The SFEVE will be considering the notion of engagement or commitment in all its social, political, scientific, ideological, institutional, aesthetic or identity-based forms. We are interested in mobilisation for or against particular causes as well as resistance to hegemonic cultural models in the Victorian and Edwardian period. The English concept of ‘engagement’ in the sense of a ‘betrothal’ which we find in expressions such as ‘long engagements’ or ‘broken engagements’ might also be espoused along with military engagement or anti-militarism in the world conflicts between 1830 and 1910 (Crimea, the Zulu conflict, the Boer wars..).
We might also interrogate the limits and frontiers of the discipline we call Victorian studies to understand the commitment of academics to this (imagined) community. Victorian studies can be viewed as intrinsically interdisciplinary and dependent upon a variety of disciplines and methodologies, many of which function in a connected
way: aesthetics/civilisation, music/literature, texte/image. As Victorianists, are we specialists of a historical period, a genre (Victorian poetry or painting, the Edwardian novel..) or necessarily open to other periods and ready to engage with the evolution of contradictory forms, ideas, currents which traverse the nineteenth century? What commitments or infidelities are at work here and how much of our time is spent tracing the past or the destiny of the objects we engage with? The medial slippages between novel and film, the persistence of aesthetic or ideological forms, the evolution of technologies from print to hyper-modern forms of reproduction might all be considered.
Finally, we shall envisage engagement from the point of view of music and song and the engagement necessary to make the voice heard, and to celebrate its performative power. The human voice and the act of speech whether they were political, poetic, musical or theatrical were at the heart of Victorian and Edwardian society.