BARS Blog

BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Posts filed under Conference Reports

William Blake at BARS

Today on the Blog is a post from Jodie Marley (University of Nottingham). This is the third in a series of reports from the International BARS conference that took place in July 2019. You can also see pictures from the event if you search #BARS2019 on Twitter. She is part of the committee running UoN Romanticism with Amy Wilcockson and Ruby Hawley-Sibbett, at the University of Nottingham. This is a Romanticism reading group who run monthly sessions with invited guest speakers. This Nottingham-based group has members and attendees who from across the UK, and organise a field trip every term to a local Romantic area of interest. For more details – follow @UoNRomanticism or email uonromanticism@nottingham.ac.uk

As I specialise in Blake, it was an absolute delight to experience four Blake panels unfold at BARS 2019. We had one Blake panel per day, which was, to quote Jason Whittaker (University of Lincoln) , ‘utter bliss’.

I presented my paper on day one’s Blake panel on ‘The Fantastical Reception of William Blake’. I spoke on the reception of Blake’s esoteric thought by W. B. Yeats. Jason Whittaker’s paper on Blake discussed Ray Nelson’s Blake’s Progress and Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve, and Luke Walker’s (Roehampton University) paper outlined connections between Blake, Dead Man and mid-twentieth-century psychedelia’s interpretations of Romanticism. This panel’s consideration of the expansion of Romanticism’s influence beyond 1790-1830 was particularly useful in broadening Romantic studies’ traditional scope.

Day two’s Blake panel focused on Blake’ art and illustration. Clémence Ardin’s (University of Kent) paper compared Blake’s illustrations of fallen women and angels in the Book of Enoch with Alfred de Vigny’s Eloa ou la soeur des anges. Sharon Choe’s (University of York) paper centred around a close-reading images on the The Book of Urizen plates to discuss Blake’s representations of darkness, the void, creation and destruction. Elli Karampela’s (University of Sheffield) paper discussed ‘The Ghost of a flea’, Blake’s ‘Visionary Heads’ and how we might conceptualise them as Gothic bodies.

Clémence Ardin, Sharon Choe and Elli Karampela on the ‘Fantasising Blake’ panel

Day three’s Blake panel, ‘William Blake’s Hand’, began with Mark Crosby (Kansas State University) and his paper on Blake’s letters and how they illustrated Blake’s (often difficult) journey through the patronage system. Elizabeth Potter’s (University of York) paper, gave an innovative reassessment of approaching Blake’s marginalia, and helped me reassess and realign my current use of Blake’s marginalia. Both Potter and I quoted the same aphorism of Lavater’s (number 532) in our respective papers, an eerie coincidence. The final paper for this panel was Josephine McQuail’s (Tennessee Tech University) on eroticism in the Vala illustrations, and its reception in Blake criticism over the centuries. As in the second Blake panel, there was an emphasis in McQuail’s paper on the importance, the necessity of considering Blake’s images alongside his works, which I find increasingly important as I form my own research about Blake.

Elizabeth Potter giving her paper

I chaired day four’s Blake panel, ‘Blake’s Visionary Imagination’. Tara Lee’s (University of Oxford) spoke on the intersection of the natural and the mechanical in Blake’s particular form of epic. Joshua Schouten de Jel (Plymouth University) discussed selfhood and psychoanalysis in The Book of Thel and Visions of the Daughters of Albion. Finally, with perhaps one of my favourite papers of the conference, Camille Adnot (Paris-Diderot University) spoke on Blake’s Four Zoas, the influence of medieval mappae mundi on Blake’s illustrations, and the question of mapping dreamscapes in Blake’s works.

Camille Adnot presenting her paper

BARS 2019 was fascinating from start to finish. Although the end of the conference left me feeling deflated that four days of exciting conversations had to come to an end, I am, ultimately, excited for the future of my research area and the connections I’ve made within it.

