Family Ties: Exploring Kinship and Creative Production in Nineteenth-Century Britain


12-14 February 2017, University of Otago

Dunedin, New Zealand


Plenary Speakers:


Judith Pascoe, University of Iowa

Devoney Looser, Arizona State University


In 1800, poet and playwright Joanna Baillie dedicated her Series of Plays to her physician brother Matthew Baillie for his “unwearied zeal and brotherly partiality”; Matthew himself had recently edited the anatomical research of their uncles, John and William Hunter. At century’s end, Oscar Wilde cited his mother Jane Wilde’s translation of Sidonia the Sorceress (1849) and his great-uncle Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) as his “favourite romantic reading when a boy.” Family played an important role in the literary and artistic productions of the long nineteenth century, from the Burneys to the Brontës, and the Rossettis to the Doyles. Critical approaches ranging from Noel Annan’s “Intellectual Aristocracy” to Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory have provided useful ways of assessing and contextualising the role of family in the creative production of writers and artists, but still the role of the family remains underexplored.


We invite submissions for “Family Ties,” a three-day symposium at the University of Otago and Otago Museum focused on British literary and artistic families in the nineteenth century. Topics for 20-minute papers might include:

Interdisciplinary Influences

Collaborations and/or Dissents

Authorial Identity/ies

Communities and Networks

Redefining Family Units

Stages of Life (births, marriages, deaths)

Reimaginings of nineteenth-century families

Families, Creativity, and Empire

Economics of Family Authorship

Literary and Artistic Legacies

Little-known Relations

Generational Influences

Please send abstracts of 250-300 words by 15 November to Dr Thomas McLean and Dr Ruth Knezevich at

Details of the conference will be posted as they become available, so be sure to bookmark this site:

The symposium coincides with “Keeping it in the Family: British and Irish Literary Generations 1770–1930,” an exhibition at Otago’s Special Collections, and precedes the 16–19 February RSAA conference in Wellington, New Zealand. There are direct flights between Dunedin and Wellington, and we hope many participants will attend both events. “Family Ties” is made possible by generous support from the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund. It will be an opportunity to share the first results of the three-year Marsden funded project, “Global Romantics: How the Porter Family Shaped Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature.”