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News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Conference Report: Substance Use and Abuse in the Long Nineteenth Century

This conference, held at Edge Hill University on 13-14 September 2018, was part-funded by BARS. You can see tweets from the conference here. Anna Rowntree reports from the event.

Substance Use and Abuse in the Long Nineteenth Century:

a report by Anna Rowntree

Substance use and abuse: can there be a subject that more intimately and richly connects the long nineteenth century with our own modern moment of being? We live in a world of blurred boundaries – our food, our clothes, our drugs, and our technology grown, mined, manufactured and designed in a cross-pollinated global world where nothing is ever straightforward.

But perhaps we can track something – perhaps we can go back and pay attention to the time which from this vantage point looks a little like a beginning. We can burrow into the literature, art and artefacts of the long nineteenth century and we can draw lines which trace the moving, trading, inhaling and consumption of substances such as tobacco, hashish and opium. We can look at the ships facilitating the new globalising world economy and political landscape of colonisation, revolution and capitalism. We can chart the psychological landscape of the individual drug user and observe the blooming of new ways of painting, thinking or conceiving of self and world. And that is exactly what the conference ‘Substance Use and Abuse in the Long Nineteenth Century’ managed to do. From the minutiae of each scholar’s intricate research came a bigger picture which expressed something not unified but mutating and on the move. What every paper did in its own way was get things rolling – the effect was a view of the long nineteenth century where nothing stayed in its box and things were allowed to bleed.

Thursday began with a keynote from Noelle Plack entitled ‘Alcohol, Power and Identity in the Age of Revolution’. What Plack’s comprehensive research revealed was that alcohol consumption both encouraged social breakdown and simultaneously defined and reflected power hierarchies in an era of social upheaval. Whilst places of consumption and the loosening of tongues allowed a subversive physical and psychological space to open up, the choice of alcoholic beverage was highly coded with nationalistic and class associations. Plack’s conclusion that social movements and drink are intimately entwined laid the foundation for a conference in which culture revealed itself to be consistently under the influence – and in which substances are much more than recreational toys.

Panel One continued the investigation of alcohol with Jean Webb discussing the fascinating field of Victorian children’s fiction. Her reading of Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies and Hesba Stretton’s work showed the complex ways in which these writers were considering the social anxieties around alcoholism, degeneration, poverty, and child labour. Here Darwin, science, religion, literature and social activism all came together in an affective nexus. This interdisciplinary approach laid the foundation for a conference which at its best sought to be historically, culturally and artistically inclusive.

In Panel Two, Bob Nicholson treated us to a bodily understanding of cocktail culture. His shot glasses of blue liquid were not celebrated for their taste but were a fitting way to embody the subject. Nicholson’s conclusion that the British public were enjoying cocktails as part of a celebration of American culture spoke to the transnational nature of substances and the complex cultural interactions they encourage.

Speaking on the next panel, I made a case for reading De Quincey’s opium use through the lens of the posthuman, and argued that when we do so we introduce the possibility for exploring the role of peace in defining the shift between occasional and habitual drug use. Menglu Gao followed my paper with her rewarding reading of De Quincey alongside John Brown’s Elements of Medicine. Gao’s focus on energies and the invigorating effects of opium on the individual body, and as a nationalistic metaphor, was a beautiful illustration of the engagement of the personal and the political.

Panel Four was another rich offering. Sarah Irving complicated a traditional reading of Mary Eliza Roger’s memoir Domestic Life in Palestine. Instead of rejecting the text as an example of a romanticising European gaze, Irving argued that we read the work in terms of authenticity. The act of shared smoking implied Roger’s bodily knowledge of the orient which went beyond the mere onlooker. Suzanne Bode’s work on the hyper-realistic paintings of the pre-Raphaelites was a welcome inclusion of visual art in our discussion. Whether paintings of drugged models or paintings composed under the influence of mind altering substances, it was fascinating to analyse both the representation of the drugged body and the subjective reality of the drugged mind.

The day concluded with Susan Zieger’s keynote ‘Nineteenth-Century Revolutions: Psychoactive, Logistics, Aesthetic’. Zieger gave us a glimpse into her new work (her earlier work Inventing the Addict informed several of the papers at the conference). Her argument that we need to read the success of opium as a global commodity in terms of logistics encouraged not only a deep appreciation for the storage, transportation and handling technologies that enabled the success of opium, it formulated a new aesthetic understanding of the nineteenth century. Whilst the scale of opium’s production may seem at first to be unmeasurable and chaotic, in fact the strictly regulated ways in which it was managed reveals an underlying choreography which describes fetishised sleek capitalism. The modern implications of this kind of logistical sublime can be seen in Silicon Valley’s promotion of psychedelic micro-dosing as a tool for greater efficiency and productive creativity. The capture of substances – which for many stand for unpredictable freedom in oppressive modernity – is a worrying issue. Zieger’s work showed how profoundly relevant an understanding of the long nineteenth century is to our modern moment of crisis.

Continuing the theme of productive, mechanised labour through substance use was Douglas Small’s keynote paper ‘Sherlock Holmes and “Sports Doping”: Cocaine, Profession, and Performance’, which kicked off day two. Day two was also notable for Kevin McCarron’s paper in which he made a case of returning to a Victorian model for understanding addiction. McCarron’s dissatisfaction with the modern idea of addiction as disease was generally appreciated but his argument regarding a moral model which sees the addict as weak created wide-spread consternation. Nonetheless it was a pivotal point in the conference which got to the heart of why addiction studies matter and clarified the need for an ethical approach to addiction and addicts.