Jodie Marley, University of Nottingham

16th August 2019

Conference Report: Reading Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, Manchester Metropolitan University

Today on the BARS Blog is a report from  ‘Reading Nineteenth-Century Periodicals’, a special event in Manchester earlier this year. This event was part-sponsored by BARS. The report is by Dr Emma Liggins, Senior Lecturer in English Literature. You can follow English at Manchester Met on Twitter here

Find out how to apply for sponsorship from BARS here

Reading Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, North West Long Nineteenth Century Seminar, 17 July 2019

The celebratory event ‘Reading Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, with thanks to Margaret Beetham’, was held at Manchester Metropolitan University in July 2019, as the summer event of the North West Long Nineteenth Century Seminar. It was co-organised by Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan University), Annemarie McAllister (University of Central Lancashire) and Andrew Hobbs (University of Central Lancashire) to mark Margaret’s 80thbirthday. We celebrated Margaret’s outstanding contribution to feminist and periodical research and her ongoing influence on our ways of reading and working with periodicals, cookbooks and women’s writing in the long nineteenth century. Her pioneering book A Magazine of her Own: Domesticity and Desire in the Woman’s Magazine, 1800-1914 (1996), and her work on servants’ reading, cookbooks and class, have been hugely influential in the field. The event brought together independent researchers, students, and scholars at different stages of their careers. Many members of the audience knew Margaret’s work well and had worked with her in the past, but it was also an opportunity to bring her work to the attention of a new generation of researchers. In a tribute to Isabella Beeton, the famous cookbook author and editor of The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine brought to light in Margaret’s research, we enjoyed home-made cakes in the coffee and lunch-breaks –the Bakewell tart was a triumph!

The first session focussed on late nineteenth and early twentieth-century periodicals and their readers. Solveig Robinson opened the day with an examination of the mediation of notions of motherhood and domestic management in the scientific mother’s magazine Baby. Gemma Outen responded to Margaret’s claim that there was a ‘dearth of specific information’ about readers to think about the imagined readership of the temperance journal Wings, drawing on census returns to plot the characteristics of the ‘average reader’. Margaret’s own paper ‘Situated Knowledges’: or the Back Door’ drew on Donna Harraway’s work to offer a history of developments in cultural theory she had witnessed in her sixty-year career and the ‘back-door knowledge’ scholars need to draw on in order to ‘open some windows in the house of Victorian studies’. She also reflected on coming through the ‘back door’ to literary studies where she would question the canonical texts being taught and draw on her involvement with the Women’s Movement in her teaching and research. This led to an ongoing discussion throughout the day about the implications of the ‘demise’ of Women’s Studies, the changing face of feminist scholarship and reinventing the curriculum.

Tributes by a range of scholars who had worked with, and/or been taught by, Margaret, emphasised her generosity with early career researchers and research students, her encouragement of collaboration and the ways in which conversations always lead to a greater understanding of the complexities of texts. Brian Maidment spoke about the importance of her early work on class and (as co-conspirator) her challenging of the establishment. Kay Boardman highlighted the excitement of collaborating with Margaret on the Victorian women’s magazines anthology, remembering the assemblage of a new taxonomy from the piles of paper and magazines on an office floor in the days before digitization. Angelica Michelis celebrated Margaret’s support for her female colleagues at Manchester Metropolitan University and her important contribution to food studies, particularly the complexities of cook-books and consumption. Finally, Ginette Carpenter spoke of the way in which Margaret had given her the confidence as a research student to develop her own independent thinking and to grapple with the complexities of reading and the woman reader.

The final postgraduate panel on ‘The Challenges of Archival Research’, which was funded by BARS, was also a chance to think about new directions in periodical studies.  Transnational and transatlantic exchanges, as well as the need for more work on readers of colour, were mentioned several times. Margaret’s most recent work on missionary journals in the twentieth century, set alongside exciting recent work by Caroline Bressey and Deborah Logan, is indicative of the need to keep thinking about the legacies of empire and globalisation. Victoria Clarke (University of Leeds) talked about the readership community of the Chartist newspaper, The Northern Star and the challenges of using corpus linguistics methods to analyse the uses of the words ‘manly’ and ‘womanly’ in its articles. Her approach demonstrated the uses of digitisation to advance ways of thinking about Chartism, gender and protest. The different uses of the language of interrogation in the proceedings presented in the Old Bailey online and press coverage of events from the 1760s were the subject of a fascinating presentation by Tamara Kaminsky (University of Exeter). Finally, Catherine Elkin (Manchester Metropolitan University) gave an entertaining account of her unsuccessful search for advertisements for baby-farmers in the late-nineteenth-century Manchester press. This was revealing of the difficulties of finding the right search terms; adverts about nurses rather than coded adverts for baby-farmers seemed to be more plentiful. Paying attention to the ways in which contentious constructions of motherhood are mediated in periodical culture linked back to Solveig Robinson’s discussion of baby science.

