Embarrassing moments in the nineteenth century

Image: (Wikipedia) “The statue of Peter Pan is a 1912 bronze sculpture of J. M. Barrie’s character Peter Pan. It was commissioned by Barrie and made by Sir George Frampton. The original statue is displayed in Kensington Gardens in London, to the west of The Long Water, close to Barrie’s former home on Bayswater Road. Barrie’s stories were inspired in part by the gardens: the statue is located at the place where Peter Pan lands in Barrie’s 1902 book “The Little White Bird” after flying out of his nursery. Barrie was said to be disappointed at Frampton’s depiction of Peter Pan, in particular at his choice of model for the figure of the boy. A memorial to Frampton sculpted by Ernest Gillick in 1930, depicting a bronze child holding a miniature copy of Frampton’s statue of Peter Pan, is located in the Crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.”

From: SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS AND CHILDHOOD IN THE LONG NINETEENTH CENTURY, by Amanda Phillips Chapman, PhD (University of Pittsburgh, 2015):

“My dissertation argues that self-consciousness should take its place beside innocence and precocity as one of a constellation of terms crucial for understanding how paradigms of childhood and children’s literature developed side by side. By focusing on attitudes towards children and self-consciousness, I illuminate the ways in which discourses for and about children affected not only children’s culture but also British culture at large. My chapters examine the positive value placed on self-consciousness in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century children’s literature; the reconceptualization of childhood and self-consciousness by Romantic writers, who attached a new anxiety about self-consciousness to the figure of the child; the incredible popularity of Peter Pan, which results from the eternal boy’s combination of unselfconsciousness and theatricality; and the ways in which the British public school ethic of good form as well as the literary tradition of the school story reflect increasingly stringent demands that children be unselfconscious.”

From victorianmasculinity.Wordpress.com:

“Call for Papers: Friday 17th June 2016, Birkbeck, University of London

Website:  awkwardvictorians.wordpress.com

 “I begin to think that instead of being, as I once thought I was, the most self-conscious person living, I am much less self-conscious now […] than almost anybody.”

(John Stuart Mill, Letters, 1834)

Why were the Victorians so keenly aware of themselves? Why is the articulation of embarrassment such a preoccupation of nineteenth-century culture? The period is one in which both ‘embarrassment’ and ‘self-conscious’ first take on their modern meanings, and in which scientific, literary, and visual cultures seek to explore the links between the body and emotional expression. How might we approach this anxiety surrounding awkwardness? And what might be the links between embarrassment and modernity?

This one-day symposium, funded by a Wellcome Trust ISSF Grant, will explore embarrassing moments in the nineteenth century, and consider the range of ways in which the period’s writers and thinkers represent and conceptualise these experiences. From the ungainly bodies of Dickens’s greatest comic creations to the highly-charged moments of shared shyness in the novels of Eliot, and from Darwin’s explorations of the physiology of blushing to Rossetti’s red-cheeked Fair Rosamund, nineteenth-century culture is fascinated and energised by such moments of bodily preoccupation. This symposium hopes to draw together researchers from a range of disciplines, to consider these articulations of embarrassment across literary, scientific, philosophical, and visual cultures of the period.

 Possible topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • Shyness and awkwardness
  • The physiology of embarrassment
  • ‘Embarrassing’ ailments or bodily functions
  • Social display and social anxiety
  • Clothing and ‘embarrassing’ fashions
  • The comedy of embarrassment
  • Gender and embarrassment”

From: Rosebery – Statesman in Turmoil (2005), by Leo McKinstry:

Another factor was (Rosebery’s) acute shyness, which caused his manner to alternate between the intimidating and the charming. Lord Spencer, who called him ‘The Great Sphinx’, wrote of him: ‘I do not attribute the coldness, the want of cordiality or even the apparent rudeness to malice but to the extraordinary self-consciousness, shyness and awkwardness which possess him.’ “

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