News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Dreaming Romantic Europe, Workshop 2 “Romantic Authorship”

Conference Report by Alice Rhodes, University of York. 

On Friday 18th October 2019 members of European Romanticisms in Association (ERA) were lucky enough to gather in the beautiful Italian city of Ravenna for the second meeting of the AHRC funded Dreaming Romantic Europe network, headed up by PI Professor Nicola J Watson (Open University) and Co-I Professor Catriona Seth (University of Oxford). The workshop, which took place in the Antichi Chiostri Francescani, next door to Dante’s tomb and just a short walk from Lord Byron and Teresa Guiccioli’s home in Ravenna, addressed the theme of “Romantic Authorship.” Over two days, delegates explored how the ideology and celebrity of Romantic authorship was supported, elaborated, and transmitted by objects through a fast-paced series of diverse, original, and thought-provoking presentations. We were delighted to welcome speakers working in academia and heritage across Europe, with representation from France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and the UK.


On Friday, attendees began the day with an introduction to the project from Professor Nicola Watson before making the short walk to Palazzo Guiccioli, home of Countess Teresa Guiccioli, where Lord Byron lived between 1819 and 1821. The building is also the location of the forthcoming Museo Byron, which is currently under construction. Once complete the museum will house material on poet, the countess and their relationship along with further galleries dedicated to the history of the Risorgimento. Delegates were treated to an exclusive tour of the building, led by Professor Diego Saglia before returning to the Chiostri Francescani for the first round of presentations. Using the model of our successful first workshop at Maison de Chateaubriand, La Vallée-aux-Loups in November 2018, the afternoon sessions took the format of ten minute talks on a single object, suitable for exhibit in Romantic Europe: the Virtual Exhibition (RÊVE). What followed was a series of incisive and insightful papers which explored both the objects of Romanticism and their role in shaping the celebrity of those who owned, created, used or encountered them. Clustered around five broad themes – “Placing and Displacing the Author,” “Authorial Affinities Across Europe,” “The Author and Posterity,” “Contact-Relics and Imaginary Conversations” and “Other Arts,” the presentations dealt with a huge variety of objects. From items of clothing and manuscripts, to ballets, buildings and lost objects, speakers explored both the materiality and immateriality of European Romanticisms. With lots to think about following a wonderful first day, delegates were able to continue conversations over the workshop dinner.


Saturday got underway with an excellent cluster of talks which together presented a collection of proposed RÊVE exhibits focused on the “Author In/And a Landscape”. The rest of the morning was dedicated to reflections on collaborations, communities, collections and the opportunities for developing the virtual exhibition in these areas. Attendees heard about a number of exciting projects and organisations which could provide RÊVE with future collaborators and models, including: the Museo del Risorgimento, Bologna; The Antique and Romantic Skies in Europe project; the Swiss Guestbook project; the Keats House Museum; Deutsches Romantik Museum, Frankfurt; Maison de Chateaubriand; and the Wordsworth Trust. Lastly, the workshop drew to a close with an activity to create collections, with participants exploring a gallery of images from the virtual exhibition which were displayed around the room, before proposing themed collections into which the objects could be gathered. As the delegates prepared to depart and to make the most of their remaining time in Ravenna, the group reflected on the workshop and RÊVE, recording a virtual audio guestbook of responses to the project.

Overall the workshop was a huge success, generating a wealth of new ideas about and approaches to the objects of European Romanticism. We’d like to extend our thanks to everybody who made it possible through their hard work, organisation, and sponsorship, particularly the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ravenna, Erika Fabbri, the Museo Byron, Professor Diego Saglia and all of our participants whose exhibits we look forward to featuring in RÊVE in the near future.

Explore the virtual exhibition here:

And follow us on Twitter @euromanticism

Conference Report by Alice Rhodes, University of York. 

Romantic Reimaginings: Auden, MacNeice, Yeats, and Shelley’s West Wind

Romantic Reimaginings is a BARS blog series which seeks to explore the ways in which texts of the Romantic era continue to resonate. The blog is curated by Eleanor Bryan. If you would like to publish an article in the series, please email

Today on the blog, Amanda Blake Davis discusses Auden, MacNeice, Yeats, and Shelley’s West Wind.

B. Shelley, fair copy of Ode to the West Wind Shelfmark: MS. Shelley adds. e. 12 (pp. 62-63) Credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (via Shelley’s Ghost <>)

‘Like Yeats’s poetry’, Edna Longley writes, ‘MacNeice’s descends from the non-Wordsworthian branch of Romanticism’,[1] and one of MacNeice’s greatest Romantic influences is Shelley, who is invariably filtered through Yeats.  Following Yeats, for whom Prometheus Unbound was ‘a sacred book’,[2] MacNeice exalts Prometheus Unbound as ‘one of my sacred books’ and recounts how he ‘swilled the rhythms of Shelley, the sweet champagne of his wishful thinking and schoolboy anger, his Utopias of amethyst and starlight’.[3]  ‘What we wanted was “realism”’, MacNeice writes of the ‘Auden Group’, ‘but—so the paradox goes on—we wanted it for romantic reasons’.[4]  MacNeice publicly disavows Shelley in his study of Yeats through his tracking of the older poet’s own building and scattering of a pseudo-Shelleyan system of symbols,[5] and Harold Bloom, criticising MacNeice’s ‘prejudices’ against Yeats’s indebtedness to Romantic tradition, claims that ‘[t]o MacNeice, Romanticism is a poetic disease of which Yeats cured himself’.[6]  But Bloom overlooks the Shelleyan west wind that blows through MacNeice’s poetry, as it does in Yeats’s.  If Romanticism is indeed a ‘poetic disease’, it is one that enlivens the modern poets’ verse with fevered energy.  ‘Shelley’s restless west wind blows through Autumn Journal’, Madeleine Callaghan writes, ‘allowing MacNeice to alter and renew Romantic preoccupations, and imbue them with a distinctly modern sensibility’.[7]  Shelley’s west wind, at once ‘Destroyer and Preserver’, sings through MacNeice and Yeats’s poetry as an ‘unseen presence’ that drives and energises the modern poets’ verse (Shelley, Ode to the West Wind, 14 and 2).[8]

Yeats locates Shelley’s artistry in ‘words written upon leaves’,[9] harnessing Shelley’s west wind and its revitalisation of poetic utterance.

