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Scholar will discuss what Victorian fiction can teach us about 'ethics of care'

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Department of English will host a leading scholar of Victorian studies for the annual American-British Lecture.

Talia Schaffer, professor of English at Queens College-City University of New York and the Graduate Center CUNY, will present “Victorian Care: Subjectivity, Sentimentality, and Sociality” at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 in the Malott Room of the Kansas Union. The event is open to the public.

Schaffer is currently a Rockefeller Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She has published widely on Victorian familial and marital norms, disability studies, women writers, material culture, popular fiction and aestheticism. She is the author of “Romance’s Rival: Familiar Marriage in Victorian Fiction,” winner of the 2016 NAVSA award for the best book in Victorian studies. She has also written “Novel Craft: Victorian Domestic Handicraft and Nineteenth-Century Fiction” (2011) and “The Forgotten Female Aesthetes; Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England” (2001).  She has published a collection called “Literature and Culture at the Fin de Siècle” (2006), produced a scholarly edition of Lucas Malet's 1901 novel, “The History of Sir Richard Calmad”y (2003); and co-edited “Women and British Aestheticism” with Kathy Psomiades (1999).

Schaffer’s upcoming lecture at KU brings “ethics of care,” a feminist and disability-studies philosophy, together with Victorian fiction. She argues that virtually every Victorian novel depicts a “community of care,” or motley group of friends, neighbors, servants and family members who gather around someone in need. Focusing on Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House,” she shows how the “ethics of care” can offer new ideas about how social relations work – not only in Victorian fiction but also in our own experience, making ourselves aware of our own participation in fluid, affiliative, performative constellations of care.