In the Q and A participants talked about European and American readers of British periodicals, the regional appeal of branch reports organised by location in newspapers of political organisations, the placing of journalism about Northern cities and choices about case studies in the attempt to avoid the limitations of being ‘London-centric’.  Issues of locality and regionality were also identified as an ongoing concern. This final discussion showed how a new generation of scholars were making effective use of data from digital archives to develop knowledge of readerships, periodical communities and linguistic variation in newspapers. It also foregrounded both the frustrations and the possibilities of trying to predict results and coming up with either something vastly different or nothing at all. This acknowledgement of the complexities of periodical research and the diversity and heterogeneity of nineteenth-century periodicals is a crucial aspect of Margaret Beetham’s legacy.

A selection of the papers given at the seminar, as well as a roundtable on Margaret’s work, will appear in a future edition of Victorian Periodicals Review, edited by Andrew Hobbs and Gemma Outen.

– Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan University), August 2019

 

BARS 2019 Report

Today on the Blog is a post from Johnny Cammish (University of Nottingham). This is the second in a series of reports from the International BARS conference that took place in July 2019. You can also see pictures from the event if you search #BARS2019 on Twitter. 

The run up to BARS was a busy time for us, as the postgraduate helpers. It was a lot of work that, thankfully, all seems to have come together in the end. Or, at least, that was the impression I got from various grateful delegates who consistently offered thanks and praise throughout the conference.

It was an intense first day; opening with the fantastic plenary by Professor Laura Mandell about some of the digital approaches she’s been working on were an exciting indication of things to come. The first panel I attended was equally fantastic, though of a far more sombre tone. Featuring discussions of ageing, lateness and dementia being wonderfully thought provoking and, with such heavy topics, inevitably very moving. However, the brief quotation of James Montgomery, my own interest, may have somewhat biased me in celebration of this panel.

Montgomery did crop up again later in the day; although this time when I gave my own paper after a somewhat complicated but well-handled panel shift, with the Romantic Radicalism and Romantic Life-writing panels being combined synergistically in a new beast that worked remarkably well. I’ve not had much experience giving papers, but I found the energy and interest in the room genuinely inspiring; questions and comments I’ve received have given me a long list of additional areas for me to investigate, which I am grateful for!

Me presenting my paper

Unsurprisingly, considering my own paper on Montgomery’s radicalism and imprisonment, many of my personal highlights were the papers of a political nature – Olivia Murphy’s discussion of the bizarre difficulties of the Birmingham mob to burn ‘Dr Phlogiston’ was fascinating, and Ian Packer’s paper on Wat Tyler reminded me that I really need to read more on how the older Southey dealt with his more radical youth. That’s not to say that I neglected other panels; I thoroughly enjoyed viewing Scottish Romanticism and Percy Shelley Panels, despite how they demonstrated my own near-criminal neglect of Romantic Drama.

I could, of course, talk about the panels ad infinitum, but I cannot fail to mention the other plenaries. Professor Diego Saglia’s discussion of (potentially) Byron’s skin was fascinating and wonderfully macabre; something I had never even thought of considering before. Professor Jane Stabler’s comparison of Byron to The Office (US)’s Dwight Schrute is forever etched on my brain, Dr Robert Poole’s wonderful discussion of Peterloo highlighted the role of women, and clarified the state of Manchester in 1819 – dispelling a lot of my own misunderstandings. Finally, Professor Sharon Ruston’s discussion of Humphry Davy and his rejection of poetry in favour of science felt like a fitting microcosm of the Humanities side-lining to the Sciences.