McCarron’s paper was followed by Sean Witters’ deconstructive approach to understanding addiction. Witters asked us to consider how we use the words ‘addiction’ and ‘addict’ forcing us to confront the constructed nature of the categories and the shifting historical ways for describing and understanding the phenomena of repetitive drug use. What happens when we name ‘the addict’? How does the temporal immutability of the noun obscure our understanding of addiction as an act? It was a useful reminder that the language we use creates realities that may have unintended effects.

Natalie Roxburgh’s paper ‘Medication and Social Optimization in Dorian Gray and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ worked well as a follow up to both McCarron’s and Witters’ work. Here the reasons for taking drugs were shown to be culturally entangled and various. Roxburgh illustrated how the repeated ingestion of substances in Wilde’s and Stevenson’s work is about social functionality and optimisation (as opposed to biological inevitability or an anti-social disregard for society). The transhuman implications of Roxburgh’s argument spoke again to our modern moment and the hybridisation of the human in pursuit of perfection. It was also a thought-provoking way to conclude the conference, leaving us with the haunting suspicion that we are all in the business of socially optimising ourselves.

Archive Spotlight: Allan Ramsay and the National Library of Scotland

A slightly different ‘Archive Spotlight’ post today, as we go back to the early eighteenth century to celebrate the work of the poet Allan Ramsay, ‘the founding father of Romanticism’, who was born on this day in 1684. Craig Lamont is a Research Associate on the projects ‘The Collected Works of Allan Ramsay’ and ‘Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century’ at the University of Glasgow. Here he tells us about his work on Ramsay at the National Library of Scotland, illustrated with images from the archives.

 

Archive Spotlight: Allan Ramsay and the National Library of Scotland by Craig Lamont 

Allan Ramsay (1684-1758) the poet has been somewhat overshadowed by his son of the same name (1713-1784), who was Principal Painter in Ordinary for George III. When Ramsay senior is in the spotlight instead we tend to celebrate his pastoral play above all else. The Gentle Shepherd (first published 1725, first performed 1729) was the first pastoral piece to be set within a recognisable locale rather than an anonymous idyll. For Ramsay the best choice was the region of the Pentland Hills, beyond the boundaries of Edinburgh where he lived, with a particular focus on Penicuik. In nearby Carlops you can find the Allan Ramsay Hotel (est. 1792), which now boasts a plaque from Historical Environment Scotland:

 

ALLAN RAMSAY

1684-1758

Founding Father of Romanticism

& Modern Scottish Poetry

Author of the Pastoral Drama

‘The Gentle Shepherd’

Set Near This Place[1]

 

In January of this year I began working as a Research Associate on the AHRC-funded project ‘The Collected Works of Allan Ramsay’ (PI: Murray Pittock), which will produce a multi-volume edition of Ramsay for Edinburgh University Press. A Ramsay edition was last produced by the Scottish Text Society in six volumes spanning thirty years (1944-1974). These volumes are quite scarce and a full set is difficult to come by. You are more likely to read Ramsay’s poems online or in paperback anthologies such as Before Burns: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Poetry (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2002). The Ramsay Project here at the University of Glasgow hopes to elevate Ramsay to the fore of Scottish literary discourse and, of course, Romanticism. As Murray Pittock demonstrated in Scottish and Irish Romanticism (2008), it was commonplace to regard Ramsay as a Romantic writer or the initiator of major areas of Romantic practice in pre-war (and sometimes 1950s and 60s) criticism, before the later concepts of pre-Romanticism and Romanticism as an aesthetic became dominant.[2]

To grasp Ramsay’s influence fully we are going back to the very beginning, and so my first task was to collate as much information about Ramsay’s manuscripts as possible. Without doubt, the majority of the material is suitably located in the National Library of Scotland (NLS), a stones-throw away from the ancient Edinburgh Old Town where Ramsay lived and worked. There are also manuscripts in Ramsay’s holograph in Edinburgh University Library, the National Records of Scotland, Worcester College (Oxford), the British Library, The Huntington Library (San Marino, CA), and Houghton Library (Harvard, MA). Important though these archives are, the NLS has the largest spread of songs, poems, prose fragments, letters, and the crowning jewel that is the fair copy MS of The Gentle Shepherd.[3]

 

MS 15972, f. 7r. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

 

Title-page of the first edition (F.7.f.22), one of only nine extant copies. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

 

The rest of the Ramsay material at the NLS is scattered across more than forty bound or loose-leaf shelf marks, comprising a comprehensive insight into Ramsay’s life, style and development.[4] But let’s go back to the plaque. Ramsay’s place in Romanticism is noted but so too is his foundational role in ‘Modern Scottish Poetry’. What exactly does this mean? And how does the archive help us understand this?

To answer that we should look at printed material. The NLS has an impressive collection of Ramsay’s printed works.[5] Before his first authorised book of Poems in 1721 around fifty-six Ramsay works were published – mostly in Edinburgh, some in London – in a variety of formats. Often unauthorised, these printed works are indicative of a poet on the rise. The claim is made for Ramsay’s founding of Modern Scottish Poetry for a variety of reasons. Among the first ten printed works by Ramsay are Christ’s Kirk on the Green and Elegies on Maggy Johnston [&c.] (both 1718).[6] The first stanza of the ‘Elegy on Maggy Johnston, who died Anno 1711’ is one of the poet’s most recognisable:

 

Auld Reeky mourn in Sable Hue,

Let Fouth of Tears dreep like May Dew,

To braw Tippony bid Adieu,    A

Which we with Greed

Bended as fast as she cou’d brew,

But ah! she’s dead.[7]

 

The first thing we notice here is the use of Scots. In this case Edinburgh (ie. ‘Auld Reeky’) is being asked to mourn or honour the death of a talented ale-brewer by dropping (dreeping) rain, or tears ‘like May dew.’ Not only is the poem full of Scots words, the structure of it becomes the quintessential Scots style. The ‘Standard Habbie’ was first used by Robert Sempill, the younger, c. 1640, in his elegy ‘The Life and Death of the Piper of Kilbarchan; or, the Epitaph of Habbie Simpson.’ The phrase ‘Standart Habbie’ was coined by Ramsay in his poetical epistles with William Hamilton of Gilbertfield (c.1665-1751). It would become more famously known as the ‘Burns Stanza’, as the National Poet took it up during his own poetical career.

