News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Matthew Sangster

All posts by Matthew Sangster

Five Questions: Anna Mercer on the Shelleys’ Collaborative Literary Relationship

Anna Mercer is a Lecturer in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University.  She is particularly interested in the dynamics of literary relationships, the works and experiences of women writers and the possibilities unlocked by manuscript studies, and has published a number of articles on these topics.  She organised the Shelley Conference in 2017, works closely with Keats House and the Keats-Shelley Association of America, has served on the BARS Executive as Blog Editor and was recently elected to the new role of BARS Communications Officer.  Her first book, The Collaborative Literary Relationship of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, which we discuss below, was recently published by Routledge.


1) How did you come to realise that you wanted to write a book on the collaborative relationship between the Shelleys?

My first engagement with the Shelleys was when I had the opportunity to study Frankenstein and A Defence of Poetry as an undergraduate – which is surely a very common way to initially encounter these two writers.  A section of research that features in my book probably appeared in some form in a second-year undergraduate essay on Romanticism (well, according to memory it does, although I wouldn’t like to seek it out and read it again!).  I had spent time examining the unity between the language of the Shelleys’ letters and their journal entries during the Alpine travels of 1816, and then compared it to what appeared in the printed 1818 version of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s (MWS’s) Frankenstein.  Even as an undergrad it was something that – as I explain in the introduction to my book – I did feel really drawn to, like this way of reading was leading somewhere interesting if only I had the time, credibility and determination to explore such a line of enquiry further.  I expected to find a book that already existed about the Shelleys’ broader collaborations beyond Frankenstein, but didn’t find a full-length study focusing solely on that.  I did of course find some amazing, inspiring work by scholars looking at aspects of the Shelleys’ relationship, including perhaps most significantly Charles E. Robinson’s excellent research on the Frankenstein manuscripts (in which he suggested someone should undertake a further major study of the Shelleys’ collaboration).  Other critics that had spent time identifying the Shelleys’ close working practices that influenced me (I can’t mention them all here) included Nora Crook, Michael O’Neill and Donald H. Reiman.  I went on to study the Shelleys for my MPhil dissertation and then was lucky enough to be funded by the AHRC to complete a PhD at the University of York on the Shelleys.  In early 2018 I was delighted to be offered a contract with Routledge to edit what was my original thesis into a monograph.


2) Where did you find evidence of the Shelleys’ collaborative ethos?  To what extent do you think that the surviving record allows for a full picture?

As I explain in the book, I found evidence of the Shelleys’ collaborative ethos primarily in manuscript facsimile editions of the Shelleys’ shared notebooks.  These were invaluable to me as I explored The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts and The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics in great detail.  In these wonderful publications you can find undeniable pen-on-paper evidence of the Shelleys’ collective working (whether ‘collective’ is the same as ‘collaborative’ is one of the key things I discuss in the book!).  MWS’s involvement in the drafting and copying stages of The Mask of Anarchy, for example, cannot be denied when we look to the manuscripts.  And there are many instances of collective working beyond the famous interventions by Percy Bysshe Shelley (PBS) on the draft of Frankenstein.  It’s important to emphasise, though, that as much as looking at the facsimiles of the holograph drafts (and on occasion, the original documents themselves) was important, it was crucially the editorial work of several hugely influential scholars that supported my research.  Their work framed these notebooks and brought the scribbles to life through explaining the relevant context(s) and providing detailed transcriptions as well as nuanced interpretations.  Without these editions I don’t think my project would have been possible.  Manuscript evidence coupled with the knowledge that we have of the Shelleys’ day-to-day activities (thanks mainly to MWS for recording them and including reading lists!) just substantiates the connections between the two authors’ works.  The Cenci and Mathilda are sister-works by theme; but what is also relevant is that we can identify the crossover points at which PBS and MWS were working on these individual projects.  For example, we know MWS was beginning to write Mathilda just as PBS was completing The Cenci in August 1819.  As for a full picture, I’m not sure.  Obviously so much is missing with regards to what has and hasn’t survived, and we can never truly ‘know’ anything about the way PBS and MWS thought, studied, and composed.  My book seeks to cover a broad period, using a chronological method to trace the ebbs and flows in their relationship, but both of the Shelleys were so prolific it is very fair to say I have only covered a series of case studies and there is so much more work to be done.


3) How would you characterise the collaboration between the Shelleys?  Did each fulfil particular defined roles for the other, or were their interactions more fluid and specific?

I think the range of ways in which the Shelleys collaborated is very important.  What I haven’t already mentioned about my inspiration for the study is the divisions evident in Shelley criticism that saw the couple separated in popular culture and, to some extent, in scholarly observations.  In some (often influential!) pockets of criticism, Shelleyans were divided into two very distinct ‘camps’.  Some who worked on PBS saw MWS as inferior in intellect and style in the first instance, and then a corrupt editor of his posthumous publications in the second, and perhaps worst of all: they considered that she didn’t even have the capacity to understand him.  But it was not just this troublesome group of Percy Shelleyans that were the problem.  Some of the people who worked on Mary Shelley thought that the only way she could be brought back from obscurity would be to denounce him – blame him for overshadowing her, and then even attack the way he collaborated on Frankenstein as an act of patriarchy.  I get very frustrated at the whole idea that PBS and MWS didn’t like each other or one another’s work.  Obviously, they had some relationship difficulties (unsurprising for most people, and expected for a couple like the Shelleys given the tragedies that befell them).  But I think this polarisation – the unhelpful separation of two authors who lived and worked together from 1814 to 1822 and who were also in love – seems a huge shame, especially when Romantic studies and studies of English literature of have of late been far more successfully focused on the idea of social creativity, rejecting the idea of the solitary genius.  I will note again here that the gradual force of change has been led by critics such as Robinson from the mid-twentieth century onwards, and again I am indebted to all of their work.


