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The Gaskell Society Conference 2022

8 July - 11 July

“A Monstrous Regiment of Women”: Elizabeth Gaskell and her Contemporaries.

Friday 8 – Monday 11 July, 2022. The Celtic Royal Hotel, Caernarfon

Our programme begins on Friday evening when archaeologist, musician and extra-mural lecturer, Rhys Mwyn, with his considerable knowledge and advocacy of Welsh culture and industry will give us the setting for Gaskell’s visits to Wales, for the novel Ruth and the short stories ‘The Well of Pen Morfa’ and ‘The Doom of the Griffiths’. After dinner, we will hear more of the relevance of choosing North Wales for our venue, looking at extracts from Elizabeth Gaskell’s letters and novels.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, we have a total of five speakers (listed below). 

There’ll be a trip to Pen Morfa, Porthmadog and other locations known to the Gaskell family on the Saturday afternoon. Elizabeth Williams will also host one of her popular study sessions on Saturday afternoon as an alternative to the trip.

The conference dinner  and drinks reception will be held on Saturday evening following a drinks reception. We are planning entertainment on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

On Sunday afternoon, we’ll visit Plas Penrhyn, the home of the Samuel Hollands, who were respectively uncle and cousin to Elizabeth Gaskell – this is where she and William stayed as part of their honeymoon tour.

Getting there

There will be a coach to Caernarfon from the North West. Plans are in progress for both inward and outward journeys with lunch stops and places of interest to explore


“We are overrun. Women carry all before them…”: the Growth of Female Fiction in the Victorian Period – Dr Shirley Foster

In May 1850, George Henry Lewes wrote: “We are overrun. Women carry all before them….the group of female authors is becoming every year more multitudinous and more successful.” This paper will focus on Victorian women novelists, the contexts in which they wrote and the contribution they made to this rapidly expanding genre.

Dr Shirley Foster obtained her PhD from Liverpool University and went on to lecture in American Studies at the University of Hull. She moved to Sheffield University to lecture in English & American Literature, from where she retired as Reader in 2012. She has written widely on her main research interests, which include Victorian fiction (especially Elizabeth Gaskell), 19th-century American literature, and travel writing, particularly by women. She is President of the Gaskell Society.

Elizabeth Gaskell & Frances Trollope: Literary Echoes – Dr Carolyn Lambert

These important and influential women both wrote controversial books that challenged ideas about class, gender and politics. For both, love, marriage and family relationships were at the heart of their lives and their writing. It could be said that they straddled the divide between Regency and Victorian England.

Dr Carolyn Lambert obtained her PhD from Sussex University in 2013. Her publications include The Meanings of Home in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Fiction (2013), For Better, For Worse: Marriage in Victorian Novels by Women (2018) co-edited with Marion Shaw, Frances Trollope (2020), and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Smaller Stories (2021).

Elizabeth Gaskell and the Female Gothic – Dr Emma Liggins

Female Gothic refers to a style of popular fiction in which women are depicted as both terrorised victims and courageous heroines. Gaskell seems to have been influenced by writers like Ann Radcliffe, particularly in short stories such as ‘The Grey Woman’, ‘The Poor Clare’ and ‘A Dark Night’s Work’.

Dr Emma Liggins is Reader in English Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her publications include: Odd Women? Spinsters, Lesbians & Widows in British Women’s Fiction, 1850-1939 (2014) and The Haunted House in Women’s Ghost Stories, 1850-1945: Gender, Space & Modernity (2020). She also has a chapter on modernist women’s ghost stories in British Women Short Story Writers (2015).

Lessons to be Learnt: Social Stereotyping & Female Autonomy in the Novels of Anne Marsh Caldwell & Elizabeth Gaskell – Dr Diane Duffy

Born in 1791, Anne Marsh Caldwell began writing in 1836. Gaskell read her work and they shared the same Unitarian beliefs concerning education and independent rational thought – key themes in the work of both women. Although Caldwell’s politics were more conservative than Gaskell’s, her work does present some interesting alternative roles for women.

Diane obtained her PhD in Early 19th Century Women’s Writing from the University of Manchester. She spent her working life in the education sector and retired in 2013. The following year, she became a volunteer at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, where she is now a Trustee, tour guide and researcher. She is a Gaskell Society Committee member and runs our monthly discussion sessions. Her publications include two for the Society – Elizabeth Gaskell & the Industrial Poor and Christmas with the Gaskells, both co-written with Anthony Burton.

Giving “Help to the Mesters”: Frances Hodgson Burnett Rewrites Elizabeth Gaskell’s Industrial Fiction – Dr Mike Sanders

Frances Hodgson Burnett is best known today for her children’s fiction, but she first came to attention in the late 1870s with two novels set in industrial Lancashire. Burnett admired Gaskell, and this paper will explore the ways in which Burnett’s novels engaged with both Mary Barton and North and South.

Dr Mike Sanders is Senior Lecturer in 19th Century Writing at the University of Manchester. He is the author of The Poetry of Chartism (2009). He is currently working on Piston, Pen & Press, an AHRC-funded research project which aims to understand how industrial workers in Scotland and the North of England engaged with literary culture from the 1840s – 1910s.

Booking your place

Conference fees  include accommodation, meals and trips.

Single Room fee – £385

Twin Room (two sharing) – £310 per person

Please reserve your place by Saturday 30th April 2022


Celtic Royal Hotel
Bangor Street
Caernarfon, North Wales LL55 1AY United Kingdom
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