Symposium: ‘In Harkness’ London’ (2014)

The ‘In Harkness’ London’ symposium was held on Saturday 22 November 2014 in the Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts, 46 Gordon Square, London.

The BAVS-funded symposium set out to bring together leading researchers, from academic and other backgrounds, in order to collate scholarship on Harkness and her work to date, and to encourage and support further investigation into this fascinating and still too obscure figure in the history of the late-Victorian East End.

The original symposium blog may be accessed via

The programme is available below:

We ended the day with a round-table discussion of Harkness’ unfinished novel ‘Connie’. Discussion questions drawn up by Dr Deborah Mutch, who led the discussion, may be downloaded from this page.

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‘In Harkness’ London’ was supported by the British Association for Victorian Studies


Dr Terry Elkiss:  ‘A Law onto Herself: Glimpses of Hidden Harkness’

Before embarking upon his quixotic quest for the person behind the alias of John Law, Terry Elkiss spent years researching and teaching African history at Michigan State University. Having an original card for the British Museum Round Reading Room (among an array of library and archival passes) as a merit badge of his early scholarship, his writings initially focused on southeast Africa and Portugal. After many years of enjoying the wintery pleasures of the Midwest, he departed for California where he lectured at the University of California, Santa Barbara and became the senior editor for a local academic publisher in the social sciences. Since retiring, he has been inexplicably preoccupied with Victorian studies and uncovering the life of the enigmatic Margaret Harkness.

Dr Victoria Le Fevre: ‘Battersea Dreaming: Icons, Novelettes and Mystification in Margaret Harkness’s A City Girl

Victoria Le Fevre recently obtained her PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research interests include the figure of the young impoverished woman on the nineteenth-century streets and women’s contestation of public space during the nineteenth century. Her doctoral thesis was entitled Fin de Siecle Horrors : Women, Streetwalking, Spectacle and Contagion in London Slum Narratives, 1800-1900.

Professor David Glover: ‘The 1889 Dock Strike and After: Margaret Harkness and the Vicissitudes of a Victory’

David Glover is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Southampton. His background is in sociology and cultural studies, but he has published on topics as wide-ranging as cultural theory, modernism, Victorian literature, gender, law, and literature, and the history of the novel. He is a Fellow in the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at the University of Southampton. His recent publications include Literature, Immigration, and Diaspora in Fin de Siècle England: A Cultural History of the 1905 Aliens Act (2012).

Dr Tabitha Sparks: ‘Working Class Subjectivity in Margaret Harkness’s A City Girl (1887)’

Tabitha Sparks is Associate Professor at McGill University in Montreal. Her research interests centre on the nineteenth-century novel, literature and medicine, and narrative theory. Her book Family Practices: Doctors and Marriage in the Victorian Novel was published in 2009.

Dr Nadia Valman: ‘Walking Harkness’ London’

Nadia Valman is a Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research interests span literature and religion in the nineteenth century, British-Jewish literature, and the literature of London; most recently, she extended her interest in Jewish writers of London’s East End to look at the broader literary history of the area. She has co-convened a seminar series on the topic, co-edited a special edition of the journal 19 on the East End, and has organised conferences on Willy Goldman and Arthur Morrison.

Dr Ruth Livesey: ‘Versions of Naturalism: Margaret Harkness, A City Girl (1887); Henry James, The Princess Casamassima (1885-6), and the Residents of Katherine Buildings, Whitechapel’

Ruth Livesey is Reader in 19th Century Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is an Editor of the Journal of Victorian Culture, and sits on the editorial board of 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century and on the advisory board of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. Her publications include Socialism, Sex and the Culture of Aestheticism in Britain, 1880-1914 (2007).

Dr Lynne Hapgood: ‘Talking to Myself: discourse and textual frustration in the novels of Margaret Harkness’

Lynne Hapgood recently retired from Nottingham Trent University where she was Head of the English Department. She has contributed to journals and collections on politics and fiction and co-edited Outside Modernism 1900-1930 (Palgrave, 2000). Margins of Desire: The Suburbs in Fiction and Culture 1880-1925 (MUP 2005) broke new ground in the investigation of reading and writing in London’s suburbs. She continues to work as an independent scholar but is currently writing a memoir of her father, the Arsenal and England footballer.

Eliza Cubitt: ‘”Ain’t it life-like! Ain’t it a picture!”: Ekphrasis and Margaret Harkness’s Realism’

Eliza Cubitt is a final year doctoral student at UCL researching representations of the East End in the work of Arthur Morrison (1863-1945). Her thesis assesses Morrison’s contribution to the understanding of the urban space and to the debates surrounding late-Victorian realism. She is the co-convenor, with Lisa Robertson, of the Literary London Reading Group. A recent article in 19 Journal examined the uses of gossip to control urban places in Morrison’s short story ‘Behind the Shade’ (1894).

Andrew Whitehead: ‘The Real George Eastmont’

Andrew Whitehead is a news journalist whose reporting for the BBC has covered diverse areas including British politics and current affairs in India. He has a strong interest in representations of London in fiction, and co-edited London Fictions, a volume of essays by contemporary writers on London novels and novelists which appeared in 2013.


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