4) How do you think Romantic Studies might benefit from (re)examining collaborations in the period more widely?

I think Romantic Studies is generally excellent at emphasising the social nature of creativity and I am thrilled to be part of an area of research that is constantly growing and exciting new audiences.  Having said that, the Shelleys can be overlooked in terms of collaboration even now.  I think the Shelleys are one of the greatest of the so-called ‘Romantic collaborations’, alongside Wordsworth and Coleridge for example, and it would be a shame if we were to overlook them because of their shared critical history (which has been turbulent to say the least) and their difficult, frustrating representations in popular culture (see the latest film on Mary Shelley starring Elle Fanning).  I enjoy introducing the idea of literary collaboration to my students at Cardiff University and also in the work I do in communications and at Keats House Museum: I think the idea of poets and novelists conversing, sharing their inspirations, and working together on iconic literary texts can be a way of appealing to people who might be less familiar with the Romantics.


5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I’ve said a lot about my love for manuscript studies already – and so I’m thrilled to say I’m currently working on transcribing and editing the only manuscript book containing PBS’s hand that has not been published as a facsimile edition.  The book is MSS 13,290 in the Library of Congress.  For a taster, here’s a short blog post about one of the pages in the notebook via European Romanticisms in Association.  This project in itself is a collaboration!  I’m working with Professor Nora Crook and Dr Bysshe Coffey.

Beyond that, as well as teaching at Cardiff, I continue to work with Keats House Museum on their #Keats200 project(s) and also with the Keats-Shelley Association of America and BARS to promote new activities in Romantic Studies.  I will be organising a conference for the bicentenary of PBS’s death on 8 July 2020, along with Sharon Ruston, Bysshe Coffey, Amanda Blake Davis, and others.

Call for Papers: Coleridge Conference 2020 – 27th-31st July in the Lakes

From 27-31 July 2020 the Coleridge Conference will be held, for the first time, in the Lake District, in the heart of Newlands, the valley he loved for ‘the exceeding greenness & pastoral beauty of the Vale itself, with the savage wildness of the Mountains, their Coves, and long arm-shaped & elbow-shaped Ridges’.


As usual, the conference will be both intense and relaxed, as the mostly plenary sessions overspill into garden parties, poetry readings and hikes along the river, up Causey Pike or to the nearby pub and tearooms.  A ropes course, volleyball and archery will be available for the more athletic Coleridgeans.  Paddling and stone-skimming in the beck is also possible.

This time, our keynote speaker is Mary Favret, author of War at a Distance and Romantic Correspondence.

Our venue, Newlands Activity Centre, is viewable here:

The cost, for full residence, meals, fee and transport to and from Penrith railway station will be approx. £380-£520, depending on the level of accommodation you choose.  Bursaries for part of this cost will be available to graduate students and to unwaged scholars on a competitive basis.  If you wish to be considered for a bursary, say so and explain why at the top of your proposal.

The conference is supported in 2020 by the Friends of Coleridge and the Charles Lamb Society.

Proposals for 20 minute papers on Coleridge and related authors/topics are now invited (Charles Lamb especially welcome): send a maximum of 200 words to by the end of November.  Please put your name, email address and affiliation at the top of the email and at the top of the attached proposal.

We look forward to seeing you.

Tim Fulford, Kerri Andrews and Jo Taylor

Five Questions: James Wood on Anecdotes of Enlightenment

James Wood is a Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century English Literature at the University of East Anglia.  He has degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and Stanford University, and worked as an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow at Trinity College, Dublin before joining UEA.  He has published essays and articles on authors including John Dryden, Samuel Richardson, William Wordsworth, Daniel Defoe and William Molyneux, covering topics including sociability, embodiment, periodical culture and the representation of travel.  His first book, Anecdotes of Enlightenment: Human Nature from Locke to Wordsworth, which we discuss below, was published in July 2019 by the University of Virginia Press.


1) How did you first become interested in anecdotes?

When I arrived at graduate school in the US, I didn’t know what I’d be doing as a dissertation project.  But I’d been interested in the New Historicist anecdote from taking a seminar on literary theory back in New Zealand, where we read two chapters from Stephen Greenblatt’s and Catherine Gallagher’s Practicing New Historicism.  I remember being impressed with what the anecdote could do in an essay: how it could enable these counterintuitive leaps between an apparently irrelevant artefact from the past and a canonical work of literature.  At that time, I felt sceptical of Greenblatt’s and Gallagher’s explanation of why the anecdote “worked” in critical essays, which for them has to do with the way the anecdote allows for a defamiliarizing encounter with the past in all its strangeness.  I’m not sure if I would have been able to articulate it at the time, but I’ve come to think that the power of the anecdote has to do with its specific formal qualities: its smallness and apparent self-containedness, its lack of connection or explanation.  The anecdote tends to pose an enigma, a problem to be solved.

