Day: April 24, 2024

Dr. Laura Kasson Fiss Named President of the Midwest Victorian Studies Association

Dr. Laura Kasson Fiss, Associate Teaching Professor and Assistant Director of the Pavlis Honors College and Associate Teaching Professor in Humanities, takes on the esteemed role of President of the Midwest Victorian Studies Association (MVSA), a position integral to steering the MVSA community of scholars and volunteers. The new role was made official during the 2024 MVSA conference, held at the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City from April 19 to April 21, 2024.

Laura Kasson Fiss (right) and past-president Christopher Ferguson (center) present outgoing MVSA president Andrea Kaston Tange (left) with a mid-Victorian cake serving set as a thank you.
Photo credit: Doreen Thierauf

Dr. Laura Kasson Fiss is a distinguished scholar with an interdisciplinary background in music, literary studies, and the history of the book. She brings with her a wealth of experience and a profound appreciation for the complexities of the Victorian era. Her journey into Victorian scholarship began early in her academic career and has been fueled by a fascination with the interplay between optimism and fear, progress and apprehension, that characterized the Victorian period.

Reflecting on her passion for the Victorian era, Fiss remarks, “The Victorian period is fascinating to me because there is this intense divide between optimism and fear of degeneration, between the marvels of technology and the menace of it, looking to the future and learning from the past. There is a lot of information out there about the Victorian period and it’s really easy to see the connection between it and what is happening now.  But also it’s different enough that it makes me continually stop and think: what was it like to be in a different time?”

With a keen appreciation for interdisciplinary scholarship, Fiss embraces the diverse facets of Victorian studies, including music—an aspect she values deeply within the MVSA community. Her previous role as Vice President of the association has provided her with invaluable insights into the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and inclusivity in fostering a thriving scholarly community.

Laura Kasson Fiss presenting her conference paper entitled “From ‘Lecture on Lecturing’ to ‘Humorous and Musical Recital’: Comic Solo Performance between Generations of George Grossmiths.”
Photo credit: Tom Prasch

Looking ahead, Fiss envisions a future for the MVSA that is characterized by inclusivity, collaboration, and impact. She emphasizes the importance of expanding the association’s reach and resources, stating, “MVSA is known as a welcoming community, and I’d like to continue and extend that. I would like to see people engaging with MVSA from a variety of fields and continue to provide a community that lets people know if they want to be involved in research, they can be.”

During her tenure as Vice President, Fiss prioritized initiatives aimed at supporting emerging scholars, notably chairing the Arnstein Prize committee—an essential recognition for dissertation research among graduate students engaged in Victorian studies.

Discussing the significance of the MVSA conference, Fiss underscores its role as a platform for networking, scholarly exchange, and mentorship, particularly for emerging scholars.

“I believe that the MVSA conference’s main purpose is all about networking. Engaging with other scholars, connecting on research, encouraging work, and encouraging emerging scholars.”

Dr. Laura Kasson Fiss
Laura Kasson Fiss displaying her book, “The Idler’s Club: Humour and Mass Readership from Jerome K. Jerome to P. G. Wodehouse.”

For those seeking to embark on their own journey into Victorian studies or engage with the MVSA community, Fiss offers practical advice: “Read. If you are someone who thinks you might be interested, read Victorian literature, listen to Victorian music, and take in Victorian art. Take a class.” If you’re already a researcher in the area, “Start with the MVSA seminars. They are friendly and a good place to begin your journey, show us what you are working on and see how we can help you.”

As Dr. Laura Kasson Fiss assumes the presidency of the Midwest Victorian Studies Association, she brings with her a vision of inclusivity, collaboration, and scholarly excellence that promises to shape the future of Victorian studies in the Midwest and beyond.

For more information about the Midwest Victorian Studies Association and its upcoming events and initiatives, please visit