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!

And, by the incantation of this verse,


Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

(Shelley, Ode to the West Wind, 63-67)

Yeats’s ‘poetic breathings are sustained by his lifelong engagement with Shelley’s poetry’, Michael O’Neill writes, noting how ‘Yeats tempers subjectivity with symbolism in poems such as “The Secret Rose”, which ends with an image deeply suffused with Shelleyan inflections’.[10]  In ‘The Secret Rose’, Yeats awaits

The hour of thy great wind of love and hate.

When shall the stars be blown about the sky,

Like the sparks blown out of a smithy, and die?

Surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows,

Far-off, most secret, and inviolate Rose?

(Yeats, ‘The Secret Rose’, 28-32)[11]

Harold Bloom confirms that ‘Yeats’s wind among the reeds has both Irish mythological and occult sources, as usual, but its main source is in Shelley’s winds of destruction-creation, which blow through all of his poetry’.[12]  The searching doubt of Yeats’s questions in ‘The Secret Rose’ gestures away from a resolutely Shelleyan hope, and O’Neill notes that ‘whereas Shelley’s sparks will rekindle hope in the minds of his readers, Yeats’s sparks will be extinguished (he half-hopes, half-fears) as “thy great wind blows”’.[13]  Yeats ‘does not return to the Romantics for a system of belief’, O’Neill stresses, ‘[b]ut he draws on their practice for hints about how to dramatize conflict’, identifying in his poetry ‘a counter-current of feeling, a reluctance fully to unleash the forces of millennial destruction’.[14]  Self-reflectively, Yeats writes of Shelley, ‘I found that he and not Blake, whom I had studied more and with more approval, had shaped my life’.[15]  Months before his death, Yeats made a pilgrimage to Shelley’s birthplace, Field Place, in an apparent act of reconciliation and respect for the Romantic poet’s lasting influence, finding ‘A beautiful old house, one part Tudor, kept in perfect order and full of fine pictures (two Wilsons).  We also went to the church where the Shelley tombs are, a great old church defiled by 1870 or thereabouts, stained glass, and pavements not at all as Shelley saw it’.  ‘Before I leave’, Yeats wrote, ‘I shall visit the pond (not that near the house) where Shelley sailed paper boats’.[16]  Shelley’s influence, like the breathings of his west wind, circulates through Yeats’s works and thoughts, extending its energies to later post-Romantics like Auden and MacNeice.

The ‘dirge / Of the dying year’ sung by Shelley’s west wind appears in MacNeice’s Autumn Journal as a woodpigeon ‘calls and stops but the wind continues / Playing its dirge in the trees, playing its tricks’ (Ode to the West Wind, 23-24; Autumn Journal, p. 111).[17]  Like Yeats’s harnessing of Shelley’s ‘great wind’, MacNeice’s woodpigeon voices a poetic influence that is changed but sustained.  MacNeice’s lyrical reportage in Autumn Journal chimes with Auden’s concession that

poetry makes nothing happen: it survives

In the valley of its saying where executives

Would never want to tamper; it flows south

From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,

Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,

A way of happening, a mouth.

(Auden, ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’, 36-41)[18]

Auden ensures Yeats’s survival through his poetry, and in doing so he viscerally mouths Shelley’s west wind in Yeats’s dying transmutation, his words-as-ashes ‘scattered among a hundred cities’.  As Shelley scatters his ‘words among mankind’, so Auden’s verse ensures that ‘The words of a dead man / Are modified in the guts of the living’ (‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’, 18 and 22-23).  In shifting from journalistic to poetic posture, the inward-looking MacNeice also mouths ‘The words of a dead man’ in the sound of ‘Shelley and jazz and lieder and love and hymn-tunes’ (Autumn Journal, p. 135).  Shelley’s influence plays on through the modern poets’ verse, sustained by the inextinguishable energies of his west wind.

Amanda Blake Davis is a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield and a Postgraduate Representative for BARS.  Her thesis analyses P. B. Shelley’s uses of androgyny alongside his readings and translations of Plato.  Amanda’s wider research interests include influence and imitation in Romantic and post-Romantic poetry.

