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Five Questions: David Fallon on Blake, Myth and Enlightenment

David Fallon is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton.  He has published widely on topics including the debates surrounding the French Revolution, London bookselling and Romantic-period notions of sociability, but has a particular interest in William Blake, on whom he has published a series of articles and book chapters that have now culminated in his first monograph, Blake, Myth, and Enlightenment (Palgrave, 2017), which we discuss below.

1) How did you first become interested in Blake’s tangled relationship with Enlightenment thought?

I’d originally got interested in Blake through music and he seems to combine the dreamy utopianism of psychedelia with the hard-headed opposition and disillusionment of punk.  I was always drawn to Blake as a contradictory writer and artist, whose difficulty to pin down was part of his fascination.  From my undergraduate days I found him sitting uneasily with traditional notions of Romanticism.  I’d always been captivated by the deep and creative spiritual vision in his poetry and art, but I felt that Blake was too hard-headed to simply be a flaky mystic dreamer, in the way he can sometimes be dismissed.  The work of a number of Blake specialists, including Donald Ault and Matthew Green, suggested there was more to Blake and Enlightenment than opposition and I was keen to trace how this intellectual side emerged through the structures of meaning in his art and poetry.

2) How did you come to choose apotheosis (in Samuel Johnson’s words, ‘Deification; the rite of adding any one to the number of the gods’) as your key point of focus in the book?

The original project, in the earliest days of the PhD was rather broad, looking at Blake and the idea of heroism.  As part of this, I was looking at the pair of ‘spiritual form’ paintings of William Pit and Horatio Nelson from the 1809 exhibition.  They were pretty bewildering, but I noted that the Descriptive Catalogue labelled them ‘grand apotheoses’.  I started tugging away at the key term ‘apotheosis’ and that became the end of the golden string that I spent many years unravelling.  I’d always been fascinated – albeit confused! – by Blake’s interest in transformations and his use of star imagery in his poetry and designs.  I felt I had discovered a context in which these began to make more sense.  The term’s many strands (art history, anthropology, classical culture, religion, political satire and so on) were particularly appealing, as they took me towards a focus which allowed me (hopefully) to do justice Blake as an artist who gleefully capered across disciplinary boundaries.

3) What for you are the most important insights that we can gain from seeing Blake as actively engaged with Enlightenment, as opposed to ‘an exemplary Romantic opponent’?

Blake can be a bit straightjacketed by the label ‘Romantic’, so I hoped that this approach might make room for a lively, different sort of Blake to wriggle out.  The book hopefully allows us to situate Blake’s hermeneutics and myth-making historically.  While rather unBlakean in resisting the embrace of Eternity, this helps to show how his poetry and art could have been more meaningful to his contemporaries and it shows how his model of ‘contraries’ in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is fundamental to the ways in which he conceived of his creativity.

4) You contend that ‘Blake came ultimately to give precedence to mythopoesis over critical thought’.  How do you conceptualise Blake’s early position on this issue?  Do you see his movement towards mythopoesis as happening in a relatively smooth manner across his artistic career, or was his engagement with Enlightenment and myth (as expressed in his works) more complex and conflicted?

To me, there always seem to be two key features at play in his work, one partaking of Enlightenment scepticism towards myths of power, the other celebrating myth as a powerful mode of collective vision.  Approaching Blake’s visionary imagination in a dynamic relationship with Enlightenment critical approaches allowed me to sketch out shifts in his thought over his career, with his later works representing something of a recovery from his pronounced radical scepticism of the mid-to-late 1790s, albeit still attacking institutions of state repression and deploying that critical impulse productively to enable creative, utopian imaginings.  Some of his annotations from the 1780s and early 1790s suggest he saw himself as a sort of philosophe and the later works are clearly more emphatically Christian, but rather than there being a linear progression, these identities seem to rub along together in different permutations throughout his career.  I’d go for ‘complex and conflicted’…

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I’m gleaning grains of information about the lively world of eighteenth-century and Romantic publishing, working on my next monograph which is on literary sociability, production, and booksellers’ shops from about 1740 to 1840.  I’ve also co-edited a special issue of Romanticism with Jon Shears on Romanticism and Ageing, which will appear in 2018.  I have an essay on Caleb Williams in the pipeline for William Godwin: Forms, Fears, Futures, which should be out in 2018 too.  There will undoubtedly be a few essays on Blake, too, developing material which has been sparked off by writing the book.

Five Questions: Beatrice Turner on Romantic Childhood, Romantic Heirs

Beatrice Turner is Research Facilitator in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton.  She completed her undergraduate education and Master’s degree at Victoria University of Wellington before moving to the UK to pursue a doctorate at Newcastle University.  She is broadly interested in Romantic afterlives and periodicity, and has worked on nineteenth-century children’s literature, the Godwin-Shelley circle and the Coleridge family; the latter two threads come together in her first monograph, Romantic Childhood, Romantic Heirs: Reproduction and Retrospection, 1820-1850, which was recently published by Palgrave Macmillan and which we discuss below.

1) How did you first become interested in the children of canonical Romantic-period writers?

Quite a few years ago now, my Master’s supervisor at Victoria University of Wellington, Harry Ricketts, read me Hartley Coleridge’s sonnet ‘Long Time a Child’.  I can’t remember what we were talking about – probably Swallows and Amazons, and definitely not Romantic poetry – but the line ‘For I have lost the race I never ran’ seized me absolutely.  It seemed to express a complexly doubled feeling about being entered into something unconsciously, or without having a choice, and about failure being a form of both resistance and of capitulation, which I found very powerful.  I set out to read more, and found again and again in Hartley’s poetry this compelling idea of the child who is both literally and literarily produced by his father: he feels simultaneously a flesh-and-blood child and a text, something birthed in a poem.  I’d have called myself someone who was interested in children’s literature, if anything, up until then, but when I decided I wanted to do a PhD, I found I couldn’t get Hartley’s poems out of my head.  So Hartley was the starting point, but from there it made sense to turn to his sister Sara, and other children of Romantic authors.  What I found was that Hartley’s not unique but emblematic, as I say in the introduction: that doubly-born feeling recurs in the work of all four authors I wrote about, and the reproductive failure it triggers seemed to resonate across the period.

2) What do you feel are the most important things that we can learn about the period between 1820 and 1850 by studying it as an age of ‘writing back’, characterised, at least for the biological children of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Godwin, by ‘cultural, aesthetic, and intellectual disruption’?

‘Writing back’ is what I came to call the move, which I see in all four children’s work, to look back towards their fathers and to reckon with their textual selves as produced by those author-fathers.  It’s a term that for me helped articulate the sense of productive or reproductive failure all four children register in their own writing and some extent in their cultural moment at large.  It’s this failure which I think brings the period into view as a period, with its own distinctive anxieties.  I spent a long time going back and forth with Palgrave (sorry Ben!) about the title because I wanted both ‘reproduction’ and ‘retrospection’ in there (which is also how I ended up with a rather unintentionally alliterative title): to me, those two terms are particularly useful for thinking about the decades between 1820 and 1850.  It’s a period defined in many ways by looking back, assessing, memorialising (this is one reason why biography and history and reviewing culture are so prominent) – but also by the problem of reproduction, by this anxiety of inheritance.  What can you create when you yourself are a hybrid production of a set of discourses which are intensely invested in childhood?  I think this anxiety registers across the period, not just in the work of the four children, from Hazlitt’s concern in The Spirit of the Age that there’s no-one capable of climbing the monuments left by previous generations, to Shelley’s sense that the ‘age of theory and enthusiasm’ has given way to a more cautious and less optimistic one of ‘facts and practicabilities’.  Writing back, then, is the mode in which such anxieties might be articulated, and a way of registering the felt gap  – or disruption – between the two generations.

3) To what extent do you think that there were general modes through which the Romantic heirs you consider engaged with the writings of their fathers, and to what extent were their responses distinctly individual?

One of the things that unites the four children is their strong resistance to being reified into symbols by their fathers’ texts and by Romantic-era discourses of childhood and creative production, so it feels particularly unfair of me say that the reason I chose to focus on the four is because of what they represent.  All four are doubly born – both as their fathers’ children, and as their fathers’ texts.  I think we can use their predicament, and their responses, to read this wider moment.  In that sense, all four are working in a similar mode, and asking versions of the same question: whether what I’m crudely calling the Romantic inheritance was one that allowed its children the space or the material for their own creative authority.  The conclusion reached by Hartley, Sara, Shelley, and Godwin Jr was that it didn’t, that aesthetically and psychically fulfilling production (whether as an author or a parent) was not possible if you were a child of Romanticism and its various discourses.  But it’s also true to say that each reaches this conclusion through different generic and formal modes, and sometimes to different ideological ends.  All four textualise their own lives to some extent, but only Hartley explicitly and self-consciously writes autobiographically, and I think this is because Hartley is so directly taken into and produced by his father’s verse – responding in kind, as the child-text STC creates, is almost the only option.  Sara achieves her most powerful readings of her father by a kind of stealth, through her work as his editor, while her maternal poetry, in which she speaks with raw feeling and sometimes something like malice, remained largely unpublished and possibly unread in her lifetime.  Shelley and Godwin Jr are both novelists, rather than poets (I do think there’s something interesting in the way both sets of siblings followed their fathers’ preferred formal modes), but they are also working to uncover different things.  Hartley and Sara’s labour I read as being to uncover the ways in which a form of childhood which is presented as entirely natural is actually produced through artifice and subject to stringent cultural surveillance.  Shelley and Godwin, however, are concerned with showing how the Godwinian idea of family relations which are entirely and self-consciously culturally constructed runs into its own generative dead-end, producing increasingly deformed and sterile versions of family feeling.