As a printer and collector Ramsay was well aware that he was taking a steady step in the direction of a new Scottish tradition. And so in 1724 he published The Ever Green, Being a Collection of Scots Poems, Wrote by the Ingenious before 1600.

 

NLS Cam.1.g.45. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

 

But why focus on the Ingenious before 1600? One answer is that Ramsay is harking back to the time before Scotland lost its royal independence along with its court in 1603 (the Union of the Crowns). The chief Scottish poets in the seventeenth century, such as Robert Aytoun (1570-1638) and William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649) primarily wrote in Latin and English. In other words, the desire to revive the Scots language meant looking further back in time. The first item in Volume I of The Ever Green is ‘Chrysts-Kirk of the Grene,’ which Ramsay had previously printed and added stanzas to in 1718. Whereas Ramsay had modernised the text in 1718, he has reverted it here to Middle Scots:

 

   Ramsay, 1718                                                  Ramsay, 1724                      

Was nere in Scotland heard or seen,                Was nevir in Scotland hard nor sene

Sic dancing and deray;                                   Sic Dancing and Deray,

Nowther at Falkland on the Green,                 Nowthir at Falkland on the Grene,

Nor Peebles at the Play,                                 Nor Pebills at the Play,

 

Ramsay uses The Ever Green to enshrine the poetry of an older, more prestigious literary age while simultaneously promoting his own, contrasting Modern Scots as the mainstay on the market. All of this to say that the National Library of Scotland, home to the largest collection of Ramsay material, is also home to one of the nation’s most significant manuscripts which Ramsay used to produce The Ever Green.

The Bannatyne Manuscript (NLS Advocates MS 1. 1. 6) is a collection of poems and songs allegedly copied from original sources by the Edinburgh merchant George Bannatyne (1545-1607/8) during the plague epidemic in the city (‘writtin in tyme of pest’). Without it, many treasures of Scottish literature would be lost forever.

 

NLS Advocates MS 1. 1. 6. (The phrase: ‘written in tyme of pest’ highlighted). Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

 

Not only this, Ramsay’s influence on the trajectory of Scots might have been further impinged without this evidence of a rich and diverse literary heritage.[8]

As the project unfolds I will continue to consult the masses of Ramsay material held in the NLS.[9] Knowing Ramsay (as I now do) it will probably lead me deeper into the archive and further back in time. As such, Ramsay’s role in the development of Romanticism ought to be more celebrated and I am grateful to have shared the beginnings of this journey with BARS colleagues to achieve that very end.

 

 

[1] Words provided by Prof. Murray Pittock, General Editor of the upcoming Ramsay Edition, in 2016.

[2] Murray Pittock, ‘Allan Ramsay and the Decolonization of Genre’, Scottish and Irish Romanticism (Oxford: OUP, 2008), 32-58.

[3] A draft MS copy is extant elsewhere in the city, in the University Library (Laing.II.212*).

[4] The NLS holds the Edinburgh Burgess Ticket given to Ramsay (Acc. 3948).

[5] Many of these are located in Burns Martin’s Bibliography of Allan Ramsay (Glasgow: Glasgow Bibliographical Society, 1931).

[6] While Burns Martin’s Bibliography is the most comprehensive work to date, Martin often relied on the work of Andrew Gibson for these earlier editions. Gibson’s New Light on Allan Ramsay (Edinburgh: William Brown, 1927) remains an essential text for Ramsay scholars: part biographical and part bibliographical.

[7] Allan Ramsay, Poems (Edinburgh: Thomas Ruddiman, 1721), 16.

[8] There is good coverage of Ramsay’s ‘Transcripts of Earlier Scottish Materials’ in the Index of English Literary Manuscripts: 1700-1800 (Addison-Sir Richard Steele), vol. 3 (1986), 252-261.

[9] Also check the project Twitter and Facebook page, where we feature a monthly blog. Twitter: @edin_enlighten. Facebook: @RamsayWorks.

BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary Report

The recipient of the inaugural BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary reports back from her time conducting research in Hampshire…

BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary Report by Francesca Kavanagh

It is always a special circumstance when a household library remains relatively intact over the centuries and more impressive still when such a collection contains its own historical catalogues. Such is the case of the Knight Collection at Chawton House. Owned by the descendants of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, the Knight Collection is housed and maintained by the exceptional staff and volunteers at Chawton House. Its two 1818 catalogues allow researchers to determine which books in the collection Jane Austen likely had access to and provide fascinating insight into the texts which a family in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century such as the Knights deemed fit and enticing enough to want to own. These two aspects of household libraries – the circulation among familial networks and the counterweight of an individual’s desire for personal ownership – are made evident in the act of inscribing a text. The inscriptions of Jane Austen’s nieces found in both the Knight Collection and the general collections are what drew me to Chawton House in August this year. With the generous support of the BARS Chawton House Travel Bursary, I spent two weeks working with these collections examining the material and affective significance of ownership and gift inscriptions penned by the women of the Austen and Knight families.

Figure 1: Chawton House.