Twitter: @ABDavis1816

Works Cited:
[1] Edna Longley, Louis MacNeice: A Critical Study (London: Faber and Faber, 1988), p. xii.
[2] W. B. Yeats, ‘The Philosophy of Shelley’s Poetry’ in Essays and Introductions (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1961), p. 65.
[3] Louis MacNeice, The Strings are False: An Unfinished Autobiography, ed. by E. R. Dodds (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), p. 98.
[4] Louis MacNeice, Selected Literary Criticism, ed. by Alan Heuser (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 149.
[5] Louis MacNeice, The Poetry of W. B. Yeats (London: Faber and Faber, 1967), p. 44.
[6] Harold Bloom, Yeats (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 108.
[7] Madeleine Callaghan, ‘Louis MacNeice and the Struggle for Romantic Identity’ in Legacies of Romanticism: Literature, Culture, Aesthetics, ed. by Carmen Casaliggi and Paul March-Russell (New York, NY: Routledge, 2012), p. 161.
[8] Ode to the West Wind is quoted from Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Major Works, ed. by Zachary Leader and Michael O’Neill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 412-414.
[9] Yeats, ‘The Philosophy of Shelley’s Poetry’, p. 75.
[10] Michael O’Neill, The All-Sustaining Air: Romantic Legacies and Renewals in British, American, and Irish Poetry since 1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 20 and 54.
[11] ‘The Secret Rose’ is quoted from W. B. Yeats, The Major Works, ed. by Edward Larrissy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 33-34.
[12] Bloom, Yeats, p. 124.
[13] O’Neill, The All-Sustaining Air, p. 54
[14] O’Neill, The All-Sustaining Air, pp. 58 and 54.
[15] W. B. Yeats, ‘Prometheus Unbound’ in Essays and Introductions (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1961), p. 424.
[16] W. B. Yeats, Letters on Poetry from W. B. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley (London, New York, NY, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1940), p. 200.
[17] Autumn Journal is quoted from Louis MacNeice, Collected Poems, ed. by Peter McDonald (London: Faber and Faber, 2016), pp. 99-164.
[18] ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’ is quoted from W. H. Auden, Selected Poems, ed. by Edward Mendelson (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1979), pp. 80-83.


Postgraduates and early career scholars working in the area of Romanticism are invited to apply for a Stephen Copley Research Award.  The BARS Executive Committee has established the bursaries in order to help fund expenses incurred through travel to libraries and archives, up to a maximum of £500. A postgraduate must be enrolled on a doctoral programme in the UK; an early career scholar is defined as someone who holds a PhD (from the UK) but has not held a permanent academic post for more than three years by the application deadline. Application for the awards is competitive, and cannot be made retrospectively.

Successful applicants must be members of BARS before taking up the award. The names of recipients will be announced on the BARS website and social media, and successful applicants will be asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee within four weeks of the completion of the research trip and to acknowledge BARS in their doctoral thesis and/or any publication. Reports may also be published on the BARS Blog where this is appropriate. Previous winners or applicants are encouraged to apply again.

Please send the following information in support of your application (up to two pages of A4 maximum in word.doc format):
* Your full name and institutional affiliation (if any).
* The working title and a short abstract or summary of your PhD or current project.
* A brief description of the research to be undertaken for which you need support.
* An estimated costing for the proposed research trip.
* Estimated travel dates.
* Details of current or recent funding (AHRC award, &c.), if applicable.
* The name of one supervisor/referee (with email address) to whom application can be made for a supporting reference on your behalf.
* The name and contact details (including email address and Twitter handle) of whomever updates your departmental website or social media, if known. And your own Twitter handle, if applicable.

Applications and queries should be directed to the bursaries officer, Dr Daniel Cook ( at the University of Dundee. The deadline for applications is 1 February in any given year.

GTA PhD Studentships at Edge Hill University

Edge Hill University has launched its annual Graduate Teaching Assistant scheme. Each GTA studentship includes a ‘package’ with a total value in excess of £20,000 for UK and EU students and £30,000 for International students per annum. This includes:

  • A stipend of £9,180 per annum
  • Full waiver of research degree tuition fees worth £4,300 per annum for UK and EU students and £13,750 per annum for international students
  • £5,500 per annum to contribute to the cost of accommodation or free single room postgraduate student accommodation on campus (subject to availability)
  • Full waiver of the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education tuition fee (worth £1740)

It’s an exciting time to be a nineteenth-century researcher at Edge Hill! The university is home to EHU Nineteen: an interdisciplinary research group fostering outstanding research and teaching in nineteenth century topics; collaborative opportunities with museums, galleries and heritage partners in the North West and UK; a visiting speaker series and conference programme including hosting BARS/NASSR 2021.

We welcome proposals on any aspect of nineteenth-century history, literature and culture, and we would be particularly pleased to supervise projects in the following fields:

  • Nineteenth-century print culture
  • Romantic, Victorian and Fin de Siècle literature
  • Children’s literature
  • Gothic and sensation fiction
  • Gender and sexuality

We would be delighted to discuss potential projects in advance. Please contact us via the ‘People’ page of EHU Nineteen website.

For more information about EHU Nineteen, click here.

For full details about the GTA studentship, click here.

CFP – The Prospect of Improvement: A Bluestocking Landscape

A two-day conference at Hagley Hall, Worcestershire including a tour of the house and grounds supported by Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online [EMCO] and Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

8-9th September 2020

Plenary speakers

Dr Stephen Bending (University of Southampton, author of Green Retreats. Women, gardens and eighteenth-century culture (2013)

Professor Markman Ellis (Queen Mary, University of London), author of The Coffee House: A Cultural History (2005)

Dr Joe Hawkins (Head of Landscape at Hagley)

Dr Steve Hindle (Huntington Library, CA) W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research.

Our conference puts centre stage the patriotism and patronage of George Lyttelton first baron Lyttelton (1709-1773), a strangely shadowy figure yet a fascinating eminence grise behind the art and politics of his age. We will discuss the motivation behind his extensive remodelling of his grounds and the commissioning of local architect Sanderson Miller (1716-1780) in designing a new Hagley Hall. How can the ideas of other architects and landscape reformers from the midlands such as Sir Roger Newdigate (1719-1806), Sir Uvedale Price (1747-1829) and William Shenstone (1714-1763) be brought into dialogue with Miller’s project?