So the anecdote was on my mind when I arrived at Stanford to do a PhD.  At that time a lot of graduate students were especially excited about the work of Alex Woloch, who had recently published his book on minor characters in the nineteenth-century novel.  Several graduate students were doing projects that were positioned against a kind of historicism presumed to be hostile or indifferent to form.  I didn’t necessarily see a conflict between the New Historicism and what was starting to be called the “New Formalism.”  But the intellectual climate of Stanford certainly shaped the project.  I suppose all first books are influenced by the universities at which they were written in one way or another.  The way Woloch writes about minor characters as distorted replicas of real human beings, who either explode out of the text in one disruptive moment or repeat the same aberrant behaviour again and again, fed into my thinking about the anecdote as a genre that relies on repetition for its effect as well as singularity.

So my interest in the anecdote came from a fascination with form.  I was—and am—interested in the thought process behind literary criticism and I carried that interest back into the eighteenth century and its miscellaneous writing on philosophy, travel, history, and social behaviour that tends to go under “non-fictional prose”—not that that is a very satisfactory term!  I wanted to explore how anecdotes worked in the great stew of writings on the human that the eighteenth century produced.


2) Your book examines ‘the enlightening potential of parafactual stories’.  For you, what are the most important manners in which anecdotes facilitated new thinking in the long eighteenth century?

I think that the awareness that anecdotes were parafactual made them central to the playful and sceptical intellectual style that characterizes much Enlightenment writing on human nature.  Writers tend to show an awareness that the anecdotes they tell might be true but almost certainly are not and in any case they probably distort or exaggerate the truth.  Anecdotes are stories that initially appear to be grounded in actual human life, but the awareness that they are anecdotes also tends to detach the stories away from actual human life into a hypothetical or suppositional realm.  The generic contract between the anecdote teller and tellee makes a certain latitude with the truth acceptable.

This sense of the anecdote being a free-floating story that nevertheless retains a persistent yet fragile connection to actual human life allowed it to become a kind of plaything of the mind.  So the power of the anecdote for me is not that it produces certain empirically grounded knowledge of human nature.  It’s almost exactly the opposite: the anecdote becomes a starting point from which to test out possibilities for conceiving human nature.  One advantage of the anecdote was that it did not presume anything about human nature in advance, so it helped Enlightenment writers think about the human as if from first principles.  They also helped focus thinkers’ attention on delimited aspects of human nature rather than obliging them to develop a theory accounting for everything pertaining to the human beforehand.

The anecdote was also readily “sharable”—here it is hard not to think about the little pictures, videos, and stories that “go viral” on the internet—and I’m especially interested in how key Enlightenment anecdotes like the anecdote of Polly Baker keep getting interpreted and reinterpreted.  Anecdotes moved easily between orality and print, providing focal points for the conversations and debates about the human that animated the Enlightenment.


3) Your four chapters study successively a form (the essay), an author (David Hume), an event (the voyage of theEndeavour) and a collection (Lyrical Ballads).  How did you come to select this approach and these particular case studies?

The general structure of the dissertation was in place quite early in the writing.  To be honest, when I was writing the introduction I noticed that the different chapters did have a different principle of organisation so I decided to highlight that—though it wasn’t really an idea to take a different principle of organisation for each chapter from the beginning.  I had a biographical affinity for many of the authors and topics: William Wordsworth from my early childhood just outside the Lake District, the Endeavour voyage from growing up in New Zealand, David Hume for the stories of social awkwardness I enjoyed reading in Ernest C. Mossner’s biography.  I had been fascinated by the essays of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele from taking Denise Gigante’s seminar.  That general plan of organisation worked well in that I discovered plenty of material to keep me going.  I found a photocopy of a manuscript entitled “Banksiana” in the British Library that was full of Banks anecdotes and looking at the “Boswelliana” in the Houghton Library gave me the perfect transition from the David Hume chapter to the Endeavour chapter: an anecdote about a friendly argument between Hume and Alexander Erskine, 3rd Earl of Kellie about whether human nature is one or many in the aftermath of the tales about Tahiti carried back to England by James Cook and company.


4) What do you think that Romanticists in particular might gain by paying more attention to the culture of the anecdote during the Enlightenment?

I’m tempted to turn the question around and ask what Enlightenment scholars have to learn from the Romantic culture of the anecdote!  I think it is fair to say that there has been more work done on the anecdote as a literary genre by Romanticists than by scholars whose centre of gravity is the period before 1790: James Chandler, Kevis Goodman, Alan Liu, and David Simpson spring to mind here.  An exception is Helen Deutsch in Loving Dr. Johnson, who I feared for a while had pipped me to the post on the anecdote.  I ended up going in a quite different direction to Deutsch, however.  I became interested in the way the universal abstraction of the human as such gets thought about through the concrete and aberrant particularity of the anecdote.