The excursion to Newstead was also wonderful; I visit it regularly as I work there part-time, but seeing it full of scholars who know and appreciate Byron and his history was wonderful; and I was pleased with how much enthusiasm everyone had for the Abbey, both as postgraduate helper and as part-time Visitor Assistant. In short, the conference was wonderful, and there is far more to be said than could fit in 500 words. I am glad that many seemed to enjoy it as much as I.

The next BARS conference will be the BARS PG/ECR Conference in 2020. The conference will be held at Keats House, Hampstead, from 12th-13th June. Further details and CfP to follow – for now, save the date!

Johnny Cammish, University of Nottingham

16th August 2019

BARS 2019: Factually a Fantastic Conference!

Today on the Blog is a post from Colette Davies (University of Nottingham). She reports from the International BARS conference that took place in July 2019. This is the first of a series of reports from the conference. You can also see pictures from the event if you search #BARS2019 on Twitter. 

Please forgive the cheesy title. The 16th International British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) conference, themed ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’ (now you can see my title’s inspiration!), has just been hosted by the University of Nottingham’s School of English. Spanning a period of four days, Nottingham welcomed over 200 delegates from all around the world to this conference. Numerous parallel panels, exemplary plenaries, ECR and PGR workshops, excursions, conference banquets, wine receptions, wonderful catering, and frequent tea and coffee breaks meant that these four days sped by.

Despite time flying, the planning and organisation of this conference has been years in the planning. Bids for hosting the 2019 conference were placed just after the 2015 BARS conference at Cardiff University. As a current PhD student at the University of Nottingham, I joined the planning team over a year ago and, as Twitter reminded me today, I set up the Twitter account 365 days ago. Thankfully, the hard work by a team of more than ten people over the past four years most certainly paid off.

On the first day (and the hottest day of the year so far), delegates were welcomed by the organisers, Professor Lynda Pratt and Professor Máire Ní Fhlathúin. The conference was then officially opened by Professor Jeremy Gregory, Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nottingham. Professor Laura Mandell, of Texas A&M University, gave the first plenary in which she focussed on ‘Re-inventing Gender: the Feminist Controversy in England, 1788-1810’. Her plenary discussed the data project she is currently working on, in which writing styles are annotated and grouped to indicate difference of styles that surpass the M/F binary. Lunch followed, during which there was a highly informative PGR and ECR workshop on ‘Heritage Careers’ given by Dr. Gillian Dow and Dr. Anna Mercer. The afternoon was a succession of three parallel panels; over 60 individuals presented on the first day! The evening began with the Welcome Reception and Book Prize followed by an informal dinner.

BARS Book Prize announced by Dr. Jane Moore

Friday quickly flew by with four parallel panels along with two plenaries, a BBQ for dinner and a PGR and ECR wine reception. Professor Diego Saglia gave the second plenary of the conference, in which he focussed on Byron’s links to and life in Ravenna in a lecture entitled, ‘Byron’s Words and Things: Bodies, Bullets and a Box’. His presentation included some of the items relating to Byron which were collected by the Countess Teresa Gamba – one of them being flakes of Byron’s skin! The third plenary was delivered by Professor Jane Stabler. Also focussing on Byron, Jane Stabler discussed the anecdotal evidence and annotations on Byron’s text. Friday closed with a vibrant PGR and ECR wine reception at the Orchards Hotel, allowing PGR and ECR students to meet and mingle.

The Conference Banquet

Saturday was Excursion Day! In the morning, delegates attended one parallel panel before enjoying the plenary on ‘Peterloo: The English Uprising’ by Dr. Robert Poole. This was also the public Byron lecture, hosted annually by the School of English. Poole showed the audience images and text from the new graphic novel he has collaboratively worked on and which tells the story of Peterloo through using cartoons, as well as evidence and quotations from letters and records of Peterloo in its narrative. Specifically, Poole concentrated on the representation of women in archival documents and contemporary caricatures of Peterloo and used them to illuminate the role women played in this uprising. On Saturday afternoon, delegates could choose one of three excursions: trips were planned to Newstead Abbey, Wollaton Hall and Park, and the Lakeside Arts Museum which currently houses the conference’s exhibition on Romantic Facts and Fantasies. The Conference Banquet on Saturday evening was enjoyed by all who attended. We were treated to performances of Peterloo songs, collated and introduced by Dr. Alison Morgan of Warwick University and performed by folk trio, the Thrup’nny Bits.