As EMCO is editing the correspondence of Lord Lyttelton’s friend and literary collaborator, critic Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800), we will equally focus on eighteenth-century women’s management of estates, commissioning of art and architecture and writing associating rural retirement with moral improvement.

We invite delegates to participate in 3 panels on the following themes:

  • Concepts of Reform and Improvement in Architecture and Rural Life
  • Female Management of the Country Estate
  • The Symbolism of the Garden in Eighteenth-century Art and Literature

We also welcome papers on:

  • Whig Perceptions of the Country and the City
  • Portraiture, representations of the Country House and Landscape Painting
  • Domesticating the picturesque: creating the grotto, the wilderness and the waterfall.
  • Bluestocking Crafts and Collecting
  • Botany, Gardening and Girls’ Education
  • Agricultural Reform and the Rural Poor
  • The Lunar Society, Provincial Salons and Correspondence Networks
  • The Politics of Patronage
  • Philanthropy and the Religious Revival

Early career and unwaged researchers

We reach out especially to early career researchers by offering 6 bursaries funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art to doctoral students and unwaged ECRs with promising proposals for papers relevant to the conference theme. Each bursary holder is invited to review 2 x panel sessions for a report on the conference to be published online on

  • Bursaries covering the conference fee and accommodation are available to 6 postgraduate students and unwaged early career researchers, who have papers accepted for presentation at the conference. ‘Unwaged’ scholars may be retired, unemployed or unable to access institutional support for conference attendance. They are invited to make a personal statement in support of their application.
  • Students’ bursary application forms must be accompanied by a statement from a supervisor which is signed on university headed paper and accompanied by the university stamp.
  • The bursary award will be paid as a refund following attendance at the conference.

Special Issue

A selection of delegates will be invited to extend their papers into scholarly articles for a book-length special issue of the journal Eighteenth-century Life, to be edited by Professor Markman Ellis.

Please send proposals for papers (no longer than 350 words) and requests for bursary application forms by 14th February 2020 to Jack Orchard by email [] or by post to:

Dr. Jack Orchard, Department of English Literature and Creative Writing, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP.



Keats Foundation Annual Lecture 2020

‘Between the Downs and the Sea: Romantics in Sussex’

By Alexandra Harris, author of Weatherlands: Writers and Artists under English Skies, and Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination, from Virginia Woolf to John Piper.

‘Nothing worth speaking of’ happened on Keats’s 1819 excursion over the South Downs to Chichester and then to Bedhampton – nothing except most of The Eve of St Agnes and The Eve of St Mark. William Blake referred to his Sussex years as a ‘slumber on the banks of the ocean’, but it was a fruitful sleep in which Chichester appeared as a version of Jerusalem. William Collins, who spent most of his life in Chichester, catches the music of his ‘native plains’ in some of his most influential odes. This lecture will consider Keats and his predecessors in this small part of Sussex, and will explore more broadly the relationship between place and poetry.

Alexandra Harris will speak on Saturday 7 March 2020 at 5 pm.

Booking here

Other selected Keats House events (several more, including Family Days and free poetry readings, can be found on their Eventbrite page).

All events listed below run 6.30-8pm in The Chester Room, Keats House

30 Jan Jennifer Wallace ‘”Digging Up Milton”. Keats, Milton and London 1790-1818: Writing Historical Fiction.’

6 Feb Jonathan Gonzalez ‘Keats and Wine’

20 Feb Damian Walford Davies ‘Keats’s Killing Breath: Poetry and Theories of Consumption’

5 March Drummond Bone ‘What is Poetry – thoughts by Byron (and Keats)’ – in partnership with the Byron Society

16 April Andrew Rudd ‘Charities in Keats’s London’

Romantic Reimaginings: Mapping Keats’s Progress

Romantic Reimaginings is a BARS blog series which seeks to explore the ways in which texts of the Romantic era continue to resonate. The blog is curated by Eleanor Bryan. If you would like to publish an article in the series, please email

Today on the blog, Suzie Grogan discusses the reimagining of Keats’s journey through the Mapping Keats’s Progress website.

As students of Romantic poet John Keats we might sit, hushed, in a library surrounded by books. We may have open next to us the latest critical thinking, the biographies by Roe, Motion, Gittings, Bate. In our files we may have, printed off, the latest academic papers or edited collections of the same.  Or we could be trawling JSTOR or British Library sites, intent on ensuring we miss nothing, note everything.

Mapping Keats’s Progress website

But reimagine that scene. We could be sitting quietly at a computer, or in a café with our tablet, perusing the Mapping Keats’s Progress website at notebook beside us, finding and re-finding, reflecting and diverging and walking with Keats through his development as man and poet, using location and life events to associate and connect in a way that is more difficult when surrounded by the paper equivalent. Books are a wonderful thing, but referencing and cross referencing is a demanding and time consuming process for all scholars, and is exclusive of those with a general interest who have only the most minimal access to the work. Re-imagining the critical book – or indeed the book in general terms – is inclusionary and revolutionary. We must ensure the relevance of the Romantic is taken on into the 21st century. Widening access is a necessary part of this process.

