BARS Blog

BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

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.

 

 

Report from BARS/Wordsworth Trust Early Career Fellow 2018

Dr Emily Bell is a BARS/Wordsworth Trust Fellow, living in Grasmere and collaborating with the Wordsworth Trust, researching the relationship between Wordsworth and the village community. You can follow her on Twitter (@EmilyJLB).

 

                               Thou art pleased,

Pleased with thy crags and woody steeps, thy Lake,

Its one green island and its winding shores;

The multitude of little rocky hills,

Thy Church and cottages of mountain stone

Clustered like stars some few, but single most,

And lurking dimly in their shy retreats,

Or glancing at each other cheerful looks

Like separated stars with clouds between.

(‘Home at Grasmere’, lines 117-25)

 

From March to early April I am living on Wordsworth’s doorstep in Grasmere, with a view of Dove Cottage out of my window. Behind my house, villagers and tourists alike go to watch the sun set over the lake, with its ‘one green island and its winding shores’. Every day, rural and international communities come together in this beautiful part of the world. The Wordsworth Trust has its own lively community of trainees and staff, turning Dove Cottage into a welcoming spot of warmth in the changeable March weather.

 

 

During my residency here, I am exploring this idea of ‘community’ and, specifically, neighbourliness. I am doing this by interviewing people who live in the village, collecting oral history about their relationship with the Wordsworth Trust and Dove Cottage itself, and examining how that might have changed over time. The aim is to bring oral testimony together with archival research focused on exploring Wordsworth’s own relationships with his neighbours in the village, the history of the Trust, and the development of the museum. I am also interested in comparing other eighteenth and nineteenth-century authors, how they engaged with the people around them, and the influence these relationships may have had on their posthumous reputations.

Wordsworth’s appreciation of the natural beauty of the Lake District, and Grasmere particularly, has been well studied and celebrated. What I am probing are his day-to-day interactions with the people of the area with whom, for example, he volunteered for the local regiment in 1803 (terrifying poor Mary and Dorothy). So far I have delved into newspaper scrapbooks and other items in the collections held by the Trust in the museum and the Jerwood Centre. I have also had insightful conversations with the incredibly friendly staff of the Trust and people in Grasmere, who have shared anecdotes from their friends and family, as well as their own experiences living alongside Dove Cottage.

 

 

The outcome of this fellowship will, I hope, be a rich account of the Trust’s position in the community that will feed into the 2020 ‘Reimagining Wordsworth’ project. It will draw attention to the importance of the local to Wordsworth and Dove Cottage, complement what we already know about his poetry with evidence of his interactions with specific individuals, analyse contemporary perceptions to expose the basis of Wordsworth’s reputation in the local community today, and provide opportunities to enhance and expand this relationship ahead of Wordsworth’s 250th birthday.

A bit more about Emily and her research background:

Emily completed her PhD at the University of York in 2017, and she is an Associate of the Department of English and Related Literature and the Centre for Lifelong Learning at York. Her thesis, ‘Changing Representations of Charles Dickens, 1857-1939’, examined Dickensian biographical discourse and its role in the author’s literary legacy, moving from Dickens’s speeches and journalism to biographies and reminiscences, commemorative acts by friends and family, and the formation of literary societies. Her on-going research centres on the role of communities and circles in literary identity formation in the nineteenth century, during authors’ lives and afterwards.

BARS President’s Report 2018

From BARS President Ian Haywood:

I am delighted to be President of BARS at such an exciting time. We are a very busy and resourceful organisation, striving to fulfil our mission of promoting Romantic studies in the UK and beyond. Our financial situation is healthy which means we can support and expand existing initiatives and develop new methods of supporting our membership. Since I became President in 2015, we have made a big push to support Early Career scholars as we recognise that this can be a difficult stage in the career path. We have therefore introduced three new awards: the Wordsworth Trust Fellowships, the Nineteenth Century Matters Fellowship (in association with BAVS), and the Scottish Romanticism Research award. I would like to expand these schemes and introduce new ones, perhaps in new national or regional centres, and/or focused on public engagement and impact, and/or linking up with international partners. I invite all members to submit ideas for new awards with clearly defined outcomes that will benefit the holders: please send ideas to the Executive via the BARS Secretary (email address on the BARS website).

Another major new development is the launch of ERA, European Romanticisms in Association. We are proud to have been a driving force behind this network, particularly in light of Brexit. I am delighted to report that ERA has been awarded a Network grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a two-year programme of events (2018-20) entitled ‘Dreaming Europe’ (http://www.euromanticism.org). ERA currently hosts a BARS European Engagement Fellow and there are plans for this to continue. Congratulations to BARS Past President Nicola Watson (Open University) and her team.

