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Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research

"The Unpredictable Person": Charles Kingsley at 200

Published: 20 July 2017
Charles Kingsley

20th-22nd July 2017

This workshop convened by Jonathan Conlin (UoS) and Ivo Klaver (Urbino) and supported by Princeton University and SCNR, brought together scholars from Britain, America and Canada with backgrounds in literature, history, the history of science, and the classics, to reflect on the life and works of Charles Kingsley in the unique environment of Gladstone's Library in Hawarden.

From the introductory keynote lecture given by Professor Piers Hale (Oklahoma) on 'Charles Kinglsey, science, mind, and morals in The Waterbabies', through sessions focusing on 'Gender', 'Race and Empire', 'Reading and Writing', 'Science, Sense and Nonsense', 'Jews, Christians and Others', and 'Kings', the multiple aspects of Kingsley's intellectual interests and prolific output were subjected to sustained scrutiny. Whereas the lack of time for discussion following papers is a common complaint at many conferences, this workshop allowed ample scope for the exchanges prompted by the very high quality of the individual contributions. These conversations helped to highlight the sometimes unexpected relationships between different aspects of Kingsley's work, provoked reflection on the tensions and seeming conflicts in his thought and writing, and served to clarify how 'this unpredictable person' was closely engaged in many of the most contentious and significant contemporary questions and anxieties regarding  science, evolution, religion, history, and human nature itself. The workshop was a productive and very stimulating event in itself, but the convenors also hope that it will be a springboard for publications and/or for a conference on a larger scale, both of which would certainly be welcome future developments.

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