Mapping Keats’s Progress  (MKP) is a project that, despite already having over 150 ‘micro-chapters’ is still developing alongside our knowledge and interpretation of Keats’s life and letters. The architect and main brain behind the project is Dr Kim Blank, Professor of English at the University of Victoria, Canada. His published work includes books on William Wordsworth and Percy Shelley, edited books of original essays on Shelley and 19th-century poetry and he is author of numerous papers and articles. His credentials are impeccable and his dedication to an understanding of Keats’s development is extraordinary. He says:

‘MKP is a critical work, biographical study, and a resource for Keats studies. I am also aware that, professionally, the site occupies the odd space of scholarly limbo-accomplishment: I didn’t want or need a grant (these days a grant is apparently some indicator of success and credibility), and neither is it refereed by peers, though continuing feedback from peers governs some of the site’s directions’

The website states three main aims:

  • To map some of Keats’s life in in London (in fact it maps Keats’s journeys around the British Isles)
  • To re-imagine the critical book
  • To account for Keats’s remarkable poetic development, mainly between 1816-1819.

If you are reading this whilst connected to the internet, flick backwards and forwards between this blog post and the MKP website. You will immediately notice just how much information there is available, taking us  through Keats’s life chronologically, but with opportunities to refer to previous pages, to articles of interest outside the main chapter and onwards into what is, as Blank says, the ‘never-ending story’. This infinite quest for what Jonathan Bate describes as the ‘holy grail’ of understanding Keats’s remarkable period of poetic development, most particularly in 1818/19 is partly due to the ‘Junkets’ factor, what Blank describes as ‘Keats’s complicated, unique, and ultimately unknowable capacities—his innate creative and imaginative potential, his unlearned emotional and intellectual nature, and his profound ability to fuse novel relationship with inductive thinking.’ We can never know or understand enough.

Blank challenges the ‘irresistible habit of hopping around online’ by working with it. The current need for speed and the endless searching, clicking on and clicking away from web sources can, in other circumstances, result in a loss of context, an habitual search and re-search for the original. Worse still, there is the possibility of the total loss of credibility that comes from an incorrect reference, a basic factual error or research that results in a generic reproduction of well-worn facts lacking in original thinking. Within the MKP website, Blank has utilised what he calls ‘progressive reduplication’ – the micro-chapters overlapping and repeating key facts thus offering a productive stay for any user, at whatever level and recognising that the needs of each user is different, their knowledge at a different stage.  There is much of general interest, but graduate study and scholarly article will most benefit from the myriad references, cross references and context that only a site such as MKP can achieve.  It offers discoveries unavailable on other websites and certainly difficult to replicate using a physical book.

In response to a suggestion that the site itself might encourage random roving at will, Blank says:

‘The purposeful structure of MKP does indeed encourage moving around. The difference between moving around within the site and non-discriminatory, attention-deficit research is, I hope, that something knowable about Keats’s story is gathered with most of the definable micro-chapters, that then begins to form the larger picture after not too many stops. That is, most of the parts (the 157 micro-chapters) are both parts and wholes.

The MKP site is the ultimate in ‘reimagining’ as it is a genuine experiment, examining the traditional critical model and working with it to come up with an alternative method of exploration. But can Blank’s approach ever change our relationship with the monograph? Can it replace the book? Blank again:

‘Digital media, and more specifically for us, the digital humanities, is after all, an uncontrollable, utterly diverse force of possibility that powerfully impacts how we do and see and use our work. But I admit that within the profession there remains something of a fetish relationship with The Book—that 3D object that physically surrounds us in our libraries and offices, offering the sight and weight (and with old books, the smell) of materialized tradition and rippling nostalgia; the book also represents metaphysical safekeeping…’

It is not an attempt to replace the book, Blank adores them as much as any of us, insisting they remain ‘a joy forever’, but MKP offers the opportunity to evolve, move, expand, correct, revise – all those things a book can’t do. ‘Thinking-through becomes an unending process, rather than the terminus that a published book offers’.

The Mapping Keats’s Progress site spent a significant amount of time in beta to identify bugs, ensure everything works and to get feedback from users, making sure it was launched in  a ‘robust and lasting form’.  It is a complex structure, already used regularly to support new critical works and student study alike.  There are 721 maps and images on the site, many of which will be new to the user. There are 157 micro chapters, 177 transcribed poems and the word count (not including those poems) is approaching 200,000. The site has received plaudits and unsolicited praise from respected colleagues that have justified the amount of work Blank has undertaken and the most important thing is that it respects and loves the life and work of John Keats himself, positioning him as a leading member of the vast Romantic circle the site features, and highlighting how remarkable is the poetry for which he is best known.

Suzie Grogan is a professional writer, researcher and editor.  She is published in the fields of social history and mental health, her most recent books being Shell Shocked Britain on the lasting legacy of the Great War health and Death Disease & Dissection on the life of a surgeon apothecary 1750-1850, inspired by her lifelong study of John Keats. John Keats: Poetry Life & Landscape is commissioned for the bicentenary of the poet’s death in 2021. See for more details.

Oaths, Odes, and Orations 1789-1830

2020 Paris Symposium of the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar

Ecole Normale Supérieure, rue d’Ulm, Paris

Friday 3-Saturday 4 April 2020

The Tennis Court Oath of 20 June 1789 was the first overtly revolutionary act of the French Revolution and marked the beginning of an epoch in which public speech acts took on unprecedented political significance. The ceremonial odes and hymns of the fêtes de fédération were another manifestation of this renascence of orality, restoring the ancient Pindaric tradition of poetry as public performance and giving new meaning to odic conventions such as invocation, exhortation and apostrophe. In the work of André Chénier and others, this new lyric function produced major poetry. Meanwhile, in the halls of the political clubs, in the National Convention and revolutionary Committees, and from lecterns, pulpits and courtroom benches across France, oratory of all kinds shaped the course of history and decided the fate of individuals. Even on the executioner’s scaffold, rhetorical amplification became the preferred mode of address, a grim illustration of Baudelaire’s subsequent observation about ‘the grandiloquent truth of gestures on life’s great occasions’.

