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Conference Report: ‘Romanticism Goes to University’, Edge Hill, May 2018

A detailed report from the BARS-sponsored conference that took place last month. Visit our website to find out how to apply for BARS conference support.

Conference Report: Edge Hill Symposium ‘Romanticism Goes to University’, 19-20 May 2018

by Juliette Misset

‘Romanticism Goes to University,’ the third installment in a series of three annual symposiums held at Edge Hill University, took place over a warm and sunny weekend this past May. Following ‘Edgy Romanticism/Romanticism on the Edge’ in 2016 and ‘Romanticism Takes to the Hills‘ in 2017, ‘Romanticism Goes to University’ offered participants the chance to consider the Romantic period both as researchers and as teachers, complete with keynote presentations, panels, and workshops, and even live-tweeting.

The first day started off with a panel entitled ‘The Romantic University and Romantic Poetry,’ where Matthew Sangster’s opening paper discussed a number of Romantic poets’ diverging takes on the university experience in their verse, highlighting the conflicting views of higher education at the time. Catherine Ross gave us the institutional perspective in the paper that followed, detailing the organisation of academic curricula in Oxford and Cambridge in the period, along with how students would typically spend their time outside of class, arguing for the importance of the whole of the university experience for emerging poets.

The second panel saw us venturing beyond the borders of Great Britain and into universities on the European continent. Maximiliaan van Woudenberg first explored the intellectual exchanges at the University of Göttingen, where a number of British intellectuals found an alternative to the traditional curricula offered to them in Britain, and the ways in which the German university and particularly its library has become significant for Romantic thought. Fittingly, Michael Bradshaw then turned to a specific British student of the University of Göttingen, considering the theatrical and performative element of Thomas Lovell Beddoes’ experience there. Moving farther east on the continent, Daiva Milinkevičiūtė studied the relationships between university teachers and students who belonged to the Philomaths and Philaretes organisations at Vilnius University. In the final paper of the panel, José Manuel Correoso-Rodenas presented an ongoing research and development project taking place at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, which aims at digitising all the existing illustrated editions of Edgar Allan Poe’s works.

The last panel of the day gave us rich and complementary insights into education in the Godwin-Wollstonecraft circle, extended to Mary Hays and her niece Matilda. John-Erik Hansson first looked at the ways in which William Godwin reworked the fable for innovative pedagogical purposes that move away from didactic moralising in order to focus on opening the mind of the child-reader to a myriad of subjects. Colette Davies moved on to  how Mary Wollstonecraft instructed other female writers through her professional reviews in the Analytical Reviews and in her private correspondence, and persuasively argued that Wollstonecraft was far from maternally supportive of all literary efforts by women. Finally, Susan Civale reconsidered Mary Hays’ image as a revolutionary turned isolated conservative by looking at the textual and personal ways that she mentored her niece Matilda.

After an afternoon tea that allowed for conversations to continue beyond the panel, Katie Garner gave the first keynote of the weekend. Taking advantage of the records kept by the University of St Andrews library, Katie reconsidered the assumption that universities were exclusively male spaces in the Romantic period. Her research on the borrowing records of the period showed that women who were connected to academia through a male family member, such as professors’ wives, had access to the library collections, and that there was no clear boundary between reading material borrowed for academic purposes or for pleasure among library card holders.

Katie then led the workshop on teaching Romanticism, which ended the day in the beautiful rooftop garden of the Business School building. This first workshop devoted to experiences of teaching the Romantic period in university today allowed for everyone to engage in a conversation that helped to bridge the gap between teaching and research, in an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere where early-career teachers and researchers felt comfortable sharing their experiences and thoughts with their more experienced colleagues. We discussed expanding the Romantic canon and trying different ways of teaching and assessing students. A wonderful end to a rich and stimulating first day, where dialogue continued all the way through to the conference dinner.

Sunday began with the second keynote and workshop of the event, given and led by Judith Pascoe. Judith presented various examples of the use of digital methods both in research and teaching, at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, keeping in mind the challenges such methods represent. One of the examples that most stood out was probably the recording of part of an ongoing doctoral project in the form of a podcast as opposed to the traditional thesis, which was a wonderful example of combining creative and critical work. The teaching workshop was embedded in the keynote as participants were asked to think of syllabus design including assessment during the presentation before discussing our picks during the workshop.

The following panel considered alternative approaches to education, with two papers that explored Romantic poetry in terms of vitality and mourning respectively, in a fitting duality. Shiwa Mun looked specifically at Percy Shelley’s ‘The Sensitive-Plant’ and its manifestation of ‘vegetal vitality’ where the poem becomes a textual garden, while Emily J. Dolive demonstrated how Mary Robinson and Jane Alice Sargant used the printed page as a physical space to guide Romantic readers through grief in the war-torn period.

The final panel explored ways of engaging with the Romantics beyond the classroom, digitally and otherwise. Lindsey Seatter traced the evolution of a digital editing project that originated as a classroom assignment and developed into a scholarly portfolio, delineating the challenges and constraints of such undertakings, while highlighting the exciting avenues for editing and research these represent. Val Derbyshire closed the panel with the presentation of a project involving a public re-enactment of Revolutionary addresses at The Old Bell pub in Derby, that historians believe to have taken place in the same pub in 1792. Val related how the performance eventually turned into a social protest event anchored in contemporary times, movingly showing just how relevant studying the Romantic period remains to this day.

