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his year's VSAWC conference will take place in Canmore, Alberta, a charming Rocky Mountain town that lies right outside of Banff National Park. From this location—on the border of an area that has been set apart as "natural"—we will gather to consider and complicate the ways that Victorians understood the concepts of nature and artifice. While designer Christopher Dresser described nature as providing "an inexhaustible mine" of ideas for new decorative designs, Oscar Wilde warned that "all bad art comes from returning to Life and Nature." Taking these two perspectives as a starting point, we ask: what are some of the ways that Victorians understood the relationship between nature and art, and between the natural and the artificial? How did they complicate or challenge those relationships?

Our keynote speakers this year will be Dr. Margaret Diane Stetz and Dr. Lianne McTavish. Dr Stetz is Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities at University of Delaware. She will be giving a virtual keynote address on her recent curated exhibits by key fin de siècle aesthetic figures. Dr. McTavish, Professor of Art, Design, and Visual culture at the University of Alberta, will deliver an in-person keynote address on the history of zoos, with an emphasis on critical animal studies and on Banff Park Zoo as the key case study.

We welcome proposals for papers, panels, and workshops that reflect on nature and artifice as it relates to either research or teaching, or that complicate the relationship between nature and artifice in the Victorian period. Topics for exploration include, but are not limited to:

Proposals: Please submit a proposal (maximum of 300 words) and a biographical statement (maximum of 75 words) to no later than Friday, November 3, 2023. For panels, applicants are asked to share the title of the proposed panel in addition to the individual paper titles. Please send questions or comments to conference co-hosts, Dr. Heather Marcovitch (Red Deer Polytechnic) and Dr. Andrea Korda (University of Alberta), at We look forward to hearing from you!

Last modified 2 October 2023