We are delighted to announce our plenary speakers:
Joseph Bristow, Distinguished Professor of English, UCLA on
“On Making Mistakes and
Committing Errors in Victorian Studies”
During the Covid pandemic millions of people brought animals into their homes for the first time. But the British love affair with pets has much longer roots – in this lecture we argue that cultural, social and economic changes that created modern pet culture have their origins in the Victorian age. From the imperialist impulses that framed the capture of pets from field and hedgerow as part of a boys’ own adventure, to the pleas of early animal rights activists who began to argue that wild animals were best left in their natural habitats, the Victorians were fundamental in defining the animals that we continue to think of as domestic pets. The establishment of breed standards and new organisations to regulate pedigree animals, a new retail culture of spectacle and display and the first mass produced pet foods and medicines all fed into the commodification of the pet – a process that culminates in today’s multi million pound pet industries. This commodification of animals often sat uneasily with the pet’s emotional status. Framed as family members within a culture that increasingly celebrated home and domesticity, birds, cats, dogs and a range of other more exotic creatures, were loved by Victorians across the social scale. Pet keeping was not always easy, however, and then as now life with companion animals brought a range of challenges.