This rich and diverse symposium closed with a final keynote and workshop by Alice Jenkins, highlighting once again the relevance of the Romantic period today through a comparative overview of some of the dilemmas facing universities then and now. While universities have changed to a great extent since the Romantic institutions of Oxford and Cambridge, fundamental questions such as whether and how to teach so-called ‘useful’ subjects—subjects that are understood to constitute a direct path to employment—within the university still very much apply today.

Overall, the weekend proved an extremely stimulating as well as welcoming event, where the single-track format allowed everyone to appreciate the careful constitution and progression of the panels, workshops, and keynotes. As a first-time attendee of an academic conference of this kind, I very much look forward to many more.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Val Derbyshire on James Northcote

Val Derbyshire has completed this research report following a recent trip to archives in London. She was funded by a BARS Stephen Copley Award.

 

James Northcote: The Man Who Exists Only in Fragments

by Val Derbyshire (University of Sheffield)

 

This year, I was fortunate enough to win the Stephen Copley Research Award from BARS.  This generous award provided the funding to visit the Royal Academy of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, both of whom hold personal letters and papers belonging to the portrait painter James Northcote (1746-1831).  I’ve written about Northcote’s work before, and am particularly interested in how this often overlooked portrait painter sits at the centre of a number of celebrated figures from Romanticism.

 

The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, on the very sunny day on which I visited to look at Northcote’s personal papers and letters held here.

 

My PhD thesis explores Charlotte Smith’s connection with Northcote.  My research has shown that both Northcote and Smith utilise similar techniques in portraying their male heroes.  Northcote was a painter who portrayed far more men than women and both Smith and Northcote adapt the tropes traditionally associated with the aesthetic of the beautiful in the portrayal of their male ‘heroes’.  This undermines the conventional view that the sublime is a male trait, whilst the beautiful belongs to the feminine sphere.  By considering the male portraits of Northcote and Smith in tandem, it becomes possible to see how both artists engage with an abstract concept in order to reveal that it is a conceit which is utterly flawed.  This, in turn, leads to questions and uncertainties concerning masculine identity which Smith emphasises within her novels, just as Northcote similarly raises these concerns within his artworks. Over the past few months I have been visiting archival holdings to look at the personal correspondence of James Northcote.   These visits have thrown up some interesting findings, including the fact that he had a close relationship with William Godwin (close enough to leave him £100 in his will) and he also corresponded regularly with other literary figures like Elizabeth Inchbald.  Northcote’s notebook held by the Bodleian Library includes fifteen letters from Inchbald to Northcote and their mutual friends.  These letters include charming details such as how Northcote called for Inchbald one evening in order to take her to ‘Mrs Wedells rout.’  Unfortunately, as Northcote was not expected, Inchbald had already put on her nightgown and was ready for bed, but was then crippled by guilt at refusing to see Northcote, if only to ‘load [him] with reproaches.’[1]

It is known that Smith and Northcote were friends.  He was included within an invitation to take tea at Smith’s home which was addressed to William Godwin dated 27 February 1800: ‘Will you dine with me some day next week if I can assemble Mr & Mrs Fenwick, Mr Northcote, Mr Coleridge, & one or two friends – who would not spoil the party.’[2]  The party took place on 4th March 1800, when Godwin noted in his diary ‘tea C Smith’s w. Coleridge, Northcote, Fenwicks & Duncans.’[3]  By visiting these archival holdings of Northcote’s personal letters and papers, I hoped to find further evidence of his friendship with Smith (more letters perhaps?)  Unfortunately, however, there were no letters either from Smith to Northcote or vice versa.  What I did gain, nevertheless, was a fascinating insight into the man Mark Ledbury describes as ‘mostly a curiosity […] enmeshed with many others’ and hampered by the ‘widespread and persistent belief that Northcote was simply not an interesting enough painter to merit close critical scrutiny.’[4]  ‘It is unfair,’ as Ledbury argues, ‘to liken Northcote to the subject of his satirical fable ‘The Painter Who Pleased Nobody’ (see figure 2), but rather he was ‘the painter who pleased nobody enough.’[5]

 

James Northcote, ‘Illustration to accompany “The Painter Who Pleased Nobody”’ in James Northcote, Fables Original and Selected (London: John Murray, 1838), pp. 216-7.

 

My visits to the Royal Academy of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum helped me to construct a more rounded picture of Northcote.  The letters held by the Royal Academy are for the most part addressed to his beloved brother Samuel, and detail the period in time when Northcote left home, much against the advice of his parents.  Northcote headed to London to learn his craft, to seek his fortune as an artist, and ‘follow an amusement which is to me beyond every other upon Earth.’[6] Shortly after his arrival in London, Northcote would take up residence with the founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Art, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and spend his time perfecting his artistry in copying Reynolds’s own art collection and painting the drapery and hands in Reynolds’s masterpieces.  The letters progress through Northcote’s apprenticeship with Reynolds to the point when he leaves him in order to complete his training abroad by taking an Italian tour, providing details of this tour and the friendships he forms during this.  By the time Northcote left Reynolds, he writes ‘I know him thoroughly and all his faults, I am sure, and yet I allmost Worship him.’[7]  This ‘worship’ was to persist throughout Northcote’s long life.  In his will, held at the British Library in London, he desires that ‘my mortal remains […] shall be deposited […] as near as possibly may be to the remains of my late lamented Friend and Master Sir Joshua Reynolds.’[8]

 

Detail from James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 3rd January 1776, NOR/15, Royal Academy of Art.