4) Mary Shelley is well-known as a writer in her own right, but Hartley Coleridge, Sara Coleridge and (perhaps especially) William Godwin Junior are less familiar even to educated modern readers.  Which of their works would you particularly recommend to those interested in exploring them?

It’s hard to restrict myself to just a few – I think all three deserve to be much more widely read!  Hartley’s sonnets are really beautiful.  He’s the master of the overlooked, the miniature, the apparently inconsequential, and the feelings that can hide within an idle thought or a glimpsed object.  The messier and more complex the emotion he’s working with, the more formally neat and gem-like the sonnet.  ‘Long Time a Child’ is the most anthologised, but ‘Let me not deem that I was made in vain’ is probably my favourite: it works through a clever sequence of negative statements and images to construct a self-portrait defined by absence or negative space, and is quietly heartbreaking.

Sara’s work is becoming more widely-read I think, thanks in most part to Peter Swaab’s excellent selections of her poetry and criticism, as well as recent monographs by Alan Vardy and Jeffrey Barbeau, to which my chapter’s indebted.  A lot of her poetry (unpublished in her lifetime for fairly obvious reasons!) is about profoundly ambivalent maternal feelings, and I think poems like ‘To Herbert and Edith’ and ‘To a Little Invisible Being’ offer a useful corrective to the ‘angel of the hearth’ narrative of nineteenth century motherhood: Sara is precise about the physical, emotional, and creative sacrifice attendant on mothering a Romantic child.  I’d also recommend her introductory essay to the 1847 Biographia Literaria as a fascinating, clear-eyed assessment of her father’s power as a thinker and failure as an author.

As for Godwin Jr, I think all Romanticists, and especially anyone working on the Godwin-Shelley circle, should read his short story ‘The Executioner’.  It’s a gothic psychodrama about a man who’s tricked into executing his biological father by an evil foster-father (a barely-disguised Godwin).  It’d be worth reading anyway as an astonishingly raw expression of Godwin Jr’s sense he doesn’t belong in the Godwin family and as a version of the family romance fantasy, but it’s also a skilful psychological narrative.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

Right now I’m combining my interest in Romantic ideas about childhood with my love of pop music, writing an essay for a volume on Romanticism and David Bowie along with Matt Sangster, Jo Taylor, and Emily Bernhard Jackson.  I’ve also gone back to Godwin, and I’m thinking about how he felt about owning, gifting, and borrowing books, and the way they can function as affective objects, in the context of his frankly baffling ‘Essay on Sepulchres’.  That’s for an essay collection which I’m co-editing with Eliza O’Brien and Helen Stark, called New Approaches to William Godwin: Forms, Fears, Futures.  Thinking about Godwin and books and feelings is a sort of precursor to my next big project, which is about the relationship between literary biography and literary criticism in that same in-betweeny 1810 – 1840ish period – there’s obviously something in me which is drawn to the definitionally awkward and the marginal!

Five Questions: 2017 BARS First Book Prize Winner Julia S. Carlson on Romantic Marks and Measures

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Julia S. Carlson, the winner of the 2017 BARS First Book Prize, is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati.  She completed her undergraduate degree at Stanford University and her graduate degrees at the University of Michigan.  She has published numerous essays on Romantic poetry, poetics, cartographies and sensation; is a member of the Multigraph Collective, co-authors of the forthcoming Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in an Era of Print Saturation, 1700-1900 (University of Chicago Press, 2017); and is one of the co-editors of Romanticism on the NetShe received the First Book Prize for Romantic Marks and Measures: Wordsworth’s Poetry in Fields of Print (Penn Press, 2016), which we discuss below.

1) How did you begin the research that led you to write this book?

My research on this project began after a Comparative Literature seminar in which we read Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard and the poems of Emily Dickinson followed by a facing-page edition of Wordsworth’s Prelude, a sequence which primed me to observe typographic and topographic differences between the 1805 and 1850 texts.  Why the abundance of dashes and near absence of exclamation marks in the Norton 1805 Prelude, so clearly belied by the original manuscripts, I wondered?  Why the late twentieth-century editorial resistance to the mark of passion, and what contemporary ideas and practices shaped Wordsworth’s marking?  To explore this question, I went deep into the stacks of Harlan Hatcher Library to read surprisingly animated disputes among grammarians, elocutionists, and rhetoricians on the use and significance of the “wondering point,” the “blank line,” and other “Typographical Figures of Speech.”  I was interested, too, in the poem’s self-reflexivity: its thematics of marking and attention and its vocabulary of mark, point, spot, line, and trace—terms used to signal places in the landscape and accent the growth of the poet’s mind.  Particularly evident in the episode of crossing the Simplon Pass, these terms for geometric and cartographic symbols made me wonder how the Alps were rendered in period maps and why they’d been neglected in the criticism.  This led me to the Map Library, with its then panoramic view of the streets, squares, and houses of Ann Arbor, where, with the help of librarian Karl Eric Longstreth, I stood gazing at maps of Switzerland published between 1768 and 1844, struck by the radical shifts in symbol, style, and perspective with which they construed the rivers, roads, and slopes that meet in the narrow confines of the Pass.

2) Your book positions Wordsworth’s poetry ‘within a matrix of inscriptional projects not traditionally considered to be part of the Romantic canon: the charting of terrain and the notating of language by cartographers, elocutionists, prosodists, and the writers of tours and guidebooks.’  What for you are most significant insights into Wordsworth’s poetry that this positioning reveals, and what do you think are the most important things we can learn about the galaxies of topography and typography that you examine through relating them to Wordsworthian verse?

The notational lexicon Wordsworth uses in composition and revision puts his poems in dialogue with and differentiates them from contemporary visual and verbal grammars, with implications for our understanding of poetic language and form.  For example, Wordsworth’s reflexive use of line and point in The Prelude, which registers the scientific, ideological, and aesthetic interests of the Ordnance Survey of Britain, reveals tensions and affinities between the experimental project of epic autobiography and the new cartographic portrait of the nation.  Thus we see that the ostensibly more natural language by which Wordsworth’s attempts to inscribe feeling and place is inflected by a technical semiotics, and conversely, that that the retention of hill portraiture in the first series of topographical maps of England and Wales—its expressive pictorialism —is indebted to the Wordsworthian aesthetics of Ruskin and Arnold.

Poems and maps were highly interactive and formally reinforcing.  In another context, that of picturesque tours and guidebooks, short excerpts of long blank verse poems intended to bring nature “closer to the eye” were published side-by-side with increasingly large-scale charts and outline views of mountain ranges, and also within complex itineraries.  My critical cartopoetics reveals that what we’ve come to know as Wordsworthian “nature lyric” is not a phenomenon of consciousness that transcends the function of pointing to the landscape, as Geoffrey Hartman has argued.  Short blank verse nature poems were formalized in dynamic relation to other line systems, such as surveying and hill portraiture, and within specific indexical and diagrammatic contexts that heightened attention to the marks and measures of landscape and cultivated the interpretation, and correlation, of heterogeneous scales and views.

The poems’ formalization in the context of sign systems that tried to graph speech patterns—elocutionary punctuation—is revealed in subtle effects such as the double-long dashes that Wordsworth began to use in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads.  Considered historically, the marks indicate Wordsworth’s experimentation with elocutionary punctuation and his thematic development of elocutionary concerns within the poems.  Not merely signs of suspenseful pause or the silent passage of time, however, the marks are iconographic as well—tracings in the print medium of the “finger of mortality” (“The Brothers,” 126) that has scored the landscape.  As such, they offer countermappings of place, controlling the reader’s movement through the poems and enhancing her affective response to a landscape conventionally, and less meaningfully, marked in the picturesque guidebooks the poems indict.  Wordsworth’s reflexive handling of the long dash across the blank verse of the book shows how what Richard Payne Knight called “blank and unmark’d metre” is hardly such, but depends upon a complex interplay of spatiotemporal marks that engage the acoustic and visual imaginations of readers.  What we learn, therefore, about the “galaxies of topography and typography” is that they become, in the period, more interrelated as they strive to be both more systematic and more expressive in their encoding of the national language and landscape.  They were related aspects of a diagrammatic and accentual turn in British culture that produced new forms of the spatial and temporal organization of print, new kinds of literacy, and new modes of feeling.

3) How did you come to decide on the final structure for your book, with three chapters focusing on the burgeoning of cartographic practices pivoting around a transitional interchapter into four further chapters on the marking of language within a thriving print culture?

The topographical and typographical systems through which I was reading Wordsworth are intertwined in his poetry, so it was tempting to consider them together in each chapter.  Ultimately, I thought this would make for too dense a narrative, so I explored the graphic representation of landscape in the first half of the book and the graphic representation of speech in the second; the interchapter articulates the two, foregrounding the many connections between them in the culture and in Wordsworth’s verse.

4) To what extent does your study focus on Wordsworth because he was a poet particularly alive to marks and measures, and to what extent might the approach you take in your book be extended to other poets or literary writers of the period?

Wordsworth, the poet who founded his verse on the “plainer and more emphatic language” spoken by rustics who were in daily communication with the enduring objects of nature, was more deeply invested in marking and measuring both landscape and speech than any of his contemporaries.  That said, the book also discusses other writers—Coleridge, theorist of punctuation and of “mingled measures”; Southey—poet of experimental meters; Thelwall—teacher of elocution and radical prosodist.  There are other poets too for whom the marking of speech on the page is a matter of self-reflexive reference: Byron in Don Juan for one.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I’m co-editing a collection for Cambridge with Sally Bushell and Damian Walford Davies called Romantic Cartographies. I’m also co-editing a special issue of Essays in Romanticism on historical poetics with David Ruderman and Ewan Jones.  And my new monograph project is Reading with the Hands: Impression and Inscription in Romantic-Era Britain, which explores, among other things, the development of tactile print systems for the blind.