Our international biennial conference in 2017, ‘Romantic Improvement’, was held at York University’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies and it was a great success; my thanks to the local team, in particular Jim Watt, Jon Mee and Catriona Kennedy. The next conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, will be held at the University of Nottingham in 2019. I am delighted to announce that the 2021 conference will be jointly organised with the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) and will be at Edge Hill University, Liverpool.

At the York conference, the BARS First Book Prize was awarded to Julia Carlson (Cincinnati) for her monograph, Romantic Marks and Measures (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). I want to thank Professor Nigel Leask (Glasgow) for his sterling work as Chair of the sub-committee for 2015-17. We are delighted that the new Chair for 2017-19 is Professor Claire Connolly (University College Cork). The next round of the book prize will begin soon: if you wish to nominate a book, please contact Professor Connolly: claireconnolly@ucc.ie.

I have tried to ensure that all members of the Executive have a specific role which they have been asked to develop with allocated resources. This model seems to be working well and the total number of Executive members (elected and co-opted) is at a record high, a reflection of the amount of activity we are generating. I have increased the budget for our current schemes: the Copley bursaries, the regular subventions for conferences, and the BARS First Book award. The ECR conference continues to be a great success. This year it will be held in Glasgow, 15-16 June: the topic is ‘Romantic Exchanges’.

Thanks to Professor Anthony Mandal (Cardiff), we now have BARS postcards, to be used for publicity purposes (all members are welcome to a bunch! Please contact the Secretary).

These achievements would not have been possible without the commitment and enthusiasm of the BARS Executive Committee (see the website for full list). I want to pay particular tribute to members who have recently left or will soon be leaving the committee. Dr Susan Valladares (Oxford), formerly the editor of the BARS Review, stepped down in 2017 after several years of dedicated and meticulous work. We are very pleased that Professor Mark Sandy (Durham) has taken her place. Dr Helen Stark (University College London) is stepping down as Secretary after doing this job outstandingly well since 2013; Helen’s place will be taken by Dr Jennifer Orr (Newcastle); again, we are delighted to welcome this new colleague.

Finally, I would like to report another BARS success: one of our nominees for the 2021 REF (Research Excellence Framework), Professor Simon Kövesi (Oxford Brookes), has been appointed as an assessor for the English Language and Literature panel. We wish Simon all the best in this important role and we are delighted that Romanticism has a voice on the panel.

I look forward to another year of exciting and productive work.

Ian Haywood, University of Roehampton

March 2018

The full text of this report can be downloaded here: BARS President’s Report 2018.

 

On This Day in 1818: Shelley approaches Italy

Prof Alan Weinberg (University of South Africa) has produced this post to mark 200 years since P B Shelley’s journey to Italy – a crucial turning point in his life, and his writing. He and Mary Shelley had left England on 12 March 1818 accompanied by Claire Clairmont, three children, and two female servants. Percy Shelley, who was 25 years old at the time of the journey, was never to return and would drown off the coast of Tuscany four years later in 1822.

On this day in 1818, just before his arrival in Italy, he writes from Lyons, France, to Leigh Hunt, in an affectionate letter full of hope:

 

Lyons, March 22  1818.––

My dear friend,

Why did you not wake me the night before we left England, you & Marianne  I take this as rather an unkind piece of kindness in you, but which in consideration of the 600 miles between us I forgive. ––

We have journeyed towards the spring that has been hastening to meet us from the South–– & though our weather was at first abominable, we have now warm sunny days & soft winds & a sky of deep azure, the most serene I ever saw. The heat in this city to day, is like that of London in the middle of summer–  My spirits & health sympathise in the change. Indeed before I left London my spirits were as feeble as my health – and I had demands on them which I found  difficult to supply.

I have read Foliage–– With most of the poems I was already familiar. What a delightful poem the Nymphs is, & especially the second part. It is truly poetical in the intense & emphatic sense of the word. If 600 miles were not between us, I should say what pity that glib is not omitted & that the poem is not as faultless as it is beautiful! But for fear I should spoil your next poem I will not let slip a word upon the subject––––  Give my love to Marianne & her sister & tell Marianne she defrauded me of a kiss by not waking me when she went away, & that as I have no better mode of conveying it I must take the best, & ask you to pay the debt. When shall I see you all again ? O, that it might b<e> in Italy! I confess that the thought of how long we may be divided make<s> me very melancholy:– Adieu –my d<ear> friends––  write soon–  ever most affectionately Yours
PBS.

