Dr. Erika Behrisch Elce presents “‘One of the bright objects that solace us in these regions’: Labour, Leisure, and the Arctic Shipboard Periodical, 1820-1852.”
McNeely Hall Great Room (Room 100) (Building #31 on St. Paul Campus Map)
Dr. Erika Behrisch Elce, Assistant Professor of English at Royal Military College of Canada, presents “‘One of the bright objects that solace us in these regions’: Labour, Leisure, and the Arctic Shipboard Periodical, 1820-1852.”
This presentation explores three shipboard periodicals from nineteenth-century admiralty-funded polar expeditions and argues that through these texts, explorers--from able seamen to admirals--validated the English presence in the Arctic as effectively as the imposition of English names on the polar map. Officially sanctioned by the admiralty, however, these publications also performed a more subtle, but no less important, function: while submissions were anonymous and open to all members of the crew, material was carefully vetted by officer-editors, and, in delivering to their readers a carefully constructed cheerfulness, the papers helped maintain shipboard discipline by placing even sailors’ leisure activities--writing and reading--under admiralty control.
Dr. Behrisch Elce specializes in Victorian literature and nineteenth-century science. Her book, As affecting the fate of my absent husband: Selected Letters of Lady Franklin Concerning the Search for the Lost Franklin Expedition, 1848-1860, was published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2009. Her current research project looks at British Admiralty contributions to the popular “Arctic craze” of the mid-nineteenth century. This study concentrates on two of the Admiralty’s publications from the period, its 1849 Manual of Scientific Enquiry and its series of Arctic Blue Books (1818-1878), and argues that through these texts the Admiralty sought to maintain support for its northern expeditions by transforming Arctic exploration into a popular, national (and nationalist) pastime. Looking at the nineteenth-century politicization of Arctic space has relevance today, as Canada expresses its rights for sovereignty by citing historical precedent.