chapter  11
The spectacle of speech
Victorian popular lectures and mass print culture
ByAnne-Julia Zwierlein
Pages 19

This chapter explains out the popular lecture for particular attention more specifically, the popular science lecture which originated with the itinerant natural philosophers of the eighteenth century and was thus the oldest form of this oral genre. It explores how ephemeral lecture performances were modelled in newspaper reports and popular fiction, mainly between 1860 and 1900. The chapter suggests that non-fictional and fictional accounts of popular lecture performances can afford us glimpses of an alternative history, one in which the voice of the lecturing authority becomes a backdrop for the voices of the audience who are directing their attention differently or elsewhere. Victorian popular lecturing, inside or outside the British Association for the Advancement of Science or the many literary and scientific institutions, created "a platform that defined the parameters of Victorian intellectual debate that was just as effective if not more so, as the review periodicals".