 

The notebook of letters and personal papers held by the Victoria and Albert Museum were much more diverse in nature.  They included letters relating to Northcote’s business as a successful portrait painter, as well as personal epistles from William Godwin and William Cowper, and details of his friendship with fellow artist (and also friend to Charlotte Smith), John Raphael Smith (1751-1812).

All in all, despite not finding any letters between Smith and Northcote, the research trip was very successful.  It provided me with a clearer picture of the man who ‘exists in fragments,’ as Ledbury terms it, and whilst only a few items will contribute to my doctoral research, the trip has given me food for thought for future research projects.[9]   I would like to thank BARS for their generous award of the Stephen Copley Research prize which has made all this possible.

 

[1] James Northcote, The Letter book of James Northcote (Oxford: Bodleian Libraries, MS Eng Misc e143).

[2] Cited in Pamela Clemit and Charlotte Smith, ‘Charlotte Smith to William and Mary Jane Godwin: Five Holograph Letters’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 55 (2006), 29-40 (39).  ‘Mr & Mrs. Fenwick, refers to Eliza Fenwick (1766-1840), author of Secresy, or the Ruin of the Rock (1795), and her husband.’

[3] Cited in Pamela Clemit and Charlotte Smith, ‘Charlotte Smith to William and Mary Jane Godwin: Five Holograph Letters’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 55 (2006), 29-40 (39).  (Clemit notes that ‘the Duncans have not been further identified.’ (p. 39).

[4]Mark Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables (New Haven & London: Yale Center for British Art, 2014), pp. 1-2.

[5] Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables, pp. 1-2, emphasis in original.

[6] James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 25th June 1771, NOR/1, Royal Academy of Art.

[7] James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 3rd January 1776, NOR/15, Royal Academy of Art [Sic].

[8] James Northcote, ‘Last Will and Testament of James Northcote’ in The Papers of James Northcote, holding number 42524, British Library, London.

[9] Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables, p. 1.

Call for Applications: Communications Fellows for the K-SAA

Please see the following notice below from the Keats-Shelley Association of America (K-SAA)

The K-SAA is inviting applications for two part-time Communications Fellows for a period of one year, beginning June 2018. Fellows will assist the Director of Communications and the K-SAA Secretary in engaging with, and creating content for, academic and non-academic communities interested in the Romantic period – especially those interested in the second generation of Romantic authors.

Applicants should have an interest in Romantic literature and should have previously used social media for academic/professional purposes. They will be able to demonstrate their ability to write and edit academic blog content similar to what is currently presented on the K-SAA site. Experience using WordPress and editing websites is desirable.

To apply: please send an academic CV and personal statement of no more than two pages explaining why you are best placed to undertake the duties below to info@k-saa.org by June 5 2018.

Duties:

  • To create engaging and informative online content designed to promote the understanding and celebration of the lives and works of the Keats-Shelley circles, most broadly understood. Fellows will be knowledgeable and passionate about the Romantic period, especially the second generation of Romantic writers
  • To set up regular appropriate content for the Twitter and Facebook feeds, applying relevant experience of using social media for professional purposes
  • To respond to enquiries on social media
  • To use WordPress to publish and edit blog posts for the K-SAA Blog
  • To design and curate these blog posts, including soliciting authors from the academic and non-academic communities and other interested parties
  • To develop the success of the above initiatives and to research further potential developments, and be willing to work independently and to maintain professional communications at all times
  • To attend regular Skype meetings with the Director of Communications Anna Mercer and occasionally the K-SAA Secretary, Kate Singer, and be able to work collaboratively with colleagues to share ideas and modify technique(s) accordingly
  • To learn and develop individual knowledge of the K-SAA and to create content that supports the association’s aims

Communication Fellows will be expected to work 5 hours per week for an annual stipend of $750 USD.

Informal enquiries can be directed to Dr. Anna Mercer (mercerannam@gmail.com).

Archive Spotlight: correspondence between James Northcote and Peter Pindar in Durham’s Special Collections

A new Archive Spotlight post on the blog today by Val Derbyshire (University of Sheffield). Val has kindly contributed details of her research to this series before, in another Spotlight post entitled ‘Archive Spotlight on the Derbyshire Record Office: A Marriage of the Romantic and the Scientific’. Val has also been awarded a 2018 BARS Stephen Copley Award, and we look forward to hearing more about her work at the Royal Art Academy and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London later this year.

If you’d like to contribute to this series, please find more information about how to get in touch with your ideas here.

Enjoy Val’s exploration into a heated exchange of letters that may have inspired Northcote’s Diligence and Dissipation.

 

‘[A] simple act of fornication’[1]: Diligence and Dissipation, James Northcote and Peter Pindar by Val Derbyshire, School of English, University of Sheffield

 

Just recently, I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a Stephen Copley Research Award from BARS in order to research the letters and other personal writings of portraitist James Northcote (1746-1831).  My interest in Northcote was sparked by the discovery of his personal friendship with the subject of my doctoral thesis, Charlotte Smith (1749-1806).  Over the past few months I have been visiting archival holdings to look at the personal correspondence of Northcote.