[Shelley & his Circle VI: 523-4.]

 

Prof. Weinberg contextualises Shelley in Italy for us:

In the first 8 months of their residence in Italy (April to December 1818) the Shelleys crossed the length and breadth of Italy (excluding Sicily) and resided in or stopped by at a great number of places including (more importantly, and in something like chronological sequence), Turin, Milan, Como, Pisa, Livorno, Bagni di Lucca, Florence, Padua, Este, Venice, Ferrara, Bologna, Spoleto, Terni, Rome, Naples and its environs including Vesuvius. Visits were usually accompanied by sightseeing in regard to architecture and landscape or visits to palaces, prisons or picture galleries.  There were periods of calm and some of frenetic travelling by carriage in circumstances which would be a trial for the modern tourist. The Shelleys had few acquaintances and had two small children to look after, William and Clara, as well as assist with Claire and Byron’s daughter, Allegra, and in September, endured the severe illness and loss of their daughter Clara. It is not generally recognized that in these early months, Shelley wrote only one major poem, and it is one of his neglected Italianate pieces in iambic tetrameter and trimeter, Lines Written Among the Euganean Hills. It was largely inspired by Petrarch. Several other compositions, like Prometheus Unbound and ‘Julian and Maddalo’, were begun and only completed in 1819, or were eventually aborted, like ‘Prince Athanase’, a redaction of which appeared in press copy in 1819 as ‘Athanase: A Fragment’ (but was not published).  One prose essay,  ‘Discourse on the Manners of the Ancient Greeks’ was finished in draft, the translation from the Symposium nearly completed, and a few other prose works, such as a Preface to The Banquet (Symposium), ‘The Coliseum’ (begun December 1818) and ‘A Future State’, were left unfinished in manuscript.

Shelley’s residence in Italy is a turning point in his career: it follows a period of intense creativity which saw the composition of AlastorMont BlancHymn to Intellectual Beauty, Laon and Cythna (re-named The Revolt of Islam), Rosalind and Helen, as well as a History of a Six Weeks’ Tour, prefaces, reviews, political pamphlets, essays (like the sketch ‘On Christianity’ (more specifically Christ’s teachings), and brief, mostly unfinished political or philosophical sketches. Laon and Cythna was meant to be the crowning piece in which Shelley encompassed much of what he understood to be his task as poet and seer, and was written in the belief that he was suffering from consumption and thus had not long to live. He put his heart and soul into this composition but it didn’t win much favour. The early residence in Italy was clearly a period of settling in, of recuperation, of reconfiguration, and of adventure, but Shelley also felt the frustration of a loss of creativity. He began a play on ‘Tasso’ but soon abandoned it, turning to Greek translation as a means of compensation – but producing an outstandingly eloquent and fluent rendering of The Symposium which had a formative influence on subsequent works. While 1818 has little to show for itself in terms of finished products, it was effectively a period of conception and regeneration, and of great receptivity to the classical world as it suggested itself in the remains of antiquity and in the emulation of classical styles in modern architecture. In this regard Shelley was a classicist and not a romanticist, and was always aiming to reach beyond Christianity, much as he admired the ethics of Jesus, whom he regarded as a reformer and not a divine redeemer, and whose tortured representation in Italian painting, and that of his followers, filled him with anguish and disbelief. It was pagan and classical Italy that largely inspired Shelley, and this made an immediate impact in scenes which reminded him of Virgil’s eclogues or the famed scenes at Delphi and Mt Helicon.

Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Baths of Caracalla, Joseph Severn 1845

 

Conference: John Keats in Scotland

A conference taking place in May organised by Prof Nicholas Roe:

 

John Keats in Scotland

To celebrate the bicentenary of John Keats’s epic walking tour of Scotland in summer 1818, the School of English at the University of St Andrews will hold a two-day symposium on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 May.

Confirmed speakers: John Barnard, Jeffrey Cox, Katie Garner, Hrileena Ghosh, Nigel Leask, Meiko O’Halloran, Nicholas Roe, Richard Marggraf Turley, Carol Kyros Walker, Sarah Wootton.

Non-speaking participants are welcome to attend: to reserve a place, please e-mail to Dr. Katie Garner at klg7@st-andrews.ac.uk.

The full programme will be circulated in April.

 

John Keats by William Hilton, after Joseph Severn. Oil on canvas, based on a work of circa 1822. National Portrait Gallery.