Five Questions: Emma Peacocke on Romanticism and the Museum

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Emma Peacocke is currently a Banting Post Doctoral Fellow at Queen’s University, Ontario.  Before moving to Queen’s, she completed her PhD at Carleton University.  She has published articles and book chapters that examine historiography, circulation, periodical culture, collecting and visual culture and that deal with figures as diverse as Walter Scott, William Paley, William Buckland and Thomas Moore.  Her first monograph, Romanticism and the Museum, which draws together many of these interests and which we discuss below, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.

1) How did you come to decide that you wanted to write a monograph on museums in the Romantic period?

It happened in a coup de foudre as I was reading The Wanderer, Frances Burney’s final novel, published in 1814.  The heroine, Juliet, is fleeing in disguise from her forced marriage to a murderous Jacobin ruffian, so you can imagine how anxious she is throughout the novel.  Near the climactic showdown, her eccentric elderly protector Sir Jaspar Harrington decides on a whim to pass Juliet off as his grandchildren’s new nursemaid and have her shown all around the glorious art collection at Wilton.  Juliet feels so harried and miserable that she has almost lost the will to live – she is in a “torpid state” of “morbid insensibility.”  However, one object is so powerful that it can reawaken Juliet to herself and even to a moment’s pleasure: the “fascinating picture” by Van Dyck of Charles I and his family, with its “extraordinary attraction.”  One chapter later, the experience of seeing an artwork indoors, in a very museum-like setting, is paralleled with wandering among the stupendous and sublime ruins of Stonehenge.  It turned my idea of what Romanticism is and what Romantic authors valued on their head.

Lots of historians and art historians, including Linda Colley, read the eighteenth-century stately homes that opened their doors to the general public as precursors to, or stand-ins for, public museums, so looking at the proto-museums and newly minted public museums of the Romantic era suddenly seemed like a very promising way to see something new in Romantic literature.  Carol Duncan’s Civilizing Rituals has a very powerful passage comparing art museums with the ambulatories of medieval cathedrals, pathways that pilgrims could follow to gain a closer understanding and bond with figures like Christ.  This really strengthened my decision to write about museums in the Romantic period – it’s such an eloquent testimony to their significance and puissance.

2) How did you select the four case studies (Wordsworth’s Prelude, Scott’s Waverley, Edgeworth’s Harrington and the discourse around the Elgin Marbles) which form the cores of your chapters?

It sometimes felt as though they chose me!  I was reading Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth, because I wanted an Irish Tale to read on my first trip to Ireland, and so I was originally going to write on Ormond rather than Harrington.  There’s an extraordinary scene in Ormond in front of the now lost portrait of Marie Antoinette by Gautier-Dagoty; the eponymous hero’s Anglo-Irish identity suddenly comes becomes completely clear to him, as his reactions to the portrait differ so markedly from his French friends’ more demonstrative response.  Edgeworth wrote these two novels as companion pieces, when her father was dying and was desperate to see just one more work of his daughter’s in print, and she needed to come up with enough text to fill three volumes.  I only read Harrington in the first place to do my due diligence about Ormond, but it completely captivated me and it is even more about scenes of representation, display, and the national imaginary than Ormond.  So it seems a bit serendipitous – but it also testifies to the ubiquity of museums and galleries in Romantic writing.

I always knew that I would need to write on the discourse around the Elgin Marbles, because the Marbles sparked the largest museum-based controversy of the Romantic period.  I think that it set the terms for centuries to come on questions of provenance and the ethics of museum acquisitions.  That chapter felt the hardest to structure, because it was really led by the topic, whereas all the other ones had been led by the texts whose settings had complexities and nuances that I wanted to tease out.  Keats’s “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles” is among the greatest of ekphrastic poems – but despite its clear relevance, I didn’t spend very much time on it, because I didn’t have much to say to amplify its meanings.  Of course, just a few weeks ago, when I was teaching this poem, I found myself saying that perhaps Keats simply physically couldn’t describe the statues in great detail; the Elgin Marbles had attracted one of the earliest crowds to visit the British Museum, and perhaps he and Haydon had trouble getting and remaining close enough to the sculptures to support a traditional ekphrasis.  There’s always room for new insights!

3) Did you find that museums principally served as useful foci for discussions of particular concerns, or did they serve as flexible metaphors, easily repurposed by different auditors?

In each text that I wrote about, the museum becomes the place where authors represent the nation to itself.  That is the major concern for which the museum provides the ideal locus; however, each author and each text easily repurpose the museum to talk about a different aspect of that representation, and they often focus on a different aspect of the museum, too.  Scott uses portraiture and changes in the nature of gallery display to talk about the nation’s history and the profound differences between past and present.  Horace Smith imagines the Parthenon’s statues in the British Museum coming to life; while overtly they are talking about defamation in Classical Athens, it’s quite clear that Smith has the ancient statues uttering a veiled critique of the current British press.

I think that Wordsworth may have been most invested in how his readers – or the “auditors” of his poetry – could repurpose his museum settings and images.  Wordsworth loves writing about art display during the French revolution because he can powerfully testify to how utterly the Revolution changed everything, but doesn’t have to commit himself to saying whether the changes are largely for good or ill.  Wordsworth’s narrator has a rapturous moment like a pre-Revolutionary Grand Tourist in front of Charles Le Brun’s Penitent Magdalene before the painting was nationalized – as his auditors, we aren’t sure if Wordsworth would like to turn the clock back on the French Revolution, or whether he is delighted that the painting has become accessible to more and more people.  Byron, by contrast, comes out swinging against George IV in Don Juan, saying that even his fossilized remains will seem so monstrously large as to be inhuman to museum-goers in the distant future.  There’s no way that Byron wants to exploit the way that auditors could repurpose museum-based metaphors.

4) To what extent did the literary and visual forms in which writers addressed museums change the ways in which they were employed and represented?

You raise a really good point here.  I wonder if there wasn’t often a bit of a time lag between the most highbrow of Romantic visual arts and Romantic literature.  My theory is that authors wanted to refer to an accepted canon of taste, so that when they invoked a work of art, its significance would be stable and well-established to readers.  For instance, in Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, Barbauld write that “Reynolds [shall] be what Raphael was before” – yet Sir Joshua Reynolds, the brilliant founder of the Royal Academy, had been dead since 1792.  Most of the artworks that my authors place in their texts date from previous generations, from Periclean Athens through the Renaissance and the 17th and 18th centuries.

As for the literary forms of Romanticism itself, it was an age that married wonderful periodical essays on art with the nascent form of the guidebook.  William Hazlitt’s Sketches of the Principal Picture-Galleries in England began as a series of articles in the London Magazine; the critic generally dedicated one essay to each gallery, which seems like a practical way to keep up with print deadlines.  Hazlitt then published his essays in collected form as a book. Its organization makes it very convenient for gallery-goers, who can consult the relevant chapter for that gallery. By contrast, George Walker’s Descriptive Catalogue of a Choice Assemblage of Original Pictures (1807) gives all kinds of valuable information about various paintings – but doesn’t organize them at all geographically or by collection.  Hazlitt’s Sketches have a kind of user-friendliness that makes seeing, understanding, and studying the artworks in museums seem less daunting.  That change in representation is quite closely linked to the literary form of the Romantic periodical.

I’m going to leave it to another scholar to talk about the new literary and visual forms in William Blake’s work!  House museums, like the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton, are very common commemorations of Romantic authors.  Blake, however, made his family home at 28 Broad St. into a museum during his lifetime, holding an exhibition of his own watercolour and tempera paintings there in 1809.  Someone really ought to write a study on Blake and Romantic museums.

5) What new research projects are you presently working on?

My present project is on Romanticism and the University.  One can never have too many institutions of education in one’s life!  University reform was a huge topic for Romantic periodicals like the Edinburgh Review from about 1808 onward, and the colleges of the University of London were founded in 1826, so it’s an era of great introspection and change.  There’s also extraordinary figures like Thomas Campbell, a highly popular poet who became a magazine editor, a popular lecturer, a founder of the University of London and Rector of the University of Glasgow.

Another part of my project is to look at undergraduate writing from Romantic universities.  The poems that students wrote for prizes, like the Newdigate Prize, were highly valued; when a commercial press collected and printed them, they sold like hotcakes and went swiftly into a revised second edition, but that is a whole tranche of acclaimed poetry that we don’t really look at today.  Jeffrey Cox, in Romanticism in the Shadow of War, is the only scholar whom I know of who analyses any of these poems at all.  I’m also looking at student-run periodicals; the University of Edinburgh had an imitation of Blackwood’s that is often, in my opinion, much funnier than the original, and even contains an article about better ways to find cadavers for the medical school, years before the nefarious activities of Burke and Hare came to light.

My study also takes in universities as, rather like museums, being the sites of pilgrimage.  I focus on the Shelley Memorial at University College, Oxford, and the story it tells us about the poet’s reception history.  It’s delightful to be able to keep a strong visual and architectural component in my work!