I’m struck that it is the 1790s that the anecdote begins to be theorized as such, with Isaac D’Israeli’s A Dissertation on Anecdotes (1793) and Novalis’ very brief but extremely suggestive remarks on the anecdote in his unpublished Logological Fragments (c.1798-1800).  I think that one thing that Romanticists could take from these writings on the anecdote is that for both D’Israeli and Novalis the anecdote is not necessarily a historical genre—in the sense that it tells us something about history or historical characters.  D’Israeli and Novalis are, of course, interested in how the anecdote can be introduced into a work of history.  But they also emphasize the usefulness of the anecdote in telling us something about human nature or getting us to think about the human differently.  One of the aims of the book is to try to get people to see the anecdote as one of the key genres through which writers in both the Enlightenment and Romantic periods thought about the human.  I’d be delighted if the book helped stimulate more work on that function of the anecdote in a moment when Enlightenment moral philosophy was beginning to break up into the human sciences.

I hope too that the project might stimulate more work on the Romantic-era essay, which maintains strong links to its eighteenth-century precursors.  I’d also be delighted if the book in some small way helps foster more work on Romantic narrative poetry, especially poetry by women writers.  One of my regrets in the book is that I didn’t really have space to discuss Mary Robinson’s Lyrical Tales.  I’m thinking also of Charlotte Smith’s “On Being Cautioned Against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic”—which illustrates, also, how anecdotes are not necessarily about events as such but are often more about circumstances, real or imagined.  (I’m grateful to Jenny Davidson for pointing this out to me.)  Smith never sees the lunatic but only imagines him wandering about on the headland and the poem becomes a little micro-world unto itself.

One of the baneful effects, I think, of Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria, is that it has helped contribute to a snootiness about Wordsworth’s anecdotal poetry—it is Wordsworth’s anecdote-poems like “Alice Fell” that Coleridge singles out for censure on the grounds he would have rather had them told to him as prose tales.  So I think that taking anecdotes seriously can also help us revalue texts even in the corpus of writings by the “Big Six.”  I think that anecdotes are actually very complicated things and we should take them seriously—even when they strike us as silly or absurd.  Anecdotes can teach us a lot, I think, about how the category of literature itself was beginning to be defined in the Romantic period.  D’Israeli and Novalis seem to see the anecdote as a genre on the threshold of what we would now call “the literary.”


5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a project on the relationship between mental labour and manual labour from John Locke to Mary Shelley.  I’m interested in how many writers across this period understand their own mental labours as analogous to manual labour.  The connection is not simply metaphorical though: writers like Samuel Richardson, the son of a joiner and a working printer, were well acquainted with manual work and emphasize the manual aspects of writing itself.  I’ve published an essay (“Richardson’s Hands”) from this new project in Eighteenth-Century Fiction and another essay from the project is coming out in the same journal in Spring 2020 (“Robinson Crusoe and the Earthy Ground.”)  I’m working on Samuel Johnson at the moment and his “beating a track through the alphabet” in working on the Dictionary of the English Language.

The nature of the project is taking me in an eco-critical direction which I hadn’t anticipated at the beginning: I’m struck by how many theorists understand manual labour as a process in which human beings seem to fuse with the natural world: so Locke writes of people mixing their labour with the earth and Marx writes of labour as a form of metabolism with nature.  I’m excited to find out where else the project leads!

I’m also working on an edition with Ema Vyroubalová of Trinity College Dublin of the manuscript writings of the 18th century writer the Reverend Jermyn Pratt, who was a friend of Christopher Smart, who mentioned Jermyn and his sister Harriet in Jubilate Agno.  There is a cache of Pratt’s literary writings that I came across in the Norfolk Record Office, many written in his neat hand in marbled notebooks.  To be honest he is not much of a poet!  But his play set in Norfolk, The Grange, is hilarious, as is his Sterne-influenced essay “The Zgubbs,” about little gremlin-like spirits that mess up best-laid plans.

The Scottish Romanticism Research Award 2019

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: Amy Wilcockson, a PhD Candidate in the English Department at the University of Nottingham. During her research trip, she will visit the University of Glasgow Library and the Mitchell Library in order to study materials relating to her research on the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell.

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 Amy on her award. We look forward to welcoming her to Scotland.

Dr Daniel Cook, University of Dundee

12 August 2019

Introducing Project ERIN: Thomas Moore in Europe


ERIN documents two of Thomas Moore’s song series – the Irish Melodies (1808-1834) and National Airs (1818-1827) – as well as music inspired by his ‘oriental romance’ Lalla Rookh (1817). ERIN enables the user to track the production and dissemination of these works in Europe, from their respective dates of creation through to 1880. Any contributors to this process (composers, arrangers, editors, illustrators, engravers, publishers, etc.) are indexed or tagged as part of the project. All of ERIN’s resources are now available at This website unites the previously available blog and OMEKA resources (images) with some new features, including podcasts and a catalogue that unites the collections of eight European repositories. ERIN was co-produced by Dr Tríona O’Hanlon (Dublin) and Dr Sarah McCleave (Queen’s University Belfast) and was supported by the Horizon 2020 Framework of the European Union and Queen’s University Belfast.