Performance by the Thrup’nny Bits

The last day, Sunday, had the final parallel panels and a second ECR and PGR workshop, this time focussing on publishing. Delivered by Professor Ian Haywood and Dr Richard Gaunt, they tackled some of the facts and fantasies of publishing monographs and articles and REF. Professor Sharon Ruston gave the final plenary on Sunday afternoon; her talk on Humphry Davy’s notebooks demonstrated how he discussed both poetry and science, using concepts of Romanticism to define scientific practices and work. The conference closed with the new incoming President of BARS, Anthony Mandal, praising the conference organising team and all those who gave papers, asked questions, and attended panels and workshops. Colette Davies and Amanda Blake Davis then introduced the BARS ECR and PGR conference, to be held in June 2020 at Keats House, before Dr Andrew McInnes advertised and outlined the 2021 BARS/NASSR joint conference, which will be hosted at Edge Hill University. Hands sore from many rounds of applause, delegates bade farewell to Nottingham. Many headed home, but many were also heading for the International Conference of Romanticism (ICR) in Manchester or the Frances Burney conference, both of which took place the week after BARS.

Conferences require a lot of energy, both from delegates and organisers. Yet, they enable people to share their research with each other, forge connections with scholars working in similar areas and, most importantly, allow individuals to develop their research and practice. I am always nervous before presenting a conference paper but the discussions afterwards are so rewarding. I have never been to a conference yet where I haven’t come away with new texts to include in my research or a new approach to a work or an author. BARS 2019 didn’t disappoint. Established and new scholars alike are keen to talk to each other and it was wonderful to mix with scholars at different stages of their careers. It was really rewarding to be part of the organising team for this conference. Thank you to everyone who came and thanked us for our work towards.

The next BARS conference will be the BARS PG/ECR Conference in 2020. The conference will be held at Keats House, Hampstead, from 12th-13th June. Further details and CfP to follow – for now, save the date!

Colette Davies, University of Nottingham

14 August 2019

Conference Report: Vampyre Symposium

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference Report: ‘Romantic Interactions’, Krakow

The following report is by Charlotte May (University of Nottingham).

‘Romantic Interactions’ Conference

Jagiellonian University in Krakow

4thand 5th April 2019

The ‘Romantic Interactions’ conference at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow interrogated two key definitions of interaction: firstly, social, artistic and literary interactions in the Romantic period itself; and secondly, how readers, audiences and writers have interacted with the Romantic period through different mediums over the past two hundred years.

The conference opened with the first plenary lecture delivered by Mary Jacobus, exploring ‘Keats’ Apollonian Afterlives’. The afternoon included panels on German Romanticism, the Classical Tradition, Cross-cultural and Transatlantic Interactions, and Negative Capability and Poetic Imagination. Brittany Pladek (Marquette University) provided one of many fantastic insights into how we might trace the reception of classical tradition in the Romantic period in the current political climate, including how responses to the #MeToo movement could be found in constructions of guilt in the epic tradition. Keats was very much on the mind of participants in the later afternoon session, with discussions on negative capability heavily influenced by Mary Jacobus’s plenary lecture earlier that day.

The day ended with a wonderful conference dinner at Kawaleria restaurant in Krakow. As Keats had been the focus of many conversations, and Byron had only formed the basis of one paper (Rowland Cotterill’s investigation of Don Juan as a Horatian poem), I posed one question to the dinner attendees: Byron or Keats? Without any context provided, the question proved easier to answer over a glass of wine, and we found that Byron was indeed the winner (although Juliette Wells’ response was, of course, Jane Austen).