My PhD thesis investigates the production of spaces of intimacy in the practices of letter-writing, annotation and commonplacing by women in the long-eighteenth century. In my time at Chawton House, evidence of ownership and gift inscriptions enabled me to extend my research on annotation by providing significant examples of the affective materiality of this practice. The positioning of inscriptions and the details they document, work to place the owner in a relationship not only with the gifter but also, in the case of the Knight Collection, with the larger library collection. The books belonging to Jane Austen’s niece, Marianne, provided an engaging and thought-provoking example.

There are a number of books signed by Marianne in the Knight Collection but a three-volume set of illustrated works by Walter Scott powerfully demonstrates the way in which gift inscriptions can signify and unify communities of female readers. Each volume is bound in green leather faded to maroon on the spine. The first, The Lady of the Lake, was published in 1838 and the two others, The Lay of the Last Minstrel and Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, were published the following year. Each has gilded pages and gold crests which adorn their front and back covers. They comprise a set. And yet from the inscriptions we can see that they were gifted to Marianne not only on two separate occasions – 1 January 1845 as a new year’s present and almost two years later on 15 September 1846 for Marianne’s 45th birthday – but also by two different women. The first is a gift from Marianne’s ‘very affectionate Sister Louisa Knight’ [1]  and the second gift comprising The Lay of the Last Minstrel and Marmion is from ‘Aunt Louisa’.[2] These two Louisas not only share a name but in continuing the gifting of the same set of books have expressed their shared affection for Marianne and each other. Each inscription is in Marianne’s hand and the unifying power of her neat and formal positioning of her words works to further connect this set and the two Louisas so that these three works stand as a single, unified testament to the intimate and familial connection of these three women within the larger collection of the Knight’s family library.

Figure 2: Marianne’s inscriptions in her three volumes of Walter Scott gifted to her by her sister and aunt. Image courtesy of the Knight Family Collection on deposit at Chawton House.

Marianne’s small collection of Scott’s works is just one of many instances of captivating ownership and gift inscriptions in the collections at Chawton House and I must extend my sincere thanks to Darren Bevin for his help in locating many others and for answering my endless list of questions. My thanks also to the rest of the Chawton House staff and volunteers whose friendly, helpful manner and detailed maintenance of the library catalogue helped me to feel at home in the rabbit warren of house and archive.

The bursary, by enabling me to spend time in the presence of Marianne’s books and handwriting, as well as those of her cousins, ancestors and future generations of Knights, has provided me with a familiarity with their material significance which I could not otherwise have experienced, and which has been essential to the progress of my thesis.

[1] Inscription in Scott, Walter. Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott, Baronet. Illustrated ed. London: Charles Tilt, Fleet Street, 1838.

[2] Inscription in Scott, Walter. The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott Baronet. Illustrated Edition. London: Charles Tilt, 1839, and Scott, Walter. Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field by Sir Walter Scott Baronet. Illustrated ed. London: Charles Tilt, Fleet Street, 1839.

Report from ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ – Anna Maria Porter’s The Fast of St. Magdalen

Here is a report by Colette Davies from the recent ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ seminar (September 2018). This series is sponsored by BARS and seminars are held at the University of Greenwich.

A Discussion of Anna Maria Porter’s The Fast of St. Magdalen (1818) with Professor Fiona Price (Chichester)

Professor Fiona Price’s illuminating talk on Anna Maria Porter’s three-volume novel, The Fast of St. Magdalen (1818), engaged her audience in considerations of the role of the romance novel in national politics, the disposition and conduct of the hero, and characterology. Contextualising Anna Maria Porter as an author who produced an extensive oeuvre of historical romance novels, yet who has (as Peter Garside observed) often been eclipsed by the works of Walter Scott, Price moved past this overshadowing and drew links between Anna Maria Porter’s writing and the works of Jane West, Maria Edgeworth and Joanna Baillie in terms of the writers’ characterology and participation in ongoing debates about the role of romance in constructing the nation, its politics, and its leaders.

Particularly interesting was Price’s reading of Porter’s modifications of her heroes and heroines; Price focused on the role and construction of the novel’s hero, Valombrosa, arguing that Porter used this character to explore the role of the people within national politics, a focus responding to the Congress of Vienna (1814-15). Valombrosa is a character with inherent flaws of anger and jealousy. This tendency for erroneous sensibility suggests that the hero needs to be re-educated and, in the novel, Valombrosa improves his character by watching and learning from his acquaintance, Prince Angelo Rossano. These emendations of character and disposition ameliorate Valombrosa’s ability to participate in national politics and govern for the sake of the people. Similarly, Rosalia, Valombrosa’s sister, is improved through the novel’s heroine, Ippolita, who mentors her. Price focused on Porter’s decision to design Rosalia as blind, arguing convincingly that it elucidated Porter’s belief that bodily weakness facilitates and signifies mental weakness: Rosalia is indulged as a child due to her blindness and thus her gaze is introspective and solipsistic. Ippolita helps Rosalia to turn her gaze outward and, as such, fashions her as the perfect bride for Angelo Rossano. Price concluded by asserting that developed characterology within the novel’s characters illustrates that heroes and heroines skilled in self-government signify wider consideration and representation of the people in national rule.

In the lively discussion which followed, questions were asked regarding the strength and independence of the female characters in the novel, prompting debate on whether Porter focused more on redefining her heroes than her heroines. From this, we discussed the depiction of intimacy between Valombrosa and Ippolita; Porter intimates that a kiss is shared prior to their engagement, breaking conventions of representing courtship in the period. As the penultimate talk in the ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ seminar series, Professor Fiona Price’s illuminating paper and the ensuing discussion attest to the value of revisiting lesser-known novels of the early nineteenth century. It reiterated the productive practice of studying links between the 1818 novels, their contemporary reception, and the place of these texts and authors in today’s universities.