Five Questions: Andrew McInnes on Mary Wollstonecraft’s Ghost

Andrew McInnes - Mary Wollstonecraft's Ghost

Andrew McInnes is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Edge Hill University.  His work focuses on Romantic-period women’s writing across a wide range of modes and genres; he has published articles and book chapters on authors including Amelia Opie, Mary Hays, Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Dacre and Jane Austen.  At the centre of his research, though, is Mary Wollstonecraft, who takes a starring role in his first monograph, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Ghost: The Fate of the Female Philosopher in the Romantic Period, which was recently published by Routledge and which we discuss below.

1) How did you first become interested in the figure of the female philosopher?

I first became interested in the figure of the female philosopher whilst researching Mary Hays, Mary Wollstonecraft’s friend and sometime protégée, who received both praise and censure as a female philosopher, especially after the publication of her radical novel, Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796).  Hays drew on Wollstonecraft’s example throughout her writing career, developing her own philosophy about the importance of balancing reason and passion by synthesizing aspects of Wollstonecraft’s feminism with William Godwin’s political philosophy in her own idiosyncratic manner.  Reviews of Hays’ work positioned her as a female philosopher in the mould of Wollstonecraft.  Wollstonecraft herself sends Hays a teasing note after the publication of Emma Courtney, warning her that she has been ‘stygmatized as a Philosophess – a Godwinian’ by the Barbaulds.  I became really interested in both women’s wariness about the term – that emphasis on stigma – when critics at the time and after have been happy to label them ‘female philosophers’.

2) To what extent do you see the female philosopher in the Romantic period as being synonymous with Mary Wollstonecraft, and to what extent is she ‘always already partly figurative’, as you contend in your introduction?

Mary Wollstonecraft is celebrated today as the female philosopher of the Romantic period, but I’m convinced that she refused to use the term in relation to herself throughout her writing career.  In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, for example, she prefers the gender neutral ‘philosopher’ and sympathetic reviewers like William Enfield followed her lead by avoiding the term.  After her death, counter-revolutionary writers, led by the Anti-Jacobin Review, positively delighted in labelling her as a female philosopher and in attacking the term and through it, Wollstonecraft’s life and writing.  Women writers seeking to engage with Wollstonecraft’s work had to disentangle her from the figure of the female philosopher, treated as an oxymoron in the conservative press.

Throughout the eighteenth century, the term ‘female philosopher’ shifts from referring to real women such as Elizabeths Carter and Montagu, and others in the Bluestocking circle, to representing an avatar of thinking womanhood, embodying Enlightenment ideals of the progress of civilization.  Shadowing this celebratory version of the figure is a negative vision of the female philosopher, representing male anxieties about domineering, highly sexed, politically and religiously heterodox women.  By the 1790s, this divided figure – both Enlightenment avatar and reactionary nightmare – splits further in revolutionary and counter-revolutionary discourse, with Anti-Jacobin writers adopting the figure as a term of abuse, explaining Hays and Wollstonecraft’s hesitancy in using the term in relation to themselves.  So, ‘female philosopher’ is used to refer to real women but, at the same time, accrues a set of mostly literary conventions associated with reason, reading, political engagement, and sexuality.  As a literary critic, I am fascinated by how the female philosopher as literary archetype gets used by women writers before and after Wollstonecraft’s death in order to think about the thinking woman.

3) What do you see as being the main gender-specific lines of attack directed at female philosophers in the period?

Counter-revolutionary reviewers of works by Hays, Wollstonecraft, and others poured scorn on the term ‘female philosopher’ itself, questioning the ability of women to think philosophically (or, sometimes, at all) and representing female philosophy as rote-learned pedantry.  These attacks mask gender-specific anxieties about women engaging in political debate, which was increasingly viewed as stepping outside of their private, domestic sphere, and female sexuality.  In my introduction, I engage with Jürgen Habermas’ work on the eighteenth-century public sphere (split between literary and political aspects but imagined as one and indivisible) to argue that women were able to access the literary side of the public sphere, especially by writing novels, but when their work started to encroach on political discourse they triggered anxieties in male readers and reviewers.  In France, female philosophers were linked to the philosopher whore in French pornography – which you can see reflected in the Anti-Jacobin Review’s notorious decision to index Wollstonecraft under Prostitute in their first volume.  Wollstonecraft also leads Rev. Richard Polwhele’s crew of ‘unsex’d females’ in his similarly infamous poem, viewing Wollstonecraft, Hays, and others as both disconcertingly unfeminine and dangerously sexy.

4) How do you see attitudes to female thinkers changing over the chronological span that separates the 1790s texts that you examine in your first chapter and the novels of the 1820s and 1830s that you consider in your fourth?

In the 1790s, attitudes to female thinkers shift from an initially celebratory tone, linking female philosophy to the ideals of the French Revolution, to an increasingly angry discourse, denouncing female philosophers along with French revolutionaries as threatening to the fabric of British society.  In the early nineteenth century, women writers seeking to celebrate female thinkers have to disentangle counter-revolutionary representations of female philosophers as dubious, dangerous, and dogmatic from the positive aspects they wish to recuperate for their post-revolutionary moment.  In the 1800s and 1810s, this often involved including a character explicitly labelled a female philosopher who tends to meet a sticky end: seduced by malevolent French philosophers, unmarried, pregnant, suicidal, or otherwise mortally sick.  Other female characters in their novels could then take on some of the positive elements of female philosophy, whilst avoiding the opprobrium ostentatiously piled on the erring and often dying woman.  By the 1820s and 30s, some of the radical sting of the female philosopher had worn off, and elements of the figure find their way into representations of the female artist.  My fourth chapter analyses the work of Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary Shelley, in relation to several popular genres of the time: the Gothic, the historical novel, and silver fork fiction.  Shelley manages to work tropes relating to the female philosopher into Frankenstein and her later novels Valperga, Perkin Warbeck, and Lodore, exploring the figures continuing relevance reshaped across several genres.  So, by casting the female philosopher back into history in her historical novels, Shelley provides a genealogy for the figure, previous to eighteenth-century and revolutionary debates about her abilities, imagining a historic lineage of female philosophers from Renaissance Italy to her present day.

5) What new work are you planning on moving forward with now that the book’s complete?

I’m currently working on two distinct but related research projects, both more or less Gothic.  They sometimes feel quite unrelated to Wollstonecraft’s Ghost, but then I think my choice of title for the book is appropriately spooky.  My first project explores Jane Austen’s continuing interest in the Gothic, beyond Northanger Abbey, arguing that Austen continues to make use of Gothic tropes and situations but positions them at a geographic distance from the central concerns of her plots.  I’ve recently published an article in Gothic Studies on Emma as a Radcliffean Gothic novel in disguise and have another forthcoming in Romantic Textualities on how Ireland functions as a Gothic space in the novel.  My second project analyses twentieth- and twenty-first-century adaptations of Frankenstein in children’s literature and Young Adult fiction, arguing that modern authors use Shelley’s novel to explore the monstrosity inherent in adolescence (and adolescents).

Five Questions: Carol Bolton on Southey’s Letters from England

Carol Bolton - Letters from England

Carol Bolton is Programme Director for English at Loughborough University.  She has published widely on Romantic-period topics and has particular interests in writings that engage with issues of exploration and empire and in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century politics.  She has played an important role in rehabilitating and exploring the work of Robert Southey, the subject of her first monograph and the focus of several substantial editorial projects in which she has played major parts.  The latest of these, an edition of Robert Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, which we discuss below, was recently released by Routledge as part of the Pickering Masters series.

1) How did you come to realise that you wanted to produce an edition of Letters from England?

I have worked on several collaborative projects to publish editions of Southey’s poetry (Poetical Works 1793-1810, 2004; Later Poetical Works 1811-1838, 2012) and letters (The Collected Letters, Parts 1-4, 2009-2013) as well as writing articles, essays and a book (Writing the Empire: Robert Southey and Romantic Colonialism, 2007) on his representations of travel, exploration and colonialism.  Letters from England presents a view of his own country through the eyes of an invented foreign national, so we see Southey distancing himself from his fellow citizens to write insightfully and often humorously about them.  It is one of his most engaging works and presents a detailed, on-the-spot survey of early nineteenth-century life.  The lifetime editions of this book (1807, 1808, 1814) are only available in copyright libraries and the most recent modern edition by Jack Simmons, was published in 1951.  In sixty years the field of Romantic Studies has changed immensely and I wanted to present a new critical appraisal of the book, based on recent Southey research, as well as drawing on current methodologies that re-historicise literary works within their social and political context to appreciate their cultural relevance.

2) Your introduction very interestingly contextualises Letters from England within existing traditions of topographical travel writing and of depicting England through the eyes of fictional foreigners.  To what extent do you think that Southey’s book-making was imitating past examples, and to what extent do you think that the Letters constitute an innovation?

As a bibliophile with a strong sense of literary tradition, Southey saw himself in a long line of authors, poets and historians in his own book-making ventures.  In Letters from England he drew on the eighteenth-century interest in travelogues – domestic and foreign, factual and fictional – to produce what he hoped would be a lucrative best-seller.  Writing it in the epistolary form, at a time when private reflections marketed for public consumption were popular, and employing a wry tone that is often satirical, the reflections of his Spanish tourist were intended to entertain.  In this way he employed techniques used by earlier writers, such as Montesquieu, Horace Walpole, Thomas Percy and Oliver Goldsmith.  Despite sharing some of the apprehensions of these previous authors – who highlight declining moral standards and increasing materialism in the English people – Southey raises other grave issues about his contemporary society.  His fears for the stability of the nation, its eroding religious values, and his Romantic, anti-industrialist views on increasing mechanisation, urbanisation, consumerism, and progress for its own sake rather than to improve human lives, are all concerns in this work.  In order to criticise the present, he judges his countrymen with a historian’s eye.  His sense of Englishness is rooted in the past, its cultural traditions and heritage, and he invokes an idealised, nostalgic version of feudalism, which in spite of its hierarchical structure he believed had respect for all members of society.  Southey felt his travel account was innovative in the ‘life-painting’ it provided, and Espriella doesn’t just visit obvious places, such as abbeys, tombs and national monuments.  He describes everyday life on the London streets and in the factories of the manufacturing towns.  He comments on the wealth and majesty of such a prosperous nation as well as capturing vignettes of poverty and suffering to produce a broad survey of early nineteenth-century England.