 

James Northcote, Self-portrait, c.1784, oil on canvas

 

Northcote has traditionally been viewed as a marginal figure within the art world of British Romanticism, but research has revealed that he was in fact central to the circles of a number of key Romantic figures.  Exploration in the archives has shown that not only did he have an intimate friendship with William Godwin, even leaving Godwin £100 in his will, but that he also corresponded with Elizabeth Inchbald, in addition to taking tea with Smith, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Godwin.[2]  He was one of the last people to see artist John Opie  alive, and Opie’s wife, novelist Amelia Opie, took comfort from Northcote’s visit to her dying husband’s bedside, detailing Northcote’s kindness and sensitivity.[3]  Further, the connection between his own visual artistry and the literary world was clearly very important to Northcote.  Within his Letter Book held by the Bodleian Libraries he keeps a detailed list of every work of fiction which makes reference to or details his work.  These include,

 

Northcote’s pictures perused in the following: Rosalind de Tracy, a novel by Elizabeth Sophia Tomlins. The Triumphs of Constancy, A Novel in a series of letters Mammon in London, or the Spy of the day.  John Thelwall also wrote about him in The Champion May 27 1821.[4]

 

Within The Papers of James Northcote, R.A. presented to Sir William Knighton upon his death, there was also the inclusion of many extracts from the publications of the day which praised his work.[5]  Northcote was an artist to whom the range of his influence concerned him greatly.

One archive which holds a fascinating series of letters to Northcote can be found within the Special Collections of Durham University Library.  Here, there is held a series of letters from John Wolcot (1738-1819 – aka the satirical poet, Peter Pindar), which covers the period 1774-75.

 

John Opie, John Wolcot, c. 1780, oil on canvas

 

During this time, Wolcot appealed for his friend Northcote’s help because ‘[a] Damn’d Bitch as common as the air liv’d with me and got herself with Bastard’.[6]   ‘[I]n order to remove the Scandal, [Wolcot] sent her to London with money sufficient ’til [he] was inclin’d to send her more.’[7]  Within this series of letters, Wolcot is utterly heartless in his description of his seduction of the girl, who has clearly been his servant, and occupies the precise position of both the ‘Modest’ and the ‘Wanton’ serving girl in Northcote’s series of plates, Diligence and Dissipation: Or, The Progress of a Modest Girl and a Wanton, Exemplified in Ten Different Stages of Their Lives, Being an Attempt to Exhibit the Natural Consequences which attend on Good and on Bad Conduct, published in 1796, just a couple of years after Northcote received Wolcot’s correspondence.

 


After James Northcote, The Modest Girl Rejects the Illicit Advances of her Master, Plate VI from James Northcote, Diligence and Dissipation: Or, The Progress of a Modest Girl and a Wanton, Exemplified in Ten Different Stages of Their Lives, Being an Attempt to Exhibit the Natural Consequences which attend on Good and on Bad Conduct (London: H. L. Galahin, 1796), engraved by Thomas Gaugin and Thomas Hellyer, 1796, etching on paper

 

Wolcot is equally callous in his subsequent abandonment of the woman when she becomes pregnant with his child, and denial that the baby boy belongs to him.  The nine letters outline Wolcot’s various pleas to Northcote to give the woman money on his behalf, and persuade her to give the child up ‘to be taken care of as a Common Brat’  in any place which can be found for him.[8]  ‘Could I have expected,’ Wolcot protests, ‘so much Disagreeableness would have followed a simple act of fornication.’[9]

Northcote’s replies are not available in the archive, but from the tone of Wolcot’s letters, it becomes clear that Northcote expostulates with him upon his conduct, to which Wolcot replies ‘she is with all that seeming simplicity a Hypocrite […] Indeed, Northcote, your honesty deludes you.  I know her to be a B—-.’[10]  It is unclear whether this incident affected their friendship, although one of the letters reprimands Northcote for his failure to send Wolcot a head portrait of himself.  Indeed this portrait does not seem to exist, the head portrait of Wolcot being completed by Northcote’s friend and fellow Royal Academician, John Opie.  Despite Wolcot’s protestations that Northcote should feel free to use Wolcot’s services for similar purposes because ‘[b]elieve me I’ll take as much care of your Bastards if you shall think proper to send them into Cornwall,’ it seems unlikely Northcote would ever do so, and that Wolcot’s licentiousness placed their relationship under strain.[11]  It could be that the resulting plates from Diligence and Dissipation were inspired by this unfortunate episode.  Northcote’s artworks caution the beautiful girls in his text against the men they might encounter and their flawed nature.

During May this year, I will be using the funds from the Stephen Copley Research Award to dig further into the archives and reading letters from Northcote held at the Royal Art Academy and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

References:

[1] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 24th March 1775 in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 596.  (All of the digitised versions of these letters can be accessed via this link).

[2]James Northcote, The Papers of James Northcote, R.A., Collected and Presented by G. G. Williamson, (London: British Museum Additional MS 42524).  Letters from Elizabeth Inchbald are included in The Letter Book of James Northcote (Oxford: Bodleian Libraries, MS Eng Misc e 143), and include charming details such as Northcote arriving uninvited at Inchbald’s home in order to take Inchbald to ‘Mrs Wedells rout’ (Letter dated 28th May 1801).  Unfortunately, as Northcote was not expected, Inchbald had already put her nightgown on for the night, but was then crippled by guilt at refusing to see Northcote, if only to ‘load [him] with reproaches.’

[3] Amelia Opie, Lecture on Painting Delivered at the Royal Academy of Arts: with a Letter on the Proposal for a Public Memorial of The Naval Glory of Great Britain by the Late John Opie Esq., to which are Prefixed a Memoir by Mrs. Opie and Other Accounts of  Mr. Opie’s Talents and Character (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1809), p. 49.