(c) Newstead Abbey; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

(c) National Portrait Gallery

The second and final day of the conference opened with an investigation of philosophical and religious interactions and Romanticism across Borders, in which Judith Thompson’s (Dalhousie University) discussion of John Thelwall as a ‘Citizen of the World’ reminded us of absences arising in interactions, and how much we – as historians and critics – must pursue studies of those who have been excluded from contemporary canons, as well as continue to hunt for evidence of interactions.

The day contained two plenary panels before lunch, covering how poets contemporaneously interacted with each other and how the public have been pursuing interaction with Romanticism since the end of the movement (if such an ‘end’ can indeed be agreed upon). Frederick Burwick (UCLA) spoke on ‘Coleridge’s Interaction with Wordsworth: The ‘Dejection’ Dialogue’, and Juliette Wells (Goucher College) focused on ‘William Dean Howells and the Rise of American Janeitism’.  As previous panels had done, this plenary was an important contribution to questioning the role of national identity within Romanticism and its legacy, and truly proved how the cult of personality and literary tastes could change the course of global literary history.

 

 

The conference ended with Nicola Watson (Open University) taking us on a tour of RỆVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition), an invaluable resource on how Romanticism has been defined and charted since its beginnings in the eighteenth century to the present day. Watson provided us with the example of ‘Shakespeare’s chair and the Polish Princess’,  Monika Coghen (our wonderful host at Jagiellonian University) spoke on ‘Kościuszko’s Mound’, and Mirosɫawa Modrzewska (University of Gdańsk) joined us on Skype to speak about ‘Chopin’s Piano’, three important contributions to the visual exhibition. The conference ended with a rendition of the selected works of Frederick Chopin told through the chronology of Chopin’s interactions with his Scottish patron Jane Stirling by Marcin Jaroszek, accompanied by the wonderful pianist Anna Dębowska. This recovery of Stirling as a supporter and driving-force of Chopin’s career showed how instrumental sociability was in the development of artistic careers and the movement of Romanticism itself. The essential role of women in founding and sculpting the movement of Romanticism had been referred to throughout the conference, particularly in the papers of Vitana Kostadinova (University of Plovdiv), Anna Messing (another of our fantastic hosts), Julie Donovan (George Washington University), and Rayna Rosenova (Sofia University).

This conference showcased up and coming work and projects which will further our understanding and definitions of what it means for an author, text, and literary period to interact. The atmosphere of the conference was friendly and supportive, with scholars from different careers and sectors engaging with a truly international body of delegates. There is surely no better legacy of interactions with(in) Romanticism than a conference such as this.

 

– Charlotte May (University of Nottingham)

 

 

Conference Report: Women & the Arts in the Long Eighteenth Century

Women & the Arts in the Long Eighteenth Century

Friday 8 March 2019, University of Sheffield

By Hannah Moss, PhD Researcher in the School of English

Scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day, Women & the Arts in the Long Eighteenth Century took place on Friday 8 March at the University of Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute. I organised this one-day conference, kindly sponsored by BARS, to reappraise the role women played in the arts during the period. As a PhD candidate specialising in the representation of women’s art in the Romantic-era novel, my aim was to bring together fellow researchers working on connected topics in the hope of fostering interdisciplinary thought.

With 2019 marking the 250thanniversary of the inaugural Royal Academy exhibition, I felt that it was both important and timely for an event to bring female creativity in the period to the forefront of discussion. Women & the Arts brought together those specialising in Art History, Literature, Theatre, and Music to share their research, with the event particularly targeted at those working on the intersection between literature and the arts in order to explore the ways in which writers represent artistic endeavour. The international reach of the call for papers saw delegates travelling to Sheffield from as far afield as France and Canada, with the conference hosting 14 speakers across 4 panels, plus a keynote address from Dr Claudine Van Hensbergen (Northumbria University).