The revitalisation of performative language was not confined to the 1789 Revolution, nor to France. Britain experienced what many still consider a golden age of political eloquence, as orators of the calibre of Pitt, Burke, Fox and Sheridan jousted in parliament and extended their orations through the medium of print. Outside parliament, the growth of the corresponding societies, of other political clubs and associations, and of political lecturing created numerous opportunities for public address, the communicative practices and clandestine rituals of certain organisations attracting repressive measures such as the Unlawful Oaths Act of 1797. Radical writers mimicked French revolutionary styles in odes to Liberty and on the Bastille, while satirists parodied their efforts in mock-odes to the guillotine and pseudo-songs travestying revolutionary enthusiasm. Sermons, notably in the Nonconformist churches, were another front in the oral war of ideas, fusing religion and politics in provocative ways. Educational lecturing also underwent a remarkable boom, in the new Royal Institution and other fashionable lecturing institutions.

This two-day symposium will assess the literary significance of this mobilisation of orality and public utterance, and explore links between the speech acts of politicians, polemicists and educators and the writings of poets and other authors. How is the Romantic revaluation of the ode which produced the famous lyrics of Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Victor Hugo – and of less well-known figures such as Southey, Hemans, Iolo Morganwg and Peter Pindar – connected with the revival of ceremonial ode-writing and public ritual? How are the ‘speech genres’ of everyday life integrated into the more complex genres of imaginative literature, as Bakhtin postulated? Can speech-writing, sermonising or toast-making be themselves a form of literary activity? What happens when legally, morally binding oaths and commitments are broken, forcing the swearer to recant, in public again – are such disavowals part of the culture of apostasy and disenchantment posited by literary historians of Romanticism? And to what extent do these purposive deployments of public speech enter the literary and rhetorical theory of the period?

We invite proposals on any aspect of the literary and verbal life of Britain and France from 1789 to 1830 that relates to this broad set of issues. Topics may include but are not confined to:

•       Oaths, affirmations and other verbal rituals
•       Toasts and toasting
•       Public lectures and lecturing
•       Denunciation, recantation and confession
•       Proclamations, declarations and vindications
•       Odes, hymns and songs
•       Apostrophe, personification and other poetic devices
•       Literature and public ceremony
•       Dialectic of publicness and privacy in Romantic lyric
•       Political, religious and forensic oratory
•       Illocutionary acts and performative language
•       Gendered eloquence
•       Dialogues and dialogism
•       Rhetorical theory of the Romantic period

Papers will be 25 to 30 minutes, followed by 10 minutes for questions.

Send title of paper and abstract (300 words), with brief CV, to and by 31 January 2020

Organised by Marc Porée (ENS), David Duff (QMUL) and the Paris Steering Group of the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar. For further information, see

Romantic Reimaginings: Tension in Coleridge’s ‘Fears in Solitude’

Romantic Reimaginings is a BARS blog series which seeks to explore the ways in which texts of the Romantic era continue to resonate. The blog is curated by Eleanor Bryan. If you would like to publish an article in the series, please email

Today on the blog, Mariyah Mandhu (University of Sheffield) discusses tension in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Fears in Solitude’.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Fears in Solitude (1798) is frequently considered as one of the poet’s most political works.[1] The volatility of this lyric has often been attributed to Coleridge’s political torment,[2] yet the implications of his experimentation with genre have largely been ignored. Sponsoring Carl Woodring’s observation that politics ‘agitated the body of [Coleridge’s] verse with severe but local storms’,[3] Coleridge uses the pastoral to inform his tale of nationalism. Rupturing the unified, idyllic landscape of pastoral, the poet darkens the natural world to a point of high anxiety, creating an insoluble tension in his poem. Reconsidering Fears in Solitude as an exercise in genre, this blog post will explore how the pastoral informs the political drive of this ‘Conversation Poem’.

Fears in Solitude opens with a typical scene of pastoral retreat in the Quantock Hills. A sight close to the poet’s heart, he tells us of a ‘green and silent spot, amid the hills’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 1) where ‘No singing sky-lark ever poised himself’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 3). The beauty of the scene is complemented by the fresh greenness, the soothing sibilance and the skylark, a joyous symbol of the divine spirit. There is a nostalgic overtone implied in the lushness of landscape as it embodies a ‘quiet spirit-healing nook’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 12). Erecting ‘a different kind of world to that of realism’,[4] Fears in Solitude begins in the conventional pastoral mode, instating physical and spiritual unity in the natural world.

Obliterating nature’s beauty almost immediately, the pastoral is suddenly upended in the next stanza. Contemplating the possibility of ‘What uproar and what strife may now be stirring / This way or that way o’er these silent hills—’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 34-35), there appears to be an inherent anxiety stirring in Coleridge’s mind. Where the hills previously denoted calm, their silence now operates as a perturbation that anticipates the impending French invasion. Registering a sense of immediacy, the use of ‘now’ draws this tension into the present, completely overturning the idyllic opening of the poem. The pastoral is suddenly overwhelmed by a cacophony of noise, ‘the thunder and the shout, / And all the crash of onset; fear and rage’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 36-37). Notwithstanding the obvious onomatopoeia, Coleridge rejects what Simon Jarvis terms a ‘nihilated theory of the living, healthy and whole’.[5] Pastoral degenerates into a threatening, alien and loud presence, representing the ‘groan’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 40) of political torment, an efficient expression of national fear.