To complement ERIN’s launch, the exhibition, ‘Discovering Thomas Moore: Ireland in nineteenth-century Europe’ is on display at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin from 17 June to 23 December 2019. ‘Discovering Thomas Moore’ is curated by Dr Sarah McCleave (Queen’s University Belfast). For further information about this exhibition and a series of complementary lectures on Thomas Moore, see this link.

BARS 2020 ECR & PGR Conference: Volunteer Helpers

The BARS Postgraduate Representatives, Amanda Blake Davis and Colette Davies, invite current postgraduate students with postgraduate status until Summer 2020 to assist with the running of the BARS 2020 ECR and PGR Conference. The conference will be held at Keats House, Hampstead, from 12th-13th June 2020. We are looking for four volunteers to assist with the preparations, set up and stewarding of the conference. An overview of the responsibilities is as follows:

  • Help with preparations beforehand: assembling conference bags, programmes, etc.
  • Help set up the conference: lifting and moving chairs and tables, preparing and replenishing hot and chilled beverages, etc.
  • Steward on the days of conference: assist delegates where needed, such as setting up PowerPoint presentations, etc.

We expect conference volunteers to be available to help on Thursday 11th June to set up. In return, the selected volunteers will be offered a subsidised conference registration fee. Please note that the conference fee does not include accommodation.

Please send expressions of interest, including relevant experience, in no more than 400 words to both of these email addresses: and Please also state what year of your PhD you are in and your affiliated university.

The deadline for applications is midnight on Thursday 25th July 2020. Amanda and Colette look forward to hearing from you!

Conference Report: Vampyre Symposium

Below, Bill Hughes reports on “‘Some curious disquiet’: Polidori, the Byronic vampire, and its progeny”, a BARS-supported Open Graves, Open Minds symposium celebrating the bicentenary of John Polidori’s The Vampire held on the 6th and 7th of April 2019.

This event was not only the bicentenary of the publication of ‘The Vampyre’ but also 200 years since John Keats lived at the conference venue: the beautiful Keats House, Hampstead. We began the symposium with a fascinating tour round the house by Rob Shakespeare where we saw a first edition of ‘The Vampyre’ (which may possibly have been owned by Keats).

Our first paper was by Nick Groom, who began with an outline of the reports on vampires from Eastern Europe that arose in the early eighteenth century and how they were transformed into literary forms. Referring to the momentous occasion in 1816 at the Villa Diodati, Nick elaborated an unexpected and illuminating notion of the vampiric elements in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Mary, we learn, had called Percy a vampire), such as blood imagery, blood transfusion, and the story itself as contagious and blood-chilling. This culminates in a reading of Frankenstein as recognising the situation of non-human nature.

Ivan Phillips then explored the centrality of the gaze in vampire fiction. Vision and eyes are dwelt on obsessively in ‘The Vampyre’. This led him to the development of special effects in vampire narratives. Polidori initiates an obsession with visualising the vampire in the transition from oral to print narrative (and subsequently stage and screen).

Bill Hughes discussed Lady Caroline Lamb’s novel Glenarvon (1818) – a Gothic-tinged narrative of romance and political rebellion in Ireland that refracted Lamb’s own fiery love affair with Byron. The novel’s gloomy tormented hero, Glenarvon (or Lord Ruthven) spreads dissidence in an ambivalent vampirism through his equally contagious glamour. Glenarvon provided material for ‘The Vampyre’ but also bequeathed a parallel legacy of the Byronic demon lover through Gothic romance, reuniting with the vampire in present-day paranormal romance.

Sam George talked about the huge impact of ‘The Vampyre’ in Britain and Europe and how it was expanded in Bodard’s French novel, then staged by Planché and others. The predatory sexuality of the libertine Lord Ruthven took the vampire out of the forests into the drawing rooms. The optical stage illusions of phantasmagoria, more ghostly than the magic lantern, were a powerful device in the theatrical vampire’s success, enabling spectres to hover in the air, whereas the ‘vampire trap’ enabled actors to appear and vanish as if by supernatural agency. Planché’s version invoked Celtic traditions with its Western Isles setting—and vampires in kilts! The staged Draculas later led to slaying kits as stage props, one of which was on display at the symposium.

The novelist Marcus Sedgwick described how tuberculosis came to be seen as glamorous in the nineteenth century, drawing on Susan Sontag and illustrated by the death of Chopin. Alongside aestheticisation, the idea of diseases became associated with personality types – under- or over-stimulation, licentiousness, effeminacy – but also angelic purity. The pale modern vampire, distinct from the peasant bloated with blood, shares these symptoms, including breathlessness. Thus the pale, alluring vampire first sketched by Polidori is closely related to the Romantic perception of tuberculosis.

Gina Wisker talked about three vampiric texts linked with the escapist setting of a holiday resort (the genesis of ‘The Vampyre’ in that vacation at the Villa Diodati being crucial here): Florence Marryat’s ‘Blood of the Vampire’, Sarah Smith’s ‘When the red storm comes’, and Neil Jordan’s film Byzantium, based on Maria Buffini’s play ‘A Vampire Story’. With Marryatt’s vampire there are themes of racial purity and the foreign woman as fascinating exotic beauty. In Sarah Smith, the offer of transcendent love from a handsome foreign nobleman is an alternative to the carnage of World War I. Byzantium draws on Polidori, with female vampires as companions in a male-dominated world, abused by aristocratic men. They act as angels of mercy in an age of crumbling social services in a run-down resort.