The next seminar will take place on 15 November 2018 with Christina Morin (Limerick), and will consider Charles Maturin’s Women. Full schedule here.

Call for Papers – Keats’s Odes at 200: A One-Day Bicentenary Conference (1819-2019)

CFP: Keats’s Odes at 200: A One-Day Bicentenary Conference (1819-2019)

1 February 2019, University of Caen (France)

Plenary speaker : Stanley Plumly (University of Maryland). Acclaimed poet and author of Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (Norton, 2008), The Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner with Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb (Norton, 2014), winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, and Elegy Landscapes: Constable and Turner and the Intimate Sublime (Norton, 2018).

In the spring of 1819, living in the recently built Wentworth Place on the edge of Hampstead Heath, John Keats wrote five of the six poems now commonly referred to as the ‘Great Odes’, a group of texts whose hyper-canonicity can sometimes make it difficult to appreciate the precarious, unlikely circumstances under which they came into being – let alone to say anything new about them today. Over the course of the last two centuries, countless readers have found themselves enthralled by, and moved to comment on, Keats’s Ode to PsycheOde to a NightingaleOde on a Grecian UrnOde on MelancholyOde on Indolence, and ode To Autumn (composed in September 1819), generating a vast body of scholarly criticism, as well as a number of reuses or reimaginings of the odes in popular culture. Yet, not unlike the Hellenic urn which permanently remains, in its cold silence, ‘a friend to man’, the magic of the odes remains undiminished after all these years – and the depth and originality of Keats’s texts remain, miraculously, to be accounted for, still ‘teas[ing] us out of thought’. It is the aim of this one-day bicentenary conference not only to celebrate but also to continue to probe, question, and rethink the nature of Keats’s achievement in writing, at the height of his young artistic powers, these six ‘Great Odes’; to reexamine their past uses, and speculate on their lives to come, while teasing out (and, no less fruitfully, being teased by) their ostensible timelessness.

Speakers are invited to approach the odes from any number of angles, including (but not limited to) questions concerning: the composition and editing of the texts (their manuscript drafts, their multiple versions in print and digitization…); the critical reception of the odes in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries (in Britain, America, France, and elsewhere); Keats’s sources of inspiration, and of rupture; the odes and other forms of art (sculpture, music, painting); reuses and reimaginings of the odes in popular culture; their modern adaptations (cinema, fiction), etc.

Please send title of paper and abstract (300 words), with a brief CV, to Jeremy Elprin (jeremy.elprin@unicaen.fr) and Caroline Bertonèche (caroline.bertoneche@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr) by 31 October 2018.

Conference Report: ‘Character to Caricature, 1660-1850’

A report from the conference held at Northumbria University on 3 September 2018 (part-funded by BARS). Call for papers and programme here.

‘Character to Caricature, 1660-1850’: by Jenny Buckley

‘Character to Caricature’ was an interdisciplinary conference held at the Institute for Humanities at Northumbria University on 3 September, 2018. Bringing together scholars from across the UK, the conference desired to build upon current understandings of character. More particularly, it sought to explore character’s wider narratological implications and transmedial qualities in the long eighteenth century. With ‘character’ open to a range of definitions – from that which is branded or stamped, to styles of writing, distinctive personalities, moral and mental qualities, and status or official rank – given our particular historical moment, the way in which we understand the credibility and believability of character seems due for a re-evaluation.

To begin to grapple with these questions, the conference opened with a session on ‘Performing Parodies’, before featuring sessions on ‘Situating the Satirical’ and ‘Curating Character’. First to present was Montana Davies-Shuck (University of Northumbria) whose paper addressed ‘Fops, Monkeys, and Caricature’. She discussed the ways English gentlemen ape French fashions, becoming foppish in their pretensions and mannerisms and paid particular attention to caricatures of Louis Bourbon as ‘Louis Baboon.’ Next was David Barrow (University of York), who explored the way King Alfred was appropriated in the eighteenth-century as a way to respond to negative perceptions of the house of Hanover.

Characters and Caricaturas – William Hogarth (1743)

Refreshed after morning coffee, Adam James Smith (York St. John University) took us into the world of Tory satire, considering ‘The Partisan Hailing of “The Satirist” in the work of Joseph Addison and Alexander Pope’. Smith addressed the ways in which, for those in power, partisan hailing became a mode of simultaneously punching upwards and downwards. Continuing our exploration of periodicals, Mary Chadwick (University of Huddersfield) introduced us to the fascinating world of manuscript magazines. Focussing on the Breakfast Courant, she explored the use of animals in periodicals, paying particular attention to Welsh goats, Russian bears, and Addison and Steele’s lion. Olivia Ferguson (University of Edinburgh) delved into Walter Scott’s extensive collection of caricatures, considering the way in which only the author can genuinely illustrate their own work.

Following lunch, Ben Jackson (QMUL) opened with his paper ‘The Thrill of the Chaise: Gendering the Phaeton in Literary Satirical Culture, 1770-1820’. Jackson addressed the way in which carriage ownership revealed a man’s character with phaeton’s being the sign of the man ready to marry, while the possession of a carriage indicates that he has settled down. Fiona Milne (University of York) considered the way character was used in the courtroom in her paper on character defence and allegory in William Hone’s trials of 1817. Concluding the session, Hannah Moss (University of Sheffield) entered the world of visual and verbal caricatures of female artistic endeavour, challenging traditional (and also Austen’s) definition of the attributes that were required for a woman to be characterised as truly accomplished.

The keynote session was delivered by Dr Elaine McGirr (University of Bristol). Titled ‘Uniquely Typical; Typically Unique: a meditation on the paradox of character’, McGirr’s paper explored characters from Robinson Crusoe to Boris Johnson, considered the penchant for modern panel shows and the blurring of the boundary between politicians and celebrities. Her paper offered an opportunity for a wider reflection on the ways in which understanding the history of character and the ensuing cult of personality is a concern that is rooted in the eighteenth century but which inflects our culture today.