The poem then descends into an admonition as Coleridge reprimands his countrymen for the gross offences they have perpetrated. Unlike Wordsworth who seems to criticise the urban commercial world, Coleridge draws attention to man’s offences as a nationwide, rural and urban, issue. Pastoral sheds its status as a pure genre, admitting that the rural sphere is just as polluted as the urban, weakening the genre’s typical city/country contrast. Highlighting the hypocrisy of man, Coleridge muses:

Forth from his dark and lonely hiding-place,

(Portentous sight!) the owlet Atheism,

Sailing on obscene wings athwart the noon,

Drops his blue-fringed lids, and holds them close,

And hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,

Cries out, ‘Where is it?’

(Fears in Solitude, l. 81-86)

Adding a strong grain of satire to Fears in Solitude, Coleridge redirects the pastoral to criticise mankind. The ‘owlet Atheism’ holding its ‘blue-fringed lids’ close symbolises wilful, intellectual blindness. Mocking the type of person who would stare at the sun without seeing it, there is a genuine fear that the deluded countrymen will listen to such hooting blindness, and thence degenerate further. With pastoral now embodying Coleridge’s main fear in solitude—a fruitless future for his nation—the genre takes on a darkened aesthetic power in order to expose the consequences of man’s apathy.

Offering a solution to this great national issue, Coleridge calls out to God to ‘spare us ye awhile!’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 130) in order that his countrymen may redeem themselves. Suggesting collective action as the chief antidote to this ‘Alarm of an Invasion’,[6] the poet commands:

Stand we forth;

Render them back upon the insulted ocean,

And let them toss as idly on its waves

As the vile sea-weed,

(Fears in Solitude, l. 146-149)

Drawing the ocean into his pastoral, Coleridge affirms that the British must undertake the arduous task of defence. Reducing the enemy down to ‘vile sea-weed’ demonstrates Coleridge’s contempt of, and determination to defeat the French. That the opposition should ‘toss as idly on its waves’ suggests a lifelessness, allowing the pastoral to consider more sinister and hostile subject matter. Modifying nature, and particularly the ocean, to such an extent that ‘a person [becomes] unsure of his way around’,[7] pastoral becomes uncertain, cold and intimidating.

Having battled through such a brutal and unforgiving vista, Coleridge attempts to instil pastoral calm as he remembers the ‘green and silent dell’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 238). Grateful for ‘nature’s quietness / And solitary musings, all [his] heart / Is softened’ (Fears in Solitude, l. 239-241). Acknowledging the pastoral turmoil that we have just weathered, this retreat brings with it ‘a tension of values’ as we are asked to reconsider the efficacy of the serene bucolic against the backdrop of the chaotic, anxious darker pastoral.[8] Against William Empson’s view that Coleridge’s main business is ‘to reconcile nature to his tribe’,[9] Coleridge seems unreconciled with nature himself, as is reflected in the fracture and tensions of the poetry.

Works cited:
[1] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘Fears in Solitude (1798)’, in The Major Works including Biographia Literaria, Oxford World Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 92-98.
[2] See for example, Peter Larkin, ‘”Fears in Solitude:” Reading (from) the Dell’, The Wordsworth Circle, 22. 1 (1991) <> [Accessed 30 July 2019] and Paul Magnuson, ‘The Shaping of “Fears in Solitude”’, in Coleridge’s Theory of Imagination Today, ed. by Christine Gallant (New York: AMS Press, 1989).
[3] Carl Woodring, ‘The Language of Politics’, in Politics in the Poetry of Coleridge (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1961), pp. 33-44 (p. 33)
[4] Terry Gifford, ‘The Discourse of Retreat’, in Pastoral (London; New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 45-80 (p. 45).
[5] Simon Jarvis, ‘Life’, in Wordsworth’s Philosophic Song (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 153-194 (p. 155).
[6] Coleridge, ‘Fears in Solitude (1798’), p. 92.
Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, in The Uncanny: Translated by David McLintock with an Introduction by Hugh Houghton (London: Penguin, 2003), pp. 121-159 (p. 125).
[8] Stuart Curran, ‘Pastoral’, in British Form and Romanticism (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 85-127 (p. 88).
[9] William Empson, ‘The Beggar’s Opera: Mock-pastoral as the Cult of Independence’, in Some Versions of Pastoral (London: Chatto & Windus, 1968), pp. 195-252 (p. 207).

Mariyah Mandhu is a PhD student in Romantic poetry at the University of Sheffield. Her project reinterprets the use of the pastoral genre in the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Adapting Timothy Morton’s concept of ‘dark ecology’, she argues that in Romantic poetry there emerges an ambivalent, treacherous version of nature, unseen in such an extensive capacity until Coleridge’s ‘Conversation Poems’ in 1975. Revealing the existence of a Romantic subgenre entitled the dark pastoral, she explores its usage in poems that span the full length of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s careers.