Catherine Spooner showed how Gothic themes were intrinsic to the countercultural aesthetic of the 1960s, prefiguring present-day Goth style. The male vampire in Jane Gaskell’s 1964 novel The Shiny Narrow Grin shows the fashionable dandyism of working-class communities. The Byronic vampire flourished – bisexuality was discussed in recent biographies of the poet and his sexual adventuring was in tune with ’60s ideas. The satirical mode of vampirism – often as a reaction to such liberal ideas – was pronounced and Hammer Films’ Dracula films often showed this. Dracula represents modernity and his antagonists a repressive Victorianism. And out of this Byronic counterculture emerged the sympathetic vampires of Anne Rice and others.

Sir Christopher Frayling, who inaugurated academic vampire studies, ended the first day with a fascinating plenary which surveyed the development of the field, interspersed with personal reminiscences. He showed how disparate elements became consolidated into a genre with Polidori. Then he led us through his own journey from the Enlightenment and Rousseau and eighteenth-century vampire reports to his pioneering book and his friendship with Angela Carter and her love of all things Gothic. He showed that there are still new ways of looking at the vampire and he offered support and hope for young researchers in the field. He also drew our attention to a big exhibition in Paris next year on the history of vampires!

We began Sunday with a tour of Highgate Cemetery, accompanied by the erudite and entertaining guides Peter Mills and Stephen Sowerby. A Gothic site in its own right, it features in Dracula and has the graves of the Rossettis and of the groundbreaking lesbian novelist Radclyffe Hall among many others (Karl Marx lies in the East Cemetery which we didn’t have time to see). It was also the scene of a notorious vampire hoax in the 1970s.

Back at Keats House, Stacey Abbott returned to Neil Jordan’s film Byzantium. Jordan consciously evokes Polidori and is also in dialogue with Buffini’s play and Jordan’s earlier vampire film, Interview With the Vampire (1994). The vampire women interrogate the idea of the Byronic vampire; the film rewrites nineteenth-century vampires from a female perspective. Both films feature vampires who show a propensity for compassion and both explore the nature of storytelling. Rather than exploiting the weak, these female vampires serve justice and mercy and curb the power of men and the patriarchal male vampires.

Sorcha Ní Fhlainn supplemented Stacey Abbot’s reading of Jordan’s Byzantium. Polidori and subsequent vampire stories explore the nature of guilt and Jordan’s films are no exception. The Irish background is significant; for example, the stone and blood imagery from Irish myth. Jordan’s rewriting of Rice, of Polidori and Buffini is important. He also extends the queer dynamics of Polidori. Forms of narrative in Polidori – whispered secrets and oral tradition – are both exploited by Jordan.

Daisy Butcher talked about the long history of female vampires in folklore and literature, with Geraldine from Coleridge’s Christabel as a prototype. Female vampires often have empathic characteristics and are often psychic vampires. Christabel introduced a range of tropes – snake imagery; vampires dressed in white, signifying modesty and purity; an ethereal, languid body that conceals monstrosity. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla feeds off Laura’s emotions as well as her blood. Luella Miller is parasitic, infantile, and narcissistic, but seems to have no control over her draining of people. These three texts show an increasing sympathy for the female vampire.

Kaja Franck began with Joss Whedon’s Angel as a modern incarnation of the pale, brooding Byronic vampire. Anne Rice’s Lestat and Edward Cullen of Twilight are also fashionably pale. Their appearance is central – vampires are made to be looked at: ‘The Vampyre’ has many moments of staring at, being looked at (as Ivan Phillips also noted). Twilight and ‘The Vampyre’ share certain features such as the pale outsiders, their capacity to stimulate adaptations, their status as popular culture, and the presence of a love triangle. But their difference is in having a female and male author respectively. Thus Polidori ushers in the vampiric way of looking but Twilight inverts that.

Jillian Wingfield presented on Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. From Dracula to Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, vampire fiction has been connected to contemporary views of science. In Fledgling, vampirism is rationalised through scientific discourse. Butler transforms themes from Polidori to challenge Western male cultural biases. Butler’s use of science absorbs traces from both ‘The Vampyre’ and Frankenstein. There is a symbiosis of genres too.

Xavier Aldana Reyes showed us the presence of Gothic in Spanish literature as a key indicator of national culture and a non-realist tradition, traceable back to the late nineteenth century. There are blood-sucking witches in Spanish folklore but vampires only appear after external models made them available. The first literary vampire in Spain – Emilia Pardo Berzán’s Vampiro (1901) – was influenced by Polidori and French and German Romantic texts. Spanish vampire narratives would address the coldness of aristocrats and the position of women. With the advent of cinema, vampires became more prominent. Parodies of Dracula featured heavily here and a psychosexual treatment of Carmilla stands out for its almost surrealist quality.

It was a fabulous conference and OGOM would like to thank the speakers and guests who made it possible, Keats House staff (particularly Anna Mercer and Rob Shakespeare), and the caterers with their vampyre cupcakes. We are also enormously grateful for generous funding from the British Association for Romantic Studies, the International Gothic Association, and the University of Hertfordshire.