[4] Northcote, The Letter Book of James Northcote.

[5] James Northcote, The Papers of James Northcote, R.A., The Sir William Knighton Collection (London: British Museum Additional MS 47790-47792).

[6] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 1774’ in John Wolcot, ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 590-598 (1774-1775), holding number ABL 590.

[7] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 1774’ in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 590.

[8] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 10th January 1775’ in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 592.

[9] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 24th March 1775 in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 596.

[10] John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 6th April 1775’ in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 597.

[11]John Wolcot, ‘Letter to James Northcote dated 23rd March 1774’ in ‘Nine Letters to James Northcote’, Durham Special Collections, holding number ABL 591.

Report from ‘Romantic Novels 1818’: Owenson’s Florence Maccarthy

Here’s an insightful report by Ruby Tuke for those that missed the most recent Romantic Novels 1818 seminar, held at the University of Greenwich.  This seminar series is sponsored by BARS.

Postgraduate/ECR bursaries are available for future seminar meetings. Details here.

 

(Click to zoom and see future meetings)

 

A Discussion of Sydney Owenson’s Florence Macarthy (1818) with Dr Sonja Lawrenson

Romantic Novels 1818 Seminar March 2018

Dr Sonja Lawrenson delivered an illuminating talk on Sydney Owenson’s mighty four-volume novel Florence Macarthy: An Irish Tale (1818), which generated much lively discussion afterwards. Lawrenson argued that Florence Macarthy, less known and less studied than Owenson’s earlier novel The Wild Irish Girl (1806), deserves greater critical attention. Her paper teased out unusual links between the politically ambiguous later novel and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein­ (1818). She drew a convincing parallel between Frankenstein’s monster, and the multifarious identities of Florence Macarthy. The rejected monster is first constructed out of various different materials and narratives, and Macarthy is forced to spin yarns literally, as well as figuratively, for money. Thus Lawrenson intriguingly suggested that the challenges of female authorship in 1818 are necessarily woven into the form as well as the content of both novels.

Lawrenson’s paper also considered the role of private theatricals and public performances in Florence Macarthy in relation to the political status of Ireland in 1818. She argued that in this later work Owenson reveals her dismay that private theatricals have replaced the public performative arena of actual political representation. Lawrenson argued that Owenson has replaced the ‘national marriage plot’ of a happy union, which was earlier present in The Wild Irish Girl and is an extension of the supposedly happy union between England and Ireland, with less certain political allegiances. This does not just have implications for an interpretation of the novel, Lawrenson argued, but complicates our understanding of the “national tale”, as well.

Lawrenson’s reading of Florence Macarthy presented the text as an intricate response to ideas surrounding nationalism, nationhood and female authorship, which do not neatly align into a clear vision of the future of Ireland. Lawrenson explained that the author had an increasingly globalised outlook in her later novels, but that understanding the social status of the characters in their domestic settings remains something of a challenge.

Especially interesting to me was Lawrenson’s assertion that Owenson presents a distinctly un-Romantic vision of poverty at the same time as she also supports a version of ‘benevolent paternalism’. Lawrenson noted in the discussion after her talk that this uncertainty raises further questions surrounding the representation of class politics in the novel. She ended the discussion by suggesting that Owenson’s text might even be viewed as part of the same literary genealogy that later promotes the gothicisation of Irish famine victims – an intriguing, if disturbing, line of further inquiry.

– Ruby Tuke

BARS First Book Prize, 2017-19

The British Association for Romantic Studies

is delighted to announce the current round of

The British Association for Romantic Studies

First Book Prize, 2017-19

Awarded biennially for the best first monograph in Romantic Studies, this prize is open to first books published between 31 January 2017 and 1 January 2019. In keeping with the remit of the British Association for Romantic Studies, it is designed to encourage and recognise original, ground breaking and interdisciplinary work in the literature and culture of the period c.1780-1830. The prize will be awarded to the value of £250 and will be presented at the BARS Biennial Conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, to be held at Nottingham University, 25-29 July 2019. Authors on the final shortlist will receive £100 each.

Eligibility and nomination procedures

The competition is open to books by authors who have not published a monograph before. Books must be nominated through the BARS membership or by publishers. Publishers should send books directly to the address below, while member nominations should include publisher contact details. In all cases, copies of nominated books must be received by the committee by the closing date, 31 January, 2019. Books received after this date are not eligible for consideration. 4 copies of each nominated book should be sent to Dr Daniel Cook, School of Humanities, University of Dundee, DD1 4HN.

Flyer Download: BARS First Book Prize Flyer 2017-19

Five Questions: Katie Garner on Romantic Women Writers and Arthurian Legend

Katie Garner is a Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of St Andrews.  She has published work on subjects as diverse as Angela Carter, Mary Wollstonecraft, liminality, feminism and children’s literature, but her core academic interest is in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Arthurianism, a subject on which she has published a number of articles and which lies at the heart of her first monograph, Romantic Women Writers and Arthurian Legend: The Quest for Knowledge (Palgrave), which we discuss below.

1) How did you first become interested in women’s responses to Arthurian legend in the Romantic period?