Romantic Reimaginings: Adaptation and Convergence in Poe (Part 3 of 3)

Romantic Reimaginings is a BARS blog series which seeks to explore the ways in which texts of the Romantic era continue to resonate. The blog is curated by Eleanor Bryan. If you would like to publish an article in the series, please email

Today on the blog our article is the final article in a 3 part series in which Jeff L. Wright (University of Arkansas) discusses adaptations of the works of Edgar Allen Poe. His first article (link below) examined Poe’s The Raven in the context of Halloween. Parts 2 and 3 examine Richard Corben’s comic book adaptations of Poe, tracing the evolution of these adaptations from the cultural ‘memeplex’ to the individual ‘selfplex’.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

For this Romantic Reimagining, I would like to continue our exploration of the bio-evolutionary model of memes in Richard Corben’s comic book adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Raven”. In part one, I discussed the ways in which memes are transferred from the cultural memeplex into our own individual brains, called the selfplex. Richard Corben’s original adaptation of this poem incorporated a painterly, watercolor style of pen-and-ink to create an almost impressionistic version of Poe’s protagonist. Material items such as the room or the Colt-style revolver the man carried were heavily detailed, as if drawn, and the human figure was less detailed. Perhaps this was Corben’s attempt to hedge himself against the fact that there is no clear description of the character in the poem, and Corben’s rendition of the man leaves us with more of a visual impression of a character. I also discussed how some elements, such as the protagonist’s appearance, are more controversial in our own minds than other elements, such as what the raven, a gun, or the room would look like in this poem. Once rendered, Corben then regurgitates this new adaptation back into the cultural memeplex for a survival-of-the-fittest test to see if fans liked it or not.

I would like to continue with an exploration of another of Corben’s adaptations of “The Raven” roughly a decade later. Edgars Allen Poe’s The Raven and the Red Death (EAPRRD) was done with Darkhorse Comics. Like Haunt of Horror, EAPRRD is still mostly Corben doing the writing and the artwork, with some lettering done by Nate Piekos. I mention this because in the case of Corben’s work, he is handling both the writing and drawing duties, whereas most comics have separate writers and artists (even a whole team of them), which is another reason Corben’s work is good for this sort of memetic evolutionary analysis, as there is little question as to where the ideas originated from.
In the previous rendition of “The Raven,” Corben worked in black-and-white. However, in his later version he switches to color, but also steps the artwork back into what looks more like the retro/vintage horror comics of old, such as Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror. This style is somewhat “cartoony” in that the human form is often exaggerated into a caricature of sorts. Mag the Hag, a narrator in the vein of the Cryptkeeper, is somewhat of a cross between a hunchback and a witch with a round, bulbous nose, balding head, and sagging cleavage (fig. 1).

Figure 1: The Slime Effect

Whereas the first version of “The Raven” featured an impression of a man in the story/poem, Corben’s second adaptation creates a very distinct idea of what the character looks like. We are shown two things in the first few frames that set a clearly different visual tone than his first adaptation. First is the man himself, with muttonchops and details that make the character look older or at least more haggard than in the first adaptation. The second element we see is what I usually just refer to as the “slime effect” in horror comics. Rain on a window sill, and in the next frame on Mag the Hag’s nose, is drawn to look more like globs of spit or slime oozing down these things rather than raindrops (fig. 1). This slime-visual alone is a clear link to horror comics and serves as a sort of signal that this will likely be grotesque in some way.

Figure 2: Lenore and Arnold

Corben has also created more detailed imagery in this adaptation of both the man and Lenore, as the use of a flashback sequence is employed early in the story in the man’s pondering over “forgotten lore.” The lore, in this case, being thoughts of his Lenore, who is shown to be an attractive woman in his memories of their lovemaking. This is a major departure from his previous adaptation of this poem in that he is now drawing these characters with very distinct details, but also employing visual elements that were not part of the original poem’s story. Lenore, like the man in the poem, is never described. Corben is taking artistic license regarding this, essentially having to add these romantic memories to visually represent lines in the poem that read as inner dialogue or that Poe never fleshed out for the reader. Corben even goes so far as to name the originally unnamed man, Arnold (fig. 2).

Figure 3: Death at the beak of The Raven

In Corben’s previous adaptation he worked more as an impressionist doing, for lack of a better term, an “artistic” comic. Now, he is switching styles, which almost feels a bit like a genre shift from arthouse-comic to good ole’ fashioned worm-and-guts, pre-CCA, horror comics. Which brings us to the raven itself. In his former adaptation, Corben chose to go with a fairly realistic version of a raven, at least as realistic as a talking antagonist raven can be made to look. In this version, Corben has chosen to get a little more horrific with the raven, and honestly this is the first time this poem actually came across as remotely scary or horrifying to me. After goring Arnold with its beak, the raven is depicted as some sort of demonic-undead bird hovering over the fallen body of Arnold, now laying before Lenore’s gravemarker.

In this version, Corben adds more than just visuals to this poem, he also has to create new, additional elements of the story to turn this into a 10-page comic book story. While visual elements will always be seen as addition to a textual story, the visual additon of the blood and gore into this version seem to amplify the horror aspects of this poem or contemporize the graphicness of these elements to sell to modern horror audiences that may be used to much more violent or grotesque depictions. In terms of Convergence Culture and Adaptation Studies, Corben’s work on “The Raven” serves as a good source for analyzing the way that, in this case, this has grown from an impressionistic visual adaptation of the poem, to that of a full blown horror story using the poem as a foundation for other horror elements, especially visual elements, to be added to it.

Jeff L. Wright is currently working on PhD in Cultural Studies and as a writing instructor at the University of Arkansas. He has a BA and MA in interdisciplinary studies in the fields of Anthropology, Rhetoric-Composition, Gender Studies, Film Studies, and Theatre. Jeff’s writing ranges from academic research to playwrighting, and he is currently working as one of the official bloggers for the Sam Walton College of Business. His current research is focused on “Bitch-Rhetoric” in comic books and tattoos.