3) What seem to you to be the best and worst aspects of England in Espriella’s (and Southey’s) eyes?

The best aspects of England are its cultural heritage and the historical sites of interest that a tourist like Espriella would be expected to visit: cathedrals, abbeys, great houses, palaces and monuments.  But Southey is concerned that while foreign visitors appreciate these places, his own countrymen do not value the rich heritage in front of their eyes.  The English people are often shown as having valuable qualities of character – for instance their sense of intellectual and political independence – but Southey also sees them as being unaware of their place within a national tradition and a more glorious past, as well as lacking a cohesive social bond between the classes.  In his anti-modern stance, he presents the English as focused on their livelihoods, so that the goods they produce and consume are more highly prized than their fellow citizens.  His Romantic, anti-economic perspective paints a picture of soulless materialism that drives industry, hardens hearts against the poor and impoverishes English culture and heritage.  Despite criticising his Spaniard’s ‘superstitious’ Roman Catholic faith, he employs his firm belief in the merits of a strong national church to expose the empty ceremonies and lip-serving, cold-hearted religion of the English.  He also provides a survey of the sects that are springing up, whose charismatic prophets and zealous congregations are attracting members to what he considers insane beliefs and behaviour.  Through Espriella, Southey warns that the schismatic state of the English religion is a threat to the Anglican Church as well as national stability.  And Southey also uses the scandalised sensibilities of his outsider to lever a more concerned response from his countrymen towards the labouring classes and soften the hearts of the wealthy in their attitudes to the poor.  As might be expected from a member of the ‘Lake poets’, Southey shows prescience in anticipating our modern ecological concerns, by demonstrating how enclosure and industrialisation are diminishing the countryside as a natural resource.  The pedestrian tour of the Lake District made by Espriella shows his appreciation of its wild ruggedness at a time when theories of the sublime were popular, and the region was beginning to attract tourists (a word coined during this period).  In prioritising the subjective, experiential voice of the walker, Southey shows how he and his fellow Romantics have become identified with this emblematic region and how their aesthetic responses to it have endured in England’s cultural heritage.

4) Now that the edition’s available, how do you think that scholars might profitably employ the insights to be gleaned from Letters from England?  Are there aspects or elements which you think might be particularly useful for teaching the Romantic period at undergraduate or MA level?

The book is a rich source of information on the social history of the early nineteenth century.  In addition, the editorial apparatus explains topical references, literary and cultural allusions, and includes translations of foreign language material.  It provides references to Southey’s correspondence, facilitating greater understanding of the text, the influence of Southey’s friends and correspondents on its composition, and accurately identifies the sources he drew on in writing it.  The fact that sections of Letters from England have been frequently cited and anthologised demonstrates its utility as a resource for the period.  This new scholarly edition enables a full understanding of its socio-historical context, authorial intentions, and the relationship between this text and other works by Southey and his contemporaries.  It intends to assist in the current trend for reappraising Southey’s eminence as a literary figure and to highlight the limitations of categories such as poet, historian or journalist that have been previously applied to him.  Although Southey was a prolific and proficient writer in all these fields, we now know that he was also an amusing prose writer.  Southey’s centrality to Romantic-period literature and its textual and cultural practices is now evident, but this edition adds an extra dimension in showing how the established perceptions of genre and style within which he and his contemporaries worked were challenged in a debate over form and function that makes this one of his most innovative works.

There are several aspects of the text that are useful for teaching the Romantic period to students.  I have found the visitor’s view of London and his responses to the metropolis very helpful in teaching my MA module ‘Literary Londons’.  The Lake District sections explicate contemporary aesthetic theories of the picturesque and sublime.  The intertextuality of the book, identified in my research into Southey’s correspondence, identifies a range of correspondents and sources that illuminate the ‘bookmaking’ activities of nineteenth-century authors.  In addition, the bifocal perspective of the experienced English author and the naive Spanish tourist are ideal for teaching students on courses about narratology, its structures and functions and use of focalisation.  Letters from England is an essential source for the historical context of the period, against which many canonical and lesser-known texts can be read.  This will facilitate greater understanding of the social, political and religious background of the Romantic period, and illuminate the attitudes, beliefs and concerns of its authors and their characters.

5) What new projects do you plan to work on now that the edition is complete?

I intend to investigate some of the contemporary issues raised by Southey in Letters from England in greater depth in the form of articles and essays.  For instance, I am very interested in the version of ‘Englishness’ he presents to the reader and how this is informed by his views on history, literature and cultural precedents.  I also intend to explicate his Romantic engagement with landscape (domestic and alien) in this book and his poetry, to demonstrate how his responses to colonialist ventures originate from his Anglophile sense of historical tradition and the influences of pastoral poetry.  In the longer term I will be working on a monograph that examines the ‘politics of place’ in attitudes to travel, exploration and colonialism in the Romantic period.

Five Questions: Michael Bradshaw on Disabling Romanticism

Disabling Romanticism

Michael Bradshaw is Professor and Head of the Department of English, History & Creative Writing at Edge Hill University.  He has previously taught at a number of different institutions in Britain and Japan and has published on a wide range of Romantic-period subjects, including Thomas Hood, the poetry of the 1820s and 1830s, Walter Savage Landor, Romantic drama, George Darley, fragment poems and Thomas Lovell Beddoes.  His latest publication is a collaborative endeavour: the essay collection Disabling Romanticism, which has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan.  Below, we discuss the contexts for this collection and the new intellectual contributions that it makes to the field of Romantic Studies.

1) What first made you want to put together a collection on Romanticism and disability?

Critical disability studies (DS) is an expanding field; its impact is being felt across the full range of arts and Humanities disciplines.  I was particularly interested in the potential of critical DS to re-contextualise and re-interpret historical literature.  Being a Romanticist, I thought it was time this connection was made more explicit and visible.  I was also curious to find out how much independent scholarship was already going on ‘out there’; there seemed to be a timely opportunity to create a more prominent conversation in our subject about how bodily and mental difference is represented, and to co-ordinate an emerging theme.  The intersection of Romanticism and disability was established in Andrew Elfenbein’s well-regarded issue of European Romantic Review devoted to Byron’s lameness (2001).  Fifteen years later, it must be time to take stock again, and extend the debate to a more diverse range of texts and authors – Coleridge and addiction, Darley and speech therapy, Frankenstein and autism, Mary Robinson’s paralysis, and so on.

In terms of my own previous research, I have interests in ‘anatomy literature’ and critical / theoretical themes which foreground the body, which are conducive to a DS approach to texts.  I recently wrote an article on the poet Thomas Hood which observes his apparent fascination with amputation and prosthesis; although it fell outside the scope of that particular discussion, which was about anxiety and laughter, I thought there was another story to tell there, that texts and images which represent bodily difference for whatever apparent purpose should be put into contact with the historical lived experience of disability in the Romantic period.

2) How did you set about gathering your contributors?

I put out a brief CFA via subject networks such as BARS and NASSR.  There were one or two colleagues whose work I knew, whom I was able to contact directly.  But in general the team came to me, in response to the CFA.  I wanted this to be an edited collection from the outset, so I didn’t go through the preliminary stage of building a network with a themed conference.

3) Your introduction opens by contending that ‘dominant critical practices associated with Romantic studies continue to marginalise and disable the different in body and mind’.  What do you think are the most significant benefits to be gained through working to counter this marginalisation?

Historicist scholarship has had a lot to say over the years about race and ethnicity, about gender and sexuality, about nation and empire, and about socio-economic class as well; but a proper re-assessment of literature and criticism in terms of disability has been much slower to emerge.  Hopefully, this book will be a step forward in that process: it will help to raise awareness, and accelerate further development.

The introduction tries to give a sense of how intrinsic concepts of disability, incompleteness, and deformity are to many of the distinctive themes of Romanticism; and consequently, it draws attention to how marginalised and hidden disabled experience has been.  For example, the fragment poem – one of the signature forms of Romantic writing – connects transcendence with incompleteness.  The fragment projects beyond the arbitrary boundaries of the text into an ideal space, but it’s the present experience of incompleteness or brokenness which makes this possible.  The theme of disability has always been latent in critical debates about fragmentary texts, it seems to me.

Re-reading literature from a DS approach also involves interrogating our reliance on metaphor.  Disability metaphors are very widespread, but sometimes seem to pass almost unnoticed.  So when an instance of blindness is said to evoke a sense of ‘inner vision’ or spirituality, a DS critic might want to question that in terms of symbolic appropriation, and to test the idea in terms of the historical lived experience of blindness.  Cognitive difference and mental illness are already better established in Romantic studies, I would say, in that the Romantic cult of the creative mind has long been connected to alternative mental states.  But in terms of physical and sensory impairment, there is a lot of work still to be done – a lot of re-reading in terms of challenging negative images, and reclaiming agency.

These are just examples, of course; it’s a big and diverse field.