As part of a very flexible MA programme I took a module on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Arthurian literature.  We were given copies of Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s ‘A Legend of Tintagel Castle’ to look at alongside Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’ and I remember being surprised and excited to find out that a woman poet was writing a poem about the Maid of Ascalot at almost the same time as Tennyson.  After that I wrote my MA dissertation on Anne Bannerman’s Tales of Superstition and Chivalry (1802), which includes her Arthurian poem ‘The Prophecy of Merlin’.  I looked into some of the Arthurian texts that Bannerman cites in her notes to the poem, and which I didn’t know much at all about then: Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, Drayton’s Poly-Olbion, and Evan Evans’s Some Specimens of the Poetry of the Ancient Welsh Bards.  The question surrounding women’s sources remains central to the book, which is based on my subsequent PhD.  Throughout the PhD I was most eager to find out how women accessed information about Arthur in practical terms, and through what channels of knowledge their interest in the myth was first piqued.  I also suspected that if Felicia Hemans and Landon had both written Arthurian poems, then it was likely that there were more, and I started to keep an annotated list of Arthurian items and allusions by women that had been missed by previous bibliographers.  Mary Russell Mitford, Caroline Norton, Eleanor Anne Porden, and Mary Howitt all wrote poems that draw on aspects of the legend in some way, and the book also covers Arthurian material in prose in women’s travel writing, fiction, and scholarship.

2) To what extent do you perceive distinct traditions of response to Arthurian legends that are peculiar to female readers and writers?

I have become more and more convinced that female readers and writers experienced the legend in different forms and contexts to their male contemporaries, and that this shaped their imaginative responses.  Women with Arthurian interests (or even more general antiquarian ones) were unable to access manuscripts in libraries or gain membership of antiquarian clubs as gentlemen could.  In the few cases where Arthurian texts were specially prepared for women readers, the texts they were offered were censored and curated by editors (male and female) looking to protect female readers from the legend’s violent and sexual content.  In the book I spend some time discussing two notable instances of this: an much abridged version of Percy’s Reliques, entitled Ancient Ballads (1807) that extracted a high proportion of Percy’s Arthurian poems, and an edition of Malory’s Le Morte Darthur from 1816, censored so that ‘it may no longer be secreted from the fair sex’.  When these bowdlerised editions are the main source for an Arthurian piece by a woman writer, the effects of textual alterations to the myth or added ambiguities made in the pursuit of an ‘improved’ text leave their mark, and aspects of women’s treatment of the legend that might seem original, imaginative, or just plain odd, start to emerge as interpretive traces of the compromised text that inspired it.

3) Your book spans chronologically from 1770 to 1850 – why did you select these dates in particular, and what would you identify as being the key phases in women’s writing about the Matter of Britain within this period?

The 1770s seem to be the point at which conversations about women reading medieval romances start up again with new energy, as part of the broader debate about women’s novel reading.  Many of these discussions take place in periodicals, but are deepened in works that engage more closely with medieval scholarship, such as Susannah Dobson’s Memoirs of Ancient Chivalry (1784) and Clara Reeve’s The Progress of Romance (1785).  Both Reeve and Dobson are thinking through the intellectual benefits of medieval romance reading for women, which includes the Arthurian romances.  There’s an acceleration in the amount of Arthurian material in women’s travel writing from the 1790s onwards, as women on the home tour explore Arthurian locations in Wales and Scotland, and interest is also evident in accounts of France before and after the Revolutionary wars.  Alongside this, the coexisting vogue for the Gothic in the 1790s ushers in some further interest in using the legend to generate fear, both as part of a generalised ‘medieval’ backdrop in Minerva Press novels, and in greater depth as an available supernatural plot, often focused on Arthur’s undead return or Merlin’s prophetic and magical abilities.  From the 1820s onwards, women begin to produce their own translations of significant Arthurian works, facilitated by new, beginner-friendly editions of Arthurian romances, as well as increasing access to libraries and manuscripts.  Around the same time women also start to produce individual poems on the legend’s female characters.  The book introduces what might well be the earliest Maid of Ascalot poem, published in 1821 in the Ladies’ Monthly Museum, a full decade before Tennyson and Landon.  I also argue in the final chapter that the vogue for literary annuals and their ornamented, decorative style of verse helped to set the dominant aesthetic for the Arthurian myth in poetry as it moved into the nineteenth century.

I hope it’s not straying too far from the question to mention one date that looks like it should be key for women’s Arthurian writing, but actually isn’t.  In 1816 Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur was republished for the first time for nearly two hundred years, in two competing editions.  But rather than transforming women’s knowledge of the legend, there are few references to Malory by Romantic women writers before or immediately after this republication.  Instead women continue to work with other sources and a more eclectic mix of materials, and only really turn to Malory in any significant imaginative way after Tennyson and the first instalment of Idylls of the King (1859).  This lack of knowledge of and reliance on Malory is particular to Romantic women writers, and therefore it seemed right to stop the book at 1850, when Malory moves in to become a dominant source for women for the first time.

4) Which of the female-authored Arthurian works that you read for the project do you think are the most deserving of wider readerships in the academy?  Are there particular texts that you’d recommend to scholars thinking about covering Romantic-period Arthurian writing in an undergraduate context?