Call for Papers: The Liberal Revolutions of 1820 and their Impact on Literary Culture, University of Minho, Braga, June 29th-30th 2020

The Liberal Revolutions of 1820 and their Impact on Literary Culture

University of Minho, Braga | CEHUM

June 29 and 30, 2020

Organised by the Institute of Arts and Humanities, Centre for Humanistic Studies, in association with the Anglo-Hispanic Horizons Network (AHH)

Taking advantage of the bicentenary celebrations of the liberal revolutions that occurred in southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece) around 1820, but with repercussions in other regions and cultures, this international conference aims to constitute a forum of discussion around the impact that these revolutions had on the literary culture of several countries. Driven by the republican ideals of the French and American Revolutions and by the various independence and nationalist movements, the liberal and constitutionalist wave that swept across several European nations (and their respective colonies) in the first decades of the nineteenth century aimed to completely eradicate the absolutism and feudalism that still prevailed within these monarchist nations, at the end of the Napoleonic invasions. Thus, we are interested in analysing the impact that these movements and striking events had on the literary culture of the nineteenth century, particularly in the works that were then produced in several countries; but we are also interested in exploring the decisive role that many writers (in several languages), some of whom in exile, had in these same movements and events. The ultimate goal of the conference will be to find, in this convergence of different cultures in transition, common literary currents or traditions of a strongly liberal political nature.

In the context of this political liberalism and its literary culture, the prevalence of the British constitutional tradition and its republican adaptation by the American Revolution have been singled out as the main motives for the democratic revolutions that took place in the Atlantic world. Nevertheless, the Iberian traditions of freedom – as well as the literature that sustains them – are usually forgotten in this context. Most notably, the Portuguese Revolution of 1820 is strangely absent from many existing historical and literary accounts. However, if we can say that the position of Portugal in this Atlantic context at the beginning of the nineteenth century was central, we can also say that this context is the main explanatory key to understand the motives of the Portuguese Revolution of 1820. From historical and literary perspectives alike, this can be seen as a process of independence, as the abolition of the Old Regime, as the constitution of freedom, and as the foundation of a Portuguese liberal constitutional tradition. But, also, as a response to the extraordinary international challenges that were imposed on Portugal’s independence – by countries such as France, Great Britain, Spain and Brazil. In short, the Portuguese Revolution of 1820, whose main objective was the founding of a new liberal Portugal, combined both liberalism and nationalism, in the manner of the Atlantic Revolutions; and, more relevantly, with that collective manner and purpose attracted and promoted many individual creators.

Paper proposals (for 20 minute-presentations) around this more general theme and/or the following particular aspects are welcome:

  • Representations of the liberal revolutions in the literary culture of the period and of later periods
  • The role of periodicals and of illustration in the (creative) representation of the liberal revolts
  • The links between liberalism and the romantic movements in the European and non-European context
  • Issues of political liberty and freedom of literary creation inaugurated by the liberal revolutions
  • The literary places of European and non-European liberalism: genesis, memory, recreation
  • The emergence of the national literatures and nationalist and independence issues in the period
  • Legends and myths associated with the romantic liberal revolt, including the figure of the hero (revolutionaries and martyrs)
  • The perspective of the Other – the liberal revolts seen from the literary culture of other countries
  • Literary images of refugees and exiles in the context of the liberal revolutions and/or writers in exile
  • Literary representations of secret societies in the context of the liberal struggles (the example of Carbonaria)
  • Liberalism and literary genre: The importance of the historical novel in the representation of the liberal conflicts; the role of lyric and drama in the period
  • The diffusion or expansion of literary culture in the context of the liberal revolutions; reception and translation issues

Organisation: Institute of Arts and Humanities, Centre for Humanistic Studies (NETCult), in association with the Anglo-Hispanic Horizons Network (AHH)


Confirmed Guest Speakers:

  • Prof. Ian Haywood (University of Roehampton, UK. President of British Association for Romantic Studies and President of AHH)
  • Prof. Diego Saglia (University of Parma, Italy, senior member of AHH)
  • Prof. Fernando Machado (University of Minho, Portugal)


Organising Committee:

  • Paula Alexandra Guimarães (Coordinator)
  • Orlando Grossegesse
  • Ian Haywood
  • Diego Saglia
  • Sérgio Sousa
  • Carlos Pazos
  • Hugo Machado
  • Ana Catarina Monteiro


Scientific Committee:

  • Agustín Coletes Blanco (University of Oviedo, Spain)
  • Alicia Laspra Ródriguez (University of Oviedo, Spain)
  • André Corrêa de Sá (Univ. Santa Barbara, California, USA)
  • Angela Esterhammer (University of Toronto, Canada)
  • Carlos Pazos (University of Minho, Portugal)
  • Cristina Flores (University of La Rioja, Spain)
  • Eugenia Perojo Arronte (University of Valladolid, Spain)
  • Eunice Ribeiro (University of Minho, Portugal)
  • Fernando Duraán (University of Cadiz, Spain)
  • João Paulo Braga (Catholic University, Portugal)
  • Jonatan González (University of La Rioja, Spain)
  • Jorge Bastos (University of Porto, Portugal)
  • Manuel Gama (University of Minho, Portugal)
  • Maria de Fátima Marinho (University of Porto, Portugal)
  • Orlando Grossegesse (University of Minho, Portugal)
  • Otília Martins (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
  • Paula Alexandra Guimarães (University of Minho, Portugal)
  • Paulo Motta (University of São Paulo, Brazil)
  • Sérgio Sousa (University of Minho, Portugal)
  • Xaquín Nuñez (University of Minho, Portugal)