4) To what extent do you conceive of the collection as providing a series of discrete case studies sensitive to the individualities of the people and works it considers, and to what extent you think that larger narratives about the history of disabilities and attitudes to them can be traced within it?

I think it has to be both these things.  I like the specific case study approach, and don’t feel the need to subsume studies of specific texts and authors, or make them obedient to a meta-narrative or agenda.  I felt it was important for the collection to be a ‘broad church’ and to include some different methodologies.  So there are some chapters written from a very committed DS / disability theory perspective, and others which are less ideological in approach, contextual studies of disability themes in Romantic writing.  I thought there should be space for all these things.  I think breadth of methodology is important for a book like this to stay current, and to achieve its aim of promoting further debate; I would like to reach not only professional academics, but also students of Romanticism looking for new challenges and possibilities.

Having said that, the book can be seen in the context of a larger ongoing project to challenge the exclusion of disabled experience in academic discourse.  David Bolt and Claire Penketh’s Disability, Avoidance and the Academy (London: Routledge, 2016) gives a good overview of this debate.

In terms of content, I’m really pleased that we’ve not only managed to cover some of the key canonical texts and authors – we have our Byron chapter, our Frankenstein chapter, our chapter on Lyrical Ballads, etc. – but also some less familiar figures, such as George Darley, Richard Payne Knight, and Mary Robinson.

5) You and Essaka Joshua write in the introduction that you see the book in part as a means ‘to promote further research and discussion’.  Are there particular directions that you think could fruitfully be further explored, or particular works or figures that you think could be re-examined using the critical tools that the collection provides?

At this point, that’s for other to decide.  But I think the book shows that a DS approach to Romantic literature can be very comprehensive, working in terms of historical / social context and author biography, and also at the level of close analysis of textual form and genre.  I would be interested to see some interdisciplinary work analysing literary texts and visual images of disability themes, perhaps facilitated by the Romantic Illustration NetworkDisabling Romanticism is specific to Romantic literature; there are equivalent complementary studies of eighteenth-century literature, Gothic, and Victorian culture also ongoing.  I’m sure we’ll see some exciting new scholarship on these themes in the coming years.

I hope the book can also help readers to look at familiar texts afresh.  As Peter Kitson and Tom Shakespeare generously write in their Foreword: ‘Who, after reading the essays in this collection, will ever read the opening lines of Percy Shelley’s ‘England in 1819’ with its vivid depiction of George III as an “old, mad, blind, despised and dying king” in quite the same way?’

Five Questions: Markus Iseli on Thomas De Quincey and the Cognitive Unconscious

Markus Iseli - Thomas De Quincey and the Cognitive Unconscious

Markus Iseli holds a PhD from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.  He has recevied a Swiss National Science Foundation grant in support of his research; his work on the cognitive unconscious in the nineteenth-century context has also earned him the Henry-E.-Sigerist-Prize from the Swiss Society for the History of Medicine and Sciences.  He has published journal articles on his work in European Romantic Review and Romanticism.  His first monograph, Thomas De Quincey and the Cognitive Unconscious, which we discuss below, was published by Palgrave Macmillan last year as the first book in the new Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine series.

1) What first got you interested in Thomas De Quincey?

I discovered De Quincey only towards the end of my MA.  A couple of his essays from the Reminscences were on my reading list for the final exam.  He hadn’t been on any of the syllabi before, so I didn’t know much about him at the time, but the essays roused my interest.  Eventually I stumbled over the Confessions.  I began reading it during the preparations for my finals though it wasn’t on the list and rushed through it.  As it had happened to many other people before me, I was fascinated by his prose and, of course, by his story.  The autobiographical endeavour was initially at the core of my interest.

2) You select as your epigraph a quotation by J. Allan Hobson: ‘Let us break down the barriers between science and the humanities’.  What do you think are the main benefits of pulling down these barriers?

There is a great deal that can be learnt on both sides of the barriers.  Hobson is a good example of what scientists can learn from the humanities.  My experience, of course, is mainly that of the opposite direction.  Six years ago I would never have thought that I would say this one day, simply because I didn’t know much about the other side.  However, the more I read about the scientific approach to literary texts, the stronger became my conviction about the importance of that interdisciplinary perspective.  In literary studies, the barriers are, I think, to a large extent a question of sensibilities.  Cognitive science, for example, is not just about brain scans with blue and red areas that supposedly reveal the blueprint of what it means to be human, to which it has been reduced by some literary critics.  The insights may be limited, but they reveal exciting facts about the way we think and feel about things, and that’s what a lot of literature is all about.  This knowledge provides new, fruitful perspectives on literary texts.

Furthermore, today we know that science had an important influence on literary texts in the nineteenth century.  The many friendships between philosophers, writers of all strands, and scientists, who all profited from the knowledge of their peers from other fields, were crucial.  So, if modern science allows us to understand the science of the past, it also allows us to understand literary texts that make use of the scientific discourse of this period.  Breaking down the barriers allows us to come to a more complete understanding of a literary period, for which the nineteenth century is exemplary.  In more concrete terms, modern theories of the cognitive unconscious helped me understand nineteenth-century notions of the unconscious.  They sharpened my sense for instances that don’t fit into the literary theories of the past decades and provided a theoretical framework.

3) In your introduction, you make a persuasive case for many studies of Romantic psychology framing it principally in opposition to Freud.  How do you think we can benefit by considering Romantic notions of the unconscious in their own terms?

My endeavour is finding out what people in the early nineteenth century, in particular De Quincey, thought about the workings of the mind and the unconscious and how this might change our understanding of their literary output.  As I explain in my introduction, the psychoanalytic approach in literary studies fails to do this because it does not take into account historical aspects.  This, however, is indispensable to make claims about the theories of an author or to talk about the rise of an idea in a specific historical period.  It was amazing to find out about nineteenth-century theories of the unconscious that are so different to the theories that were used in the critical discourse of the past decades.  The irony, of course, is that I also needed a modern theory, that of the cognitive unconscious, to be able to make sense of Romantic theories of the unconscious.  However, I tried very hard not simply to impose the modern theories and to make nineteenth-century theories fit our modern views.  Theories of the cognitive unconscious guide my readings and analyses up to a certain point, but the claims I make for Romantic theories of the unconscious are also backed up by thorough historical research.  The award I received from the Swiss Society for the History of Medicine and Science speaks in favour of this, I hope.

4) To what extent were De Quincey’s notions about the unconscious particular to him, and to what extent were they drawn from ideas circulating more widely?

This is a crucial question in my research and my opinion changed considerably during my research.  At first I thought that De Quincey was on to something really new.  The more I looked at other authors, scientific ideas, and cultural movements, however, the more I realised that he was articulating his version of something that many other people were contemplating and investigating around the same time.  This insight does not diminish his achievements, though.  His originality lies in the way he picks up various notions that were in the air at that time, in the way he reworks them, and in the way he articulates the resulting ideas through his famous impassioned prose.  Furthermore, one of De Quincey’s achievements is the promulgation of these ideas, in particular that of the cognitive unconscious.

One point in this respect that I would love to be able to explain in more detail is the relationship between De Quincey, the scientist Thomas Laycock, and the philosopher Sir William Hamilton.  They published almost the same ideas in almost the same terms at almost the same time.  Is is clear – from direct and indirect evidence – that this was no coincidence.  But what was the direct influence, in which direction did it go, how impactful was it, and did they share the same basis for their theories?  I discovered some exciting links but I can only give tentative answers to these question for the lack of evidence.  In any case, it shows that De Quincey’s ideas were not wholly new.  They were the result of that time and De Quincey considerably helped shape the notion of the unconscious.

5) Which Romantic-period writers beyond De Quincey do you think would be particularly suited for reconsideration in light of the issues you raise in your book?

There is a range of authors that would be interesting to look at in this light, not only from that period.  Going back a little further in time, Erasmus Darwin comes to mind, who articulated similar ideas about the unconscious.  Of course the canonical authors, such as Wordsworth and Coleridge deserve attention in this respect. Thomas Carlyle needs closer attention, too.  His essay ‘Characteristics’ is full of allusions to what we now call the productive unconscious.  I hope future research will expand this list.

Five Questions: Meiko O’Halloran on James Hogg and British Romanticism

Meiko O'Halloran - James Hogg and British Romanticism

Meiko O’Halloran is a Lecturer in Romantic Literature at Newcastle University.  She has published articles and book chapters on writers including Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Joanna Baillie and touching on topics including borders and boundaries, the theatre, poetic self-fashioning, cosmic ascents and illustration.  At the centre of her network of interests is James Hogg, the subject of her first monograph, James Hogg and British Romanticism: A Kaleidoscopic Art, which was published last year by Palgrave Macmillan.  Below, we discuss her book in the contexts of her long engagement with Hogg, his positions and his legacies.

1) How did you first become interested in James Hogg and his works?

My interest in Hogg began when I read The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner the summer before my second year as an undergraduate at UCL.  The narrative was riveting and I thought the idea of telling it twice from different points of view was ingenious.  The changing narrative lenses and the open-endedness of the novel made it fascinatingly indeterminate.  It’s a novel that forces you to think for yourself and I found that incredibly exciting.