I’m very keen to promote Anna Jane Vardill, who might already be known to some.  She’s one of the writers in the book whose depth of interest in Arthurian material means that she reappears in a number of chapters – as Gothic poet, antiquarian satirist, and potential plagiarist.  She came briefly back into view in criticism at the turn of the twentieth century, and again in the 1960s, when she was finally identified as the author of a continuation of ‘Christabel’ in the European Magazine that appeared before Coleridge got his poem into print.  Vardill puts Merlin at the centre of her sequel: the wizard raises Christabel’s mother from the dead, disguises himself as Bard Bracy, and eventually succeeds in exposing Geraldine and banishing her to hell.  It’s a hugely entertaining and sensational piece, and one of a few Romantic poems to give Merlin a dramatic role, but more importantly I’d like Vardill to be recognised for her substantial involvement in the European Magazine more broadly.  She was the magazine’s largest female contributor by far, and also managed to deceive many of its antiquarian readers into thinking that she was Sir Walter Scott.  The antiquarian satires she wrote for the magazine are very much in the spirit of Scott’s The Antiquary, and I think she’s a significant figure to consider as part of the wider discussion of women’s satire in the early nineteenth century.

I’ve taught Landon’s ‘A Legend of Tintagel Castle’ to undergraduates a number of times myself now, alongside Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’, and Louisa Stuart Costello’s ‘The Funeral Boat’ (1829), if time and space permits (available at The Camelot Project and also in Clare Broome Saunders’s Louisa Stuart Costello: A Writing Life (Palgrave, 2016)).  I currently teach Bannerman’s ‘The Prophecy of Merlin’ as part a module on Romantic Gothic, alongside ‘Christabel’ and William Taylor’s ‘Ellenore’.  Bannerman’s poem is perhaps useful for prompting discussion about the critical assumption that the Gothic isn’t seriously invested in medieval topics and settings, and I agree with Elizabeth Fay that Bannerman’s Queen of Beauty is obliquely vampiric: like Coleridge’s Geraldine, she undergoes a transformation in front of King Arthur that is only ever described obliquely, as ‘something, like a demon-smile’.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

Much of the book focuses on recuperating forgotten works, but I’m now working on something at the other end of the scale completely: an edition of Jane Eyre for Bloomsbury.  I’m still very much committed to adding new voices to the Arthurian canon, however, and I’m preparing an article on Mary Ann Browne, who wrote a Guinevere poem in the 1830s that never made it into the book.  I’m also writing a chapter on the broader topic of medievalism in women’s periodicals in the nineteenth century.  The 1820s and 1830s in particular continue to fascinate me, as do Hemans and Landon, and my next book will be located somewhere in that broad terrain.

Report from the North West Long Nineteenth Century Seminar

The North West Long Nineteenth Century Seminar, sponsored by BARS, takes place 3 times a year at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). It brings together the work of postgraduates, early career researchers and established academics, and is organised by Emma Liggins and Sonja Lawrenson.

A report by Holly Hirst, 2nd year PhD student at MMU

Today’s seminar took place to a back drop of suitably Gothic weather for this unusually Gothicky seminar set. The dull depression of what was supposedly a spring sky was not reflected in the talks given. A running connection to the Gothic appeared throughout the papers presented, and there was a particular emphasis on the latter half of the eighteenth century. Peter Lindfield (MMU) opened with a paper on the Gothically ‘genuine fake ancestral castle’ of Horace Walpole. Deborah Russell (York) followed with a talk on theatrical adaptations of Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest and Godwin’s Caleb Williams. Emilee Morrallis (Liverpool Hope) made a nod to the Gothic in her discussion of Charlotte Smith’s Old Manor House. The day ended with a discussion by Caroline Ikin (MMU) on John Ruskin’s decidedly (and refreshingly after a day of gloom!) unGothic Proserpina.

Lindfield’s paper ‘Building a genuine fake ancestral castle: Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill’ demonstrated the way in which Walpole’s Gothic architectural project was part of a desire to create for his family an ancestral seat, one of the key markers of family status in the Georgian period. Lindfield paid particular attention to the planned (but never executed) columbarium which was to be stocked with the (supposed) funerary urns of the Walpole family. Lindfield noted here the irony of Walpole’s mixing of the Gothic and the classical, which he had constantly execrated in his writings and correspondence, if not in appearance then in ethos. Russell’s paper followed and likewise covered a relatively undernourished area of Gothic scholarship – in this case the Gothic drama. Her paper was entitled ‘Staging Silence: Gothic Theatrical Adaptations.’ Her paper investigated the use of silence as a form of ‘obscurity’ and thus, in the Burkean sense, sublimity and the way it points to the unspeakable as well as the unknowable. Her paper moved from a brief analysis of the possibilities of silence in the novel to its translation on the stage. She noted the changed emphasis of silence and suspense on the stage, pointing to the key issue of focalisation. Within the Radcliffian Gothic novel, she argues, the reader’s perceptions are focalised through the heroine’s point of view, and the reader participates in the experience of the mystery attached to the ultimately explained supernatural. In contrast, stage versions allow the ‘supernatural’ or the trick to be seen – that which remained obscure in the novel is either made absent or explicit upon the stage.