Submission – abstracts (between 200 and 300 words), with titles, keywords (5) and bionotes (100 words) should be sent to the following e-mail address:

The languages of communication are the following: Portuguese, English, Spanish, French and Italian.

The paper proposals will be analysed and selected by the scientific committee. At the end of the conference, the organising committee plans to make a peer-reviewed selection of the texts presented for publication: in electronic format and in book form (the latter on request).


Important Dates

  • Submission of proposals: until October 31, 2019
  • Notification of acceptance: until December 31, 2019
  • Conference registration (online): until January 31, 2020
  • Programme publication (online): March 31, 2020
  • Registration (for attendants): until May 31, 2020
  • Conference: June 29 and 30, 2020


For more information, please see the conference website:

The BARS Review, No. 52 (Autumn 2018)

We are delighted the publication of the most recent issue of The BARS Review (No 52, Autumn 2018).  The issue contains a total (including a double review) of nineteen reviews of recent scholarly work within the field of Romanticism, broadly conceived.  Five of the nineteen reviews compromise a ‘spotlight’ section on ‘Romanticism, the Landscape, and the Environment’.

This issue of The BARS Review is dedicated to the memory of Professor Michael O’Neill (1953-2018) and includes his review of John Barnard’s 21st-Century Oxford Authors: John Keats.

If you have comments on the new number, or on the Review in general, we’d be very grateful for any feedback that would allow us to improve the site or the content.  Mark Sandy would also be very happy to hear from people who would like to review for BARS.

Editor: Mark Sandy (Durham University)
General Editors: Ian Haywood (University of Roehampton), Susan Oliver (University of Essex) & Nicola J. Watson (Open University)
Technical Editor: Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow)

Table of Contents


To Michael O’Neill (1953-2018)
Mark Sandy


John Regan, Poetry and the Idea of Progress, 1760-1790
Fiona Milne
Roger Maioli, Empiricism and the Early Theory of the Novel
Gillian Skinner
Diego Saglia, European Literatures in Britain, 1815-1832
Gillian Dow
Jonathan Crimmins, The Romantic Historicism to Come
Francesco Marchionni
G. A. Rosso, The Religion of Empire: Political Theology in Blake’s Prophetic Symbolism and Chris Bundock and Elizabeth Effinger, eds., William Blake’s Gothic Imagination: Bodies of Horror
Sibylle Erle
Heidi Thomson, Coleridge and the Romantic Newspaper: The Morning Post and the Road to ‘Dejection’
Charles W. Mahoney
Madeleine Callaghan, Shelley’s Living Artistry: Poems, Letters, Plays
Christopher Stokes
O. Bradley Bassler, Kant, Shelley and the Visionary Critique of Metaphysics
Merrilees Roberts
Roger Whitson, Steampunk and Nineteenth-Century Digital Humanities: Literary Retrofuturisms, Media Archaeologies, Alternate Histories
Kostas Boyiopoulos
Bo Earle, Post-Personal Romanticism: Democratic Terror, Prosthetic Poetics, and the Comedy of Modern Ethical Life
Paul Hamilton
Jane Austen, The Beautifull Cassandra: A Novel in Twelve Chapters. Afterword by Claudia L. Johnson. Artwork by Leon Steinmetz.
Megan Quinn
Ainsley McIntosh, ed., Marmion: a Tale of Flodden Field. The Edinburgh Edition of Walter Scott’s Poetry.
Anna Fancett
John Barnard, ed., 21st-Century Oxford Authors: John Keats
Michael O’Neill

Spotlight: Romanticism, Landscape, and the Environment

Julia M. Wright, Representing the National Landscape in Irish Romanticism
Finola O’Kane
Thomas H. Ford, Wordsworth and the Poetics of Air: Atmospheric Romanticism in a Time of Climate Change
Yimon Lo
David Higgins, British Romanticism, Climate Change, and the Anthropocene – Writing Tambora
Thomas Bristow
Tom Furniss, Discovering the Footsteps of Time: Geological Travel Writing about Scotland, 1700-1820
Gerard Lee McKeever
Paige Tovey, The Transatlantic Eco-Romanticism of Gary Snyder
Antonia Spencer

Whole Number

The BARS Review, No. 52 (Autumn 2018) – review compilation
The BARS Review Editors

2019 BARS First Book Prize Shortlist Announced

The judges for the 2019 BARS First Book prize, chaired by Professor Claire Connolly, are delighted to announce a shortlist of four exceptional books, drawn from a strong list of initial submissions:

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors!

The winner of the prize will be announced at BARS’ 16th International Conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, at the University of Nottingham in late July.