The Victorian Body Parts Conference is an interdisciplinary event for postgraduate and early career researchers, and will be held on Saturday 14th September 2013 at St Bart’s Pathology Museum, Clerkenwell.

It is supported by the British Association for Victorian Studies and the Birkbeck Centre for 19th Century Studies.

The conference is being organised by Beatrice Bazell and Emma Curry, both in their 2nd year of PhD research at Birkbeck, working on representations of body parts in Victorian culture.

Why were the Victorians so interested in atomizing the body? What was causing nineteenth-century bodies to come apart at the seams? From articulated bones to beating hearts, from wooden legs to hair bracelets, from death masks to glass eyes, the Victorian body was chattering with its own discorporation.

The results of this fragmentation are successors to the recent scholarly work on material culture in examining the atomisation of the body as a symptom of being surrounded by the commodities generated by the nineteenth century. From objects under glass domes to pieces of the body in glass cases (authentic specimens of which fill St Bartholomew’s Pathology Museum), commodification and dissection have much in common.

This conference thus seeks to explore, develop and enrich perspectives on the numerous and varied ways in which the Victorians approached their anatomy, bringing together postgraduate, early career and established researchers to consider why body parts provided such an urgent and stimulating focus within the nineteenth-century cultural imagination.

Possible topics could include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Mementos of the body and the culture of mourning
  • Disability and the “substitution” of the body part
  • Dress and the exaggeration of, or emphasis on, elements of the body
  • Darwin and bodily means of expression in science
  • The“queering” of the body part
  • Measuring the body: deviation from the standards of Western patriarchy
  • Preserving the body: collecting and museum cultures

Proposals of up to 300 words should be sent to [email protected] by Friday 31st May 2013.  See for further details.


Twitter: @victbodyparts