After a short break for tea, coffee, biscuits and clarification of mind, Emilee Morrallis opened with her paper ‘Domesticity, liminality and social transition.’ Using Celestina and The Old Manor House as her key texts she discussed the ways in which the novels focus on the liminal period of adolescence and specifically female adolescence. Morrallis argued that there was no specific social space for adolescence and that this liminal period becomes occupied with liminal spaces. Her comparison of Celestina and The Old Manor House and their differently aged protagonists focused on the differences between these two differently adolescent figures’ experiences of the domestic space and liminal spaces within/around it. The world outside stands as both a threat and a space that is necessary to navigate and confront in order to attain access to the differently domestic life of the wife and mother. Concentrating on garden spaces, windows, and doors, Morrallis mapped these heroines’ negotiations of these liminal spaces in terms of physical space, adolescence, and femininity. Ikin’s paper on ‘John Ruskin’s Proserpina: Botany or Biography’ traced the ways in which Ruskin’s text engages with a very different form of botany to the materialist science which he rejected. Composed of meticulous observations of his own garden, creative responses, poetry and even exercises, the text, Ikin asserted, was aimed in part to rectify some of the deficiencies Ruskin perceived in the education of the young. He sought to restore wonder to the study of the natural world rather than the narrow focus of materialist science. Ikin also investigated the way in which this book of botany could and should be read biographically with reference to Ruskin’s own life and particularly his doomed relationship with Rose la Touche – to whom references were made throughout the text. Most fascinatingly, she investigated the title page of the volumes with particular attention to the flower symbolism of the blue rose – the sign of doomed love. All the papers were met with lively questions and discussion continued over dinner for those speakers and attendees who didn’t have a train to catch!

The whole day was an opportunity to expand knowledge and engage with new approaches in relation to Gothic writers, female Romantic authors and the intersection of elements of aesthetic theory with landscape design, architecture and their fictional and factual representations in the long nineteenth century.

– Holly Hirst

The 47th Wordsworth Summer Conference, 2018

The Wordsworth Conference Foundation announces
The 47th Wordsworth Summer Conference

Monday 6 August to Thursday 16 August
Rydal Hall, Cumbria
Call for Papers and Bursary Applications

 

Keynote Lectures, 2018

Gillian Beer     Madeleine Callaghan     Philip Connell     Jeff Cowton

David Duff     Jessica Fay     Mina Gorji

Theresa M. Kelley     Stacey McDowell     Julian North

Kimiyo Ogawa     Seamus Perry     Adam Potkay

Charles Rzepka     Michael Rossington

 

The 2018 Wordsworth Summer Conference at elegant Rydal Hall will be the 47th since Richard Wordsworth’s inaugural conference gathering in 1970. This year we continue the format pioneered by Richard, mingling lectures, papers and lively academic debate with energetic fell walking, picturesque rambles, and excursions to places of Wordsworthian and Romantic interest. Upper and Lower Rydal Falls are within the grounds of the Hall, and Rydal Mount – Wordsworth’s home from 1813 until 1850 – is a two-minute walk away. In the evenings participants relax with poetry and music in the bar at Rydal Hall, wander through the terraced gardens, or stroll down to Rydal water for a moonlight swim …

By courtesy of the Wordsworth Trust, our opening night will include a reception at the Wordsworth Museum followed by a candle light visit to Dove Cottage. There will be a separate opportunity to explore the treasures of the Wordsworth Trust’s collections with the curator Jeff Cowton, and an evening visit to Wordsworth’s Rydal Mount and garden.

In 2018 our excursions are likely to include the picturesque coastal village St Bees, Ravenglass, and Muncaster Castle.  High points for energetic fell walkers are likely to include Crinkle Crags, Sheffield Pike, Great End, and Glaramara by the spectacular waterfall at Taylor Ghyll Force.

Format and Costs: The 2018 Summer Conference is in two parts of 5 days each, with a changeover day on Saturday 11 August. The registration fee, which includes excursions, is the same as  last year despite some increases in costs. This offers exceptional value at £250 for ten days and £175 for five days. For postgraduates, we offer a generous range of bursary funds (see below) to reduce rates for attendance. All participants will take all meals at Rydal Hall.  Full Board at Rydal Hall Diocesan Conference Centre is available, and at Rydal Hall Youth Centre on the same site. Non-resident rates and a day rate are also available. For estimates of 2018 accommodation and related costs please click here.

For additional information about the Wordsworth Summer Conference, including the call for papers, and terms and conditions, please visit their website.

And please visit their blog.

Plus their Facebook page.

‘Navigating the REF’, Nineteenth-Century Matters Training Day for PGRs and ECRs

10:00-17:00, Saturday 19 May 2018
Main Building, Cardiff University

This free training day is designed to help late-stage postgraduate researchers and early-career academics working within nineteenth-century studies to navigate the requirements of the Research Excellence Framework. The morning sessions are an opportunity to hear different perspectives on REF 2021 followed by a Q&A, the aim being to demystify the decision-making process and expectations for early-career scholars, particularly in relation to the job market.
  • The REF: What You Need to Know – Ann Heilmann (Cardiff University)
  • The REF from an ECR Perspective – Charlotte Mathieson (University of Surrey)
  • Thinking about Impact – Julia Thomas (Cardiff University)
The afternoon workshop sessions – ‘REF Submissions: How Are They Assessed?’ and ‘Thinking Through Your Own Submission’ – will provide participants with the chance to discuss the practicalities of the REF and apply this to their own research activities.
Some preparation before the training day will be required so that attendees can make the most of the afternoon activities. Further information regarding what this entails will be sent to those who register.

 

Please register here.

 

Registration closes Friday 20 April. Please note that places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Lunch included.

 

If you have any questions about this event, please email Clare Stainthorp.

‘Navigating the REF’ is sponsored by the British Association for Romantic Studies and the British Association for Victorian Studies. It is an outcome of the joint Nineteenth-Century Matters fellowship which is an initiative to support postdoctoral researchers without institutional affiliation or permanent academic employment. In 2017-18, the position entails a Visiting Fellowship hosted by Cardiff University.