – scientific articles, monographs, medical treatises, autobiographies/biographies of prominent female professionals

• Gender and performativity – writing under gendered pseudonyms, the ‘feminisation’ of genres such as the gothic and the romance

Please send your abstract, and a 100 word biographical note, to organiser Evan Hayles Gledhill by 30 November 2017 at:

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Contact the Organiser

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates about the event and ensure you’ll know when registration opens.

Please get in touch regarding any queries about the event.