I wrote an essay on the Confessions at the start of term and listened with great excitement to Karl Miller’s lecture on Hogg; Karl had retired, but he taught a series of seminars on Romantic-era fiction that year which I felt privileged to attend.  When I later decided to write a longer research essay on Hogg, John Sutherland suggested I ask Karl’s advice.  The first volumes of the Stirling/South Carolina edition of The Collected Works of James Hogg had recently been published and I wanted to write on several of Hogg’s works of fiction.  Hearing Karl talking inside his office at the time of our appointed meeting, I politely waited until he’d finished speaking before nervously knocking at the door.  I was startled when he asked, from his chaise longue, why I was twenty minutes late and revealed that he’d expected me to interrupt his phone conversation with Christopher Ricks!  After quizzing me on why I’d chosen an author who is so difficult to write about, he eventually conceded that I “might have something to say” and advised me to focus on the Confessions.  I got a pass to the British Library reading room (then in the British Museum) and began my research.  Karl was kind enough to take an interest in reading my essay after I graduated, and over the next seventeen years, we became friends.

I’d planned to include Hogg’s work in my proposed Oxford MPhil thesis on Romantic Outcasts, but when the time came, Hogg didn’t seem to fit in!  I abandoned the outcasts and, with Fiona Stafford’s encouragement, decided to concentrate on developing my understanding of Hogg’s fiction instead.  This paved the way for my DPhil.  Little did I realise that my graduate research would eventually lead me to argue for Hogg’s inclusion in and centrality to British Romanticism.

2) How did you come to settle on the kaleidoscope as a metaphor for the kinds of art which Hogg produced?

Changeability is a feature of nearly all Hogg’s works—in his handling of literary form, genre, voice, and so on.  But it wasn’t until I returned to the Confessions to write about it in my DPhil thesis that I was struck by its kaleidoscopic qualities—in the multiple interpretative possibilities that are opened and the startling effects produced on readers’ sympathies by continuously shifting the narrative lens.  The most impressive shape-shifter in the novel, Gil-Martin, is said to have the ‘cameleon art’ [sic] of changing his appearance; it seemed to me that the novel also reconfigures its identity continuously, and that Hogg himself demonstrates an enjoyment of shape-shifting across his literary career—through his bold experiments with literary form and by playing with his own identities, as well as creating protean characters in his works.

To my surprise, I found that Hogg had been friends with David Brewster, a fellow Borderer from Scotland, who had invented the kaleidoscope at a time when they were both living in Edinburgh.  I learnt more about the features which made Brewster’s invention a sensation all over Europe in the late 1810s.  I had no idea that Brewster’s kaleidoscope was so sophisticated.  Its most distinctive feature was the huge array of choices it gave viewers.  It was up to each viewer to choose how to assemble the kaleidoscope (in its ‘simple’, polyangular, annular, parallel, polycentral, or stereoscopic forms) and to select what items to put in the viewing cell at one end (these could include beads, glass, coloured fluids, spun thread, or painted images).  If the objects in the cell were loose, the kaleidoscope could produce an infinite number of images, making each viewing unique.  Viewers were also encouraged to experiment with looking at objects outside the instrument, using the kaleidoscope in its telescopic or microscopic modes.  Hogg was fascinated by optical science—as seen in his dramatic use of the Brocken Spectre at Arthur’s Seat in the Confessions—but it’s the unpredictability of his genre-mixing and the range of interpretative choices he gives readers that makes the kaleidoscope such a fitting analogy.

Brewster’s kaleidoscope offers a model from Hogg’s day that foregrounds the flexibility and endless creativity that characterises him as a writer.  It’s tremendously helpful for reassessing Hogg’s work as both a maker and a viewer of Romantic literary culture.  The idea of a ‘kaleidoscopic’ literary practice helps us to understand Hogg’s radical literary aesthetic—his creation of textual spaces in which readers can exercise choice and play with their perceptions.  But the kaleidoscope is also wonderfully apt for defining Hogg’s art because in the act of turning the kaleidoscope, the reflections of the objects being viewed are continually realigned so that the viewer sees what was peripheral becoming central and what was central being moved to the periphery.  Hogg, who was (and is still) often regarded as a “minor” or “marginal” writer, not only shakes up, plays with, and juxtaposes existing literary genres and traditions, but also re-focalises readers’ attention through a range of narrative perspectives, some of which involve placing himself at the centre of his works.  He repeatedly repositions himself and his readers in relation to his texts in ways that force us to reassess our views.

3) What do you think are the main insights that can be gained through situating Hogg as a central figure in British Romanticism?

Hogg positions himself centrally in The Poetic Mirror, or The Living Bards of Britain (1816), and invites us to examine an emerging Romantic poetic canon both from the inside and the outside.  Crucially, here, as elsewhere, he is a critical viewer as well as a maker of literary culture.  Through his kaleidoscopic unsettling of readers’ perceptions of what is central and peripheral, his self-positioning invites us to reconsider British Romanticism itself; with Hogg at the centre of the picture, it looks more miscellaneous, expansive, and dynamically unpredictable.

Hogg was widely known in the Romantic marketplace as the author of The Queen’s Wake (1813) and many short stories, and the Ettrick Shepherd of the ‘Noctes Ambrosianae’ in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine.  By returning him to a central place in his era, we see that his inventiveness and playfulness are absolutely part of the wider Romantic practice of genre-mixing—and that, like William Blake, he is one of the most exciting and daring genre-mixers of them all.  Given that Hogg is experimenting with literary form in more invigorating and extreme ways than many of the poets in Stuart Curran’s Poetic Form and British Romanticism (1986) or other genre-mixers in David Duff’s fascinating Romanticism and the Uses of Genre (2009), it becomes clear that his work deserves substantial attention in critical accounts of Romantic formal experimentation.

Resituating Hogg as a central figure in British Romanticism also enables us to examine a much broader array of his intertextual relationships.  While it’s wonderful that he is now recognised as a major figure in Scottish Romanticism, there’s still a critical tendency to compare him with his most “proximate” models, Burns and Scott, or to pigeonhole the Confessions as a defiant reaction to the manipulation of his identity in Blackwood’s.  This critical mould tends to emphasise Hogg as a rebellious victim of the literary marketplace rather than an inventive and willing player in it, in a way that can misrepresent or reduce his creative achievement.  Examining the distinctive, kaleidoscopic quality of his work puts him into productive dialogue as well as dispute with many of his more famous contemporaries, and opens up our understanding of his agency, his flexible self-positioning as an author, and his deft use of a plethora of literary traditions.  I explore his responses to major English as well as Scottish writers, because the work of Shakespeare, Spenser, and Sterne was demonstrably as important and stimulating to his imagination as, say, that of Macpherson, Burns, and Scott, or Byron, who was half Scottish.

4) Which particular works by Hogg – beyond the obvious Confessions of a Justified Sinner – would you recommend to scholars seeking to incorporate insights from his works into undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses?

My top recommendation is The Poetic Mirror which includes Hogg’s parodies of Wordsworth and Coleridge and is brilliant for discussing canon-making and the tensions and competiveness that are part of that process.  It would be great to teach alongside the Smith brothers’ Rejected Addresses, Byron’s English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, or Leigh Hunt’s The Feast of Poets, for example.  I think Hogg’s witty mock epic about ancient Scotland, Queen Hynde (1824), would be fantastic to teach alongside Don Juan and other Romantic appropriations of the epic.  I’ve found that undergraduates and postgraduates learn a lot from reading The Pilgrims of the Sun (1815) in dialogue with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Queen Mab due to its use of otherworld journeys, pantheistic ideas, and syncretic methods.

Students who are interested in pursuing Hogg’s experimental narrative techniques beyond the Confessions should read Tales of the Wars of Montrose (1835), which is fascinatingly rich and surprisingly critically neglected; the EUP edition is available in paperback, which is helpful for teaching purposes.  Lots of the stories in The Shepherd’s Calendar (1829) and Winter Evening Tales (1820) are also full of unexpected narrative techniques and many of them draw on rural superstition and folklore in a way that’s illuminating to consider in relation to urban magazine culture, the rise of the short story, and the Gothic.  The Three of Perils of Woman (1823) is well worth studying for ideas of nationhood, the treatment of history, and formal innovation in the novel.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

My new book project examines how Romantic poets reconceptualised the role of the poet and the social value of poetry, using imagined places and otherworld journeys to confront real-world issues.  I explore how, in picking up the mantle of first-generation poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey, poets who included Shelley, Hogg, Keats, and Byron sought to sustain a radicalism of form and imagination by reconnecting with a longer poetic ancestry—which included epic forefathers, Virgil, Dante, and Milton, as well as popular ballads of supernatural abduction.

A Special Five Questions Interview: Heather Glen on Marilyn Butler’s Mapping Mythologies

Marilyn Butler - Mapping Mythologies (2)

Professor Heather Glen has many notable academic achievements to her name: she is the author of Vision and Disenchantment: Blake’s Songs and Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads and Charlotte Brontë: the Imagination in History, and an editor of Wuthering Heights, The Professor and Charlotte Brontë’s last five Angrian novelettes.  She is currently completing a book on Wordsworth and the discovery of ‘the people’ in the 1790s.  In this special interview, though, we discuss her recent work preparing for publication Mapping Mythologies, a book which was largely completed by the much-missed Marilyn Butler in the mid 1980s.  Mapping Mythologies was published in August last year by Cambridge University Press.  Celebrations of its publication and commemorations of the kindness, brilliance and generosity of its author were at the heart of ‘Marilyn Butler and the War of Ideas’, a commemorative conference held at Chawton House Library in December.

1) How did you first discover the manuscript that has now been published as Mapping Mythologies?