The event was an opportunity to engage with a range of new approaches to thinking about character in the long eighteenth century, and to build upon the influential studies by Deidre Lynch, Lisa Freeman, Jane Moody, and Julie Park. We are very grateful to BARS for supporting this conference, and for the financial assistance that enabled us to offer bursaries to postgraduate and ECR speakers.

‘Character to Caricature’ conference Twitter.

‘Dorothy Wordsworth, Mountaineering Pioneer’ by Joanna Taylor

A special post on the BARS Blog today to celebrate the new exhibition ‘This Girl Did: Dorothy Wordsworth and Women’s Mountaineering’ at Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Trust. Joanna Taylor presents an edited version of her recent talk at the Trust, ‘Dorothy Wordsworth, Mountaineering Pioneer’.

On October 7 1818, Dorothy Wordsworth and her friend Mary Barker ascended England’s highest mountain: Scafell Pike. Wordsworth’s account of the feat is among the earliest records of a recreational ascent of the mountain – and it’s the earliest written by a woman.

Wordsworth’s and Barker’s climb of Scafell Pike is notable for the daring it displays: this was not simply a mountain climb, but a rebellious act that opened up the mountain – and mountaineering – for successive generations throughout the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. More than that, reading Wordsworth’s account today suggests new ways of understanding the mountains that go beyond tales of sporting prowess: as Wordsworth knew, examining the details of a mountainside can be as rewarding as the view from the summit.

 

Dorothy Wordsworth’s ‘irregular habits’

 

Alex Jakob-Whitworth’s logo design for The Wordsworth Trust’s current exhibition, ‘This Girl Did: Dorothy Wordsworth and Women’s Mountaineering’.

 

Walking was an important part of the daily routine in the Wordsworth household, but they were well aware – and proud of – the fact that their commitment to almost daily extensive walks was unusual. In September 1800, for instance, we find Wordsworth explaining to Jane Marshall that the frequency with which they walked – and the distances they travelled – was one of the household’s ‘irregular’ habits. The Wordsworth siblings walked together most days for the best part of four decades; Thomas De Quincey estimated that William walked between 175,000 and 180,000 miles over his lifetime, and Dorothy can’t have fallen far short of that. Wordsworth bragged about the speed with which she could walk, and how little fatigued she was afterwards, until her mid-fifties.

Walking was not something Wordsworth took for granted. Both at the start and end of her life, Wordsworth knew what it was like to not be able – or allowed – to walk. In her late teens and early twenties – before she moved in with her brother in 1795 – Wordsworth’s walks were restricted by her relatives’ views on social decorum. For instance, she defended herself against her aunt’s disapproval of her ‘rambling about the country on foot’ by writing that:

I rather thought it would give my friends pleasure to hear that I had courage to make use of the strength with which nature has endowed me, when it not only procured me infinitely more pleasure than I should have received from sitting in a post-chaise – but was also the means of saving me at least thirty shillings.

Wordsworth was justifiably proud of her walking prowess – in 1818, when she was 46, she boasted to Sara Coleridge that she could ‘walk sixteen miles in four hours and three quarters, with short rests between, on a blustering cold day, without having felt any fatigue’. That’s an impressive pace of a little under four miles an hour around the Lake District hills!

But the climb up Scafell Pike with Mary Barker was perhaps Wordsworth’s most significant walking achievement. The two women initially only intended on climbing Ash Course – but, on reaching that point, they decided to push on to the Pike, since ‘three parts up that Mountain’. Although the distance turns out to be ‘greater than it had appeared’, still their ‘courage did not fail’.

 

One of the two surviving fair copies of the letter to William Johnson, in which Wordsworth describes the ascent of Scafell Pike. Used with permission from The Wordsworth Trust.

 

The letter in which Wordsworth describes this feat draws attention to different ways of reading the mountain. In one moment she describes a landscape that stretches out for miles from the summit on which she stands. But at the next, when she looks down, Dorothy realises that though the summit seemed lifeless at first glance, in fact beauty could be found clinging to the rocks if one looked closely enough:

I ought to have described the last part of our ascent to Scaw Fell pike. There, not a blade of grass was to be seen – hardly a cushion of moss, & that was parched & brown; and only growing rarely between the huge blocks & stones which cover the summit & lie in heaps all round to a great distance, like Skeletons or bones of the earth not wanted at the creation, & here left to be covered with never-dying lichens, which the Clouds and dews nourish; and adorn with colours of the most vivid and exquisite beauty, and endless in variety (quoted with permission from The Wordsworth Trust).

In focusing on these details close to hand, rather than rhapsodising on the distant prospect, Dorothy anticipates writers like Nan Shepherd: these women propose an alternative to more familiar accounts of mountaineering exploits that emphasise a victory over a feminised Mother Nature when the climber conquers the summit. Instead, Dorothy recognises that paying close attention reveals unexpected features even on a barren mountaintop.

 

Dorothy’s Legacy

 

A map from William Wordsworth’s Guide to the District of the Lakes showing the Scafell massif.  Used with permission from The Wordsworth Trust.

 

Wordsworth’s account of the ascent of Scafell Pike was later included – without attribution, possibly at her own request – in William Wordsworth’s Guide to the District of the Lakes. The implication was that it was William who had undertaken the ascent. As a result, Wordsworth’s legacy in climbing Scafell Pike is blurred into William’s, and many of the people who followed in her footsteps were unaware that it was her they were emulating.

