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Briony Wickes, University College Dublin, ‘Character, Communication, Chickens: Animals Studies and the Victorian Novel'

Briony’s research investigates the relationship between nineteenth-century literature and global mobility during a period in which the category of ‘the human’ was being put increasingly under pressure. She is currently completing a monograph project, entitled Animal Materials: Ecology, Settlement, and the Nineteenth-Century Novel, 1815-1910. This book makes the case that Victorian fiction entwines the central logics of settler colonialism, the distinct form of colonialism that aims to permanently occupy and assert sovereignty over indigenous territory, with the signs and substances of animal life. Reading novels by Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Olive Schreiner, Elizabeth Gaskell, and H.G. Wells, the book aims to

show how animal bodies become a conduit for representing the tensions of mass migration and identifies the interactive imaginaries of race and species within Victorian texts. This paper will examine Schreiner’s Story of An African Farm (1883).

Benjamin Morgan, University of Chicago, "After the End of the World: Apocalypse, Singularity, Utopia."

What comes after the end of the world? This paper discusses late-Victorian fiction that speculated about what human life might look like in the wake of radical change--apocalyptic, technological, or revolutionary. Novels such as Erewhon (1871), The Coming Race (1871), News from Nowhere (1890), and The Purple Cloud (1901) adopted vertiginously long time scales in order to tell stories about the end of human society, and what might come next. These wild imaginings are often understood to arise from collisions between scientific discoveries and economic unrest in late-Victorian Britain, when neither society nor the human form itself could any longer be seen as stable and permanent. But the gambit of this paper is to ask whether these fictions of transformed futures might in retrospect become an uncanny mirror of our present situation--and whether they are perhaps not so wild after all.

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