Linda Bree from Cambridge University Press and I were helping David Butler sort Marilyn’s papers to go to the Bodleian Library.  Amongst the masses of drafts for different projects – some hand-written, some in fading print on perforated-edged continuous computer paper – we found a ring binder containing the neatly typed manuscript of an apparently completed book.  On top was a letter, written in 1985, by the late and still much missed Kim Scott Walwyn, then commissioning editor for literary studies at Oxford University Press.  She and Marilyn had evidently been discussing the publication of a much larger work, with more extensive chapters on later romantic mythologizings.  In this letter, Kim urged Marilyn to go ahead and publish this, the first part, as an independent volume.  It would, she suggested, need very little work: it could be done in a couple of months.

I took the typescript away, and read it with mounting interest, realizing as I did so that this was the hinterland to Marilyn’s work on Southey, Shelley, Byron, Keats, and early nineteenth-century orientalism.  It dealt, however, with an earlier group of authors and a distinctively British ‘mythologising’, and raised questions of a rather different kind.  It was succint, suggestive, and laid out a compelling argument.  And it was written with the inimitable blend of witty sophistication and democratic clarity that characterized Marilyn in her prime.  It seemed to me well worth publishing.

2) What were the major challenges that you faced in preparing the manuscript for the press?

That initial manuscript was less finished than it looked.  The notes and references were sketchy at best; there was some repetition, and in a few places there seemed to be lacunae.  And there were, in fact, some later drafts of various parts of it.  When it was decided that I should prepare the book for publication, I had taken with me not merely that manuscript, but several box files of Marilyn’s writings dealing with related subjects.  These papers – now deposited with the rest in the Bodleian – show that Marilyn herself didn’t quite think that Mapping Mythologies was finished.  She returned to it again and again in her heyday, sometimes to use material for a lecture or a conference paper, sometimes simply to re-work a point with which she was dissatisfied.  As I worked my way through, when I came to a passage that seemed problematic I learned to trawl through the box files to see if there was a later rewriting that I might be able to use, weave in or substitute.  I didn’t see it as part of my editorial brief to rewrite passages myself: I simply drew on Marilyn’s later text.  Indeed, I more than once had the humbling experience of gradually coming to realize that a formulation of hers that I had thought clumsy, or not quite right, was actually saying something much more precise, and more subtly original than I had at first supposed.

It was time-consuming but relatively easy to complete the notes, especially once I had made the decision not to try to update them with references to more recent work.  In Marilyn’s own historicist spirit, I thought it important to present Mapping Mythologies as a book that had been conceived and in large part completed in 1984.  This is also why, with some prodding from Jim Chandler, I wrote such a long Preface.  I thought it was important to contextualize Mapping Mythologies as a strikingly original intervention in debates of the 1980s, such as those initiated by Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, with its exploration of the cultural bases of nationalism, and by the ‘Cambridge school’ of intellectual history, with its then ground-breaking emphasis on historicist and contextualist interpretations of what had become fossilised as ‘the history of ideas’.

There has been one major revision, that of the title.  Marilyn’s working titles were A Map of Mythology or Poets and Myths.  Linda Bree suggested Mapping Mythologies as both more dynamic and more pluralistic.  The rather clunky subtitle was Marilyn’s own subtitle: I wanted to keep it to draw attention to what I saw as the book’s central, shaping, and quite original idea: the connection between the cultural projects of the poets it discusses and the beginnings of what we now call cultural history in the literary histories and popular antiquarianism of eighteenth-century England and Wales.

Editing Mapping Mythologies was an enormous privilege, and I gained a great deal from it.  It gave me a whole new perspective on eighteenth century poetry and cultural history.  It made texts I had never thought much about spring to life: The Castle of Indolence, Chatterton’s African poems, Warton’s History of English Poetry, Joseph Ritson’s Robin Hood. Reading those scribbled over print-outs, I could sense, again and again, the excitement with which Marilyn felt her way towards a new idea, see how she was arguing with the books she was reading, and gradually refining and clarifying her thoughts.  It was a revelation: a privileged glimpse of the inner life of a friend I thought I had known very well, and an exhilarating example of what it means to have an intellectual life.

3) How do you see Mapping Mythologies as expanding on Butler’s earlier book-length studies?

It doesn’t so much expand on them as take a new direction. Marilyn’s critical biographies of Peacock and Maria Edgeworth had dealt with single authors.  Jane Austen and the War of Ideas opened out to consider the differences between Austen and her contemporaries.  Romantics, Rebels, and Reactionaries was briefer, but paradoxically covered more ground: it was an ‘overview’ of a whole period.  It was, however, not a conventional ‘survey’of the period in question, but one that consciously revised accepted ways of seeing it.

Mapping Mythologies is also a revisionary overview, but it is rather more polemically pitched.  It is, indeed, in part, a response to some of the more negative reviews of Romantics, Rebels, and Reactionaries that were appearing whilst Marilyn was writing it.  In particular, she is responding to those that accused her of privileging historical contexts over literary texts, of implying that (as one put it) ‘the work of art is caused by the age, and is not in any sense the cause of it’.  In this, her next book, she delivers a witty but entirely serious riposte to such criticisms by turning to a series of writers – poets, literary historians, antiquarians – who saw themselves as makers of history, often in a peculiarly literal sense; for whom tradition was not something given but chosen, sometimes even made up.  Mapping Mythologies is not merely a renewed argument for a historicist literary criticism, pitched against those giants of romantic studies in the 1980s, Frye, Abrams, Bloom, and Hartman.  It offers a quietly original view of how imaginative works might indeed be instrumental in the shaping of history.  It is a view that anticipates much more recent, more speculative, theories of aesthetic agency and of cultural politics.

4) To what extent do you see themes and strands from Mapping Mythologies being developed in Butler’s later essays?

This book on the eighteenth century was always intended as the first part of a longer study of romantic mythologizing.  Marilyn had begun to explore the significance of myth, or ‘paganism’, in the writings of romantic poets in Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries.  She was to explore it further in a number of published essays, which she conceived of as chapters in that unfinished second part (e.g. ‘Nymphs and Nympholepsy: the Visionary Woman and the Romantic Poet’ (1985), ‘The Orientalism of Byron’s Giaour’ (1988), ‘Romantic Manichaeism: Shelley’s “On the Devil” and Byron’s Mythological Dramas’ (1989),‘Shelley and the Empire in the East’ (1996)).  Mapping Mythologies is, as I have suggested, the hinterland to this work.

But it was a hinterland that sometimes came into view.  During the decade after she finished Mapping Mythologies, Marilyn returned to some of the subjects she had first touched on there in conference papers and published essays.  She reworked some of her thinking on images of the British nation in ‘Romanticism in England’, in Roy Porter and Mikulás Tiech’s volume, Romanticism in National Context (Cambridge, 1988); on ‘Antiquarianism (Popular)’, in Iain McCalman, ed., An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age (1999); on ‘Blake in his time’ in Robin Hamlyn and Michael Phillips, eds., William Blake (Tate Gallery, 2000).  She gave conference papers on ‘the Bristol school’ and on Iolo Morganwg.

And she also pondered the larger theoretical questions that had emerged for her during the writing of Mapping Mythologies in several seminal essays published between 1985 and 1996 – especially, perhaps, ‘Against tradition: the case for a particularized historical method’, in Jerome McGann, ed., Historical Studies and Literary Interpretation (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986); and ‘Repossessing the past: the case for an open literary history’, in Marjorie Levinson, ed., Rethinking Historicism, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989).

5) In what ways do you hope that Romanticists will engage with and learn from Mapping Mythologies now that its insights are available to them?

One answer to this question is that some of those insights have been available for a long time: partly through the published work outlined above, and partly through Marilyn’s vivid contributions in more informal contexts – supervising graduate students, participating in conferences.  She always saw her own work pragmatically, as something that others could pick up and take forward.  Academic work was for her not a solitary search for stardom, but an ongoing conversation; she loved being part of it, and she was genuinely excited by other people’s ideas.  The ideas and material that she was unfailingly generous in sharing have been questioned, refined, and expanded on in much more detailed scholarship – such as Nigel Leask and Philip Connell’s Romanticism and Popular Culture in Britain and Ireland (Cambridge, 2009), and the series of brilliant publications on Iolo Morganwg and the Romantic Tradition in Wales produced by researchers at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, University of Aberystwyth.  But there is much more in Mapping Mythologies that might be taken up, argued with, developed – its brief but suggestive new readings of Thomson and of Collins and (more provocatively) of Lyrical Ballads; its concern with provincial towns, bookshops, journals as centres of oppositional culture in eighteenth-century England; its insistence on importance of popular antiquarianism and its place not merely in the intellectual history of the eighteenth century but in a longer tradition of cultural politics (to name but a few).

The original manuscript of Mapping Mythologies had no conclusion: it simply ended with the chapter on Blake.  The few pages I have included as a Coda were actually a fragmentary draft of an essay or a lecture, apparently written in the late 1980s, that I found amongst Marilyn’s papers and that seemed to pull together much of the thinking in that book.  But also, and appropriately, they seemed to be the beginning of a new project: they ended on an upbeat, exploratory note.  For beyond its particular insights and provocations, Mapping Mythologies offers a timely reminder of the kind of bold thinking that years spent in historical scholarship can make possible, of the importance of keeping in mind the larger picture, as well as the close-up view.  The exigencies of academic careers, the pressures imposed by the demands of the REF, have come to mean that the standard academic publication is now the exhaustively argued essay or monograph on a specialised topic: it is more usual now for literary critics to look for an untilled corner in which to stake out a position than to draw a map of a whole field.  Mapping Mythologies, with its insistence on the centrality of the literary (in its widest sense) in the intellectual and political landscape, might, I would, hope, give its readers an expanded sense of their subject.  As Marilyn puts it in her final sentence, ‘Must we really go on treating this as mere superstructure, rather than as the thing itself?’