Her ambitious walking practices established women’s walking as an accepted practice in the Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey families. Robert Southey, for instance, describes the delight which his daughter, Edith, and niece, Sara Coleridge, took from a young age in scrambling about on the fells around their home in Keswick, and Sara herself – not without some self-mockery – labelled them ‘expert mountaineers’.

But Wordsworth’s influence was much wider reaching. Harriet Martineau – a friend of the Wordsworths after she moved to Ambleside in the 1840s – seems not to have been aware that it was Dorothy who made the ascent, but her own account of an ascent of Scafell Pike closely replicates Wordsworth’s. Two decades later, Eliza Lynn Linton – the first salaried female journalist in Britain, though she’s perhaps more (in)famous for her notorious Girl of the Period essays – described Scafell’s intimidating appearance on the approach to it in her guidebook, The Lake Country, in 1865:

Scawfell rose up, and looked bigger and more formidable than ever. As we proceeded he grew, and our work seemed only beginning: all the climbing we have had mere child’s play to what was to come.

It did not put her off: Lynn Linton spent the night on the mountain. Lynn Linton’s description indicates what an extraordinary feat this climb was for Wordsworth to undertake at a moment when such ambitious routes were considered well beyond a woman’s capability. Wordsworth – like Martineau, Lynn Linton and countless others after her – made it clear that walking and other forms of mountaineering were as much for women as for men. Today, Wordsworth continues to offer a vision of the mountains that invites us all to look at, and move through, them in new ways.

 

This post is adapted from a talk given at The Wordsworth Trust on 1 September 2018; you can find a live video of the full paper here. ‘This Girl Did: Dorothy Wordsworth and Women’s Mountaineering’ opens at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, on Saturday 1 September and runs until Sunday 23 December. A film about recreating of Dorothy’s climb up Scafell Pike will premiere at the Kendal Mountain Festival on Sunday 18 November; more details and tickets will be available here.

Call for Papers: BARS 2019 – Romantic Facts and Fantasies

BARS 2019: Romantic Facts and Fantasies

 

Proposals are invited for the 2019 conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies, to be hosted by the School of English, University of Nottingham, from 25-28th July. Our theme is ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’.

We look forward to welcoming you to the East Midlands, where the historic city of Nottingham is located among the heartlands of British Romanticism. Newstead Abbey was Byron’s ancestral home; Sherwood Forest was re-imagined as the meeting place of Richard I and Robin Hood in Scott’s Ivanhoe; and the Cromford Mills are a living monument to Richard Arkwright, whose inventive development of spinning mills and power looms was an integral strand of the Industrial Revolution. This conference will explore the potency of ‘fact’ and fantasy’ both in the Romantic period and during the afterlife of Romanticism. The aim is to develop a collective understanding of how Romantic ‘fact’ and ‘fantasy’ work together and against one another, and in so doing embody the spirit of an age whose inventions and innovations laid the foundations for modernity while simultaneously exulting the power of the imagination and its creations.

Keynote speakers for Romantic Facts and Fantasies are Laura Mandell (Texas A&M), Robert Poole (UCLAN), Sharon Ruston (Lancaster), Diego Saglia (Parma), and Jane Stabler (St Andrews).

We encourage proposals for open-call sessions and themed panels as well as individual proposals for 20-minute papers. Subjects covered might include (but are not limited to):

Bicentenaries 1819-2019: The Peterloo Massacre; the ‘Six Acts’, the Carlsbad Decrees; the birth of Queen Victoria; Stamford Raffles and the foundation of Singapore; Simon Bolivar’s victory at Boyacá; the Panic of 1819; the opening of the Burlington Arcade, London; the Cotton Mills Act; the death of James Watt;  Keats’s odes; Scott’s Ivanhoe, Bride of Lammermoor, and A Legend of Montrose; the final volume of Southey’s History of Brazil; Blake’s ‘Ghost of a Flea’ (1819/20).

Factual and fantastical encounters and dialogues: travel narratives; poetry of encounter; translations; colonial discourses; geologies, geographies and aesthetics of landscape; rivers, canals, bridges and roads in material, commercial and imaginative landscapes.

Facts and fantasies of collective and individual identity: Romantic provincialism (the Lunar Society, the Lake School); national identity and ideas of the state; religion; ethnography; Romantic life writing and autobiography; Romantic-period economics, consumerism, industry and agriculture; Romantic facts and fantasies of childhood; Romantic experiments in education; Rousseauism.

The scientific imaginary: Mary and Percy Shelley; Humphry Davy, poet and scientist; the development and legacies of Romantic science fiction; Erasmus Darwin, the Lunar Society and Joseph Wright of Derby; Malthus and Malthusianism.

Imagining the Romantic world: Keats’s ‘living year’; plagiarism and originality; the professional imagination in Keats, Davy, Blake, Caroline Herschel and William Herschel; pedagogic and didactic poetry, prose and drama; histories and history-writing, including the emergence of national histories; paintings, sculptures and music commemorating the events and ‘heroes’ of the Napoleonic wars, politics, industry and culture; architecture and Romantic fantasy (eg. Walter Scott’s Abbotsford, William Beckford’s Fonthill Abbey, and Joseph Gandy’s visualisations of the Bank of England and other buildings by John Soane); Romantic book illustration and developments in the technology of print.

Presentation formats

We welcome proposals for the following:

Individual 20 minute papers. Abstracts of no more than 250 words (excluding the title). Please include your name and institutional affiliation (if applicable).

Panels of either three 20 minute papers or four 15 minute papers. Please include an abstract of the panel theme, together with 250-word (excluding the title) proposals from each of the speakers, in a single document.

Open-call sessions. Proposals should include a 350-word (excluding the title) description of the potential session, outlining its importance and relevance to the conference theme. Accepted open-call sessions will be advertised on the BARS 2019 website from mid-November 2018.

Submissions

The deadline for proposals for open-call sessions is 1 November 2018.

The deadline for submissions of panels and individual papers is 17 December 2018.

Please email proposals to bars2019@nottingham.ac.uk.

For more information, please visit the BARS 2019 website.

The Scottish Romanticism Research Award 2018

The executive committees of the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) and the Universities Committee for Scottish Literature (UCSL) are delighted to announce the winner of the third annual Scottish Romanticism Research Award: Eva-Charlotta Mebius, a PhD Candidate in the English Department at University College London. During her research trip she will visit the the Dundee City Archives, in order to study Robert Mudie’s early writing in the Dundee Advertiser, the Fife Archives and the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness, to uncover more information about Mudie’s time there as a schoolmaster, and the National Records of Scotland.

BARS and UCSL have established the annual award for postgraduates and early career scholars to help fund expenses incurred through travel to Scottish libraries and archives, including universities other than the applicant’s own, up to a maximum of £300. A postgraduate may be a current or recent Master’s student (within two years of graduation) or a PhD candidate; a postdoctoral scholar is defined as someone who holds a PhD but does not hold a permanent academic post. If appropriate, UCSL will endeavour to assign the awardee an academic liaison at one of its partner universities in Scotland.

Recipients are asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee, for publication on its website, and to acknowledge BARS and UCSL in their doctoral thesis and/or any publication arising from the research trip. Please join us in congratulating Eva-Charlotta on her award. We look forward to welcoming her to Scotland.

– Dr Daniel Cook, University of Dundee

Read Eva’s Stephen Copley Research Report for BARS, ‘Unearthing Robert Mudie in the National Library of Scotland and Dundee University Archives’, here.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Lauren Christie on Gothic Literature

Lauren Christie (University of Dundee) has completed the following report on her time in Manchester this summer carrying out research on the Gothic and attending the Gothic festival and the International Gothic Association’s (IGA) biennial conference.

Research report: Gothic literature, children’s literature and the Gothic Manchester Festival/the IGA conference

The very nature and beauty of eighteenth-century Gothic is its fluidity. Originating with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) many established Gothic tropes are still present in aspects of contemporary culture: for example, fashion, architecture, and literature. We are witnessing new developments that reflect different audiences, such as Gothic gaming and post-apocalyptic fiction. Gothic remains such a prominent fibre of the twenty-first century through its inherent ability to adapt and modify for new generations. Due to the diverse scope and nature of my research (ranging from children’s to Gothic and horror literature) there are so many texts that are vital for me, from the eighteenth century to the present day. The Stephen Copley Research Award from BARS enabled me to visit the library and special collections archive at Manchester Metropolitan University in order to examine specialised texts spanning this vast time period. I combined this research trip with an offer to present at the International Gothic Association’s biennial conference. The organising committee for the IGA arranged additional events through the ‘Gothic Manchester Festival: Gothic Hybridities’ series. Exploring the hybridity of the genre from its origins to the present led me to consider and observe the popularity and diverse nature of this topic.

With assistance from Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes (Senior Lecturer) and Rachel Fell (subject librarian for English at MMU), I gained access to MMU’s departmental collection that exclusively focuses on Romantic and Gothic literary criticism of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. Prominent texts included: Coats, McGillis and Jackson’s The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders (2008), Crawford’s The Twilight of the Gothic? Vampire Fiction and the Rise of the Paranormal Romance (2014), Tropp’s Images of Fear: How Horror Stories Helped Shape Modern Culture (1990) and Townshend’s Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (2014). I also encountered contemporary children’s literary criticism such as: Lenz’s Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction (2001), Lewis’s Reading Contemporary Picturebooks (2001) and Coats’s Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature (2004).

MMU houses a unique archival collection of children’s literature. This dates back to 1764, and consists of children’s annuals, fiction, picturebooks and pop-up books, to name but a few examples. Immersed in this collection, I came across an extraordinary Gothic children’s pop-up book entitled Thomson and Hartas’s Ghoul School (2001), and a bibliotherapeutic picturebook for young children: Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (2004). I also looked at several children’s Gothic texts that promote imagination such as Thompson’s How to Live Forever (1995) and Turner’s The Tree Witches (1983). There were also Gothic transitional books for education such as Waddell and Wright’s Little Dracula Goes to School (1987). One particular text that I found incredibly dark and poignant was a contemporary one: Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls (2003). This novel emphasises the power of the imagination and questions the figure of the monster (and whether we mean wolves or humans).

Alongside my research, I was honoured to be able to attend the Manchester Gothic Festival and present at the IGA conference. This year saw the society’s biggest ever conference, hosting over 300 experts from all over the world. I attended several vibrant panels such as: Gothic Houses and Gothic selves, Gothic Monsters in children’s and Young Adult (YA) fiction, Gothic Fairy Tales, Outsiders in YA Gothic, Haunted Scotland, and Reading the Gothic in Popular Children’s Fiction. I also attended wider festival events, including Scoring Fear: An Evening of Classical Music and Gothic Horror Film Scores (BBC Philharmonic and BBC Radio 3), and a reception at the Manchester Art Gallery. In addition, the IGA Postgraduate community had organised a round table event on Gothic-studies careers in academia. This was incredibly supportive as we were able to seek advice from several experts in the field.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the British Association for Romantic Studies for awarding me the Stephen Copley Research Award, without which this trip would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes and Rachel Fell for their help in organising my individual research trip to the library and archives, Dr Linnie Blake and the staff at the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, and the IGA organising committee for creating such a diverse and exciting conference and festival. The combination of all of the above events during my week in Manchester has helped further my research, thereby developing ideas for my thesis and publications.