Postgraduate researchers, early career scholars, lecturers and curators all came together to share their research on a diverse range of topics including colour theory, country house collections, collage and copies. I opened the first panel on Characterising the Female Artist with a paper arguing for creativity in the copy, using the artist heroines in Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian (1797) and Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826) to show how Radcliffe and Shelley raise the status of the copy in a way that self-reflexively promotes the woman writer. Kim Rondeau (Concordia University) followed with a fascinating insight into her research on Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun as a politically and ideologically undesirable subject for feminist Art History, noting how Simone de Beauvoir criticised her insipid ‘smiling maternity’. Next, Rosie Razzall (Royal Collection Trust) presented on the sacred tokens found pasted to numerous examples of Rosalba Carriera’s pastels, commenting upon how this performative practice contributes to her self-image. Miriam Al Jamil (Birkbeck) rounded-off the panel by discussing Eleanor Coade’s commercial success producing artificial stone, and examining the trade cards in which she characterises herself as an emblematic neo-classical figure, ‘Fiery Force’.

A break for coffee and a selection of vegan and gluten free cakes allowed us to refuel ahead of the next round of presentations. With two parallel panels to choose from, Poetry, Performance & Patronage opened with Eva Lippold (Independent Researcher) discussing the representation of intellectual women on stage, with particular reference to Frances Burney’s The Witlings (1779)Jemima Hubberstey (University of Oxford/English Heritage) followed with her paper exploring the critical voices of Jemima Marchioness Grey and Catherine Talbot in the Wrest coterie, noting how both women had a keen critical eye for literature as well as an avid love for reading, before Léa Renucci (EHESS-University of Verona) spoke on poetry and sociability in relation to the pastorelle of the Accademia degli Arcadi in the Eighteenth Century.

The parallel panel on Women Patrons & Collectors saw Amy Lim (University of Oxford/Tate) question the concept of gendered spheres through her case study of the art patronage of Elizabeth Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. Lizzie Rogers (University of Hull) maintained our focus on the Seymour family, following with a paper on the social and creative worlds of Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford, and Elizabeth Seymour Percy, First Duchess of Northumberland, noting Elizabeth’s enthusiasm for sharing her collection even though the likes of Horace Walpole mercilessly mocked her as a collector. Elizabeth Ford (IASH University of Edinburgh) presented on the influence of Susanna, Lady Eglinton – a 6ft tall beauty whose eyebrows, and flute-playing, inspired sonnets. This paper included a musical interlude so we could listen to extracts of the songs discussed.

After a break for lunch, and an opportunity to discuss the morning’s papers, we gathered together for our final panel of the day on Material Culture, Art & Society. Susan Bennett (William Shipley Group for RSA History) opened by promoting the Society of Arts as a valuable resource for researchers, charting the Society’s long association of supporting women artists, rewarding many examples of experimental artistic practice with prizes. Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh) gave us an insight into her fascinating project on collage before Modernism, covering issues of periodization and the divide between art and craft, whilst Serena Dyer (University of Hertfordshire) used Ann Frankland Lewis’ beautiful ‘Dress of the Year’ watercolours as a means of engaging with women’s material lives, noting the social, political, familial and emotional implications behind the choice of dresses depicted. Finally, Alexandra Loske (University of Sussex/Royal Pavilion) introduced us to Mary Gartside: flower painter, teacher, colour theorist (c.1860s-c.1808). Loske’s research has found that Gartside was probably the first woman to publish on colour theory, and as a special treat for attendees, she brought along her own copy Gartside’s Essay on Light and Shade(1805) so we could view her experimental colour blots at close hand.

A link between many of the papers highlighted during the time allocated for questions was the issue of women’s commercial involvement in the arts, and this was a theme which continued to be explored in our keynote address: ‘Female Wits and Muses: Professional Women and the Arts in the Eighteenth Century’. Claudine van Hensbergen (Northumbria University) challenged the problematic definition of the term ‘professional’ in relation to money rather than skill when we still live with a gender pay gap. One example cited was Mary Beale who is often credited as the first professional woman artist, but it was a move to a fashionable address rather than a notible improvement in skill which marked her transition.

Live Tweeting was encouraged throughout the day in order to engage with a wider audience who were not able to attend in person. In this spirit, Madeleine Pelling (University of York) submitted a wonderfully detailed poster presentation on the Duchess of Portland’s vase and was on hand to answer any questions online even thought she wasn’t able to join us in Sheffield. You can look back at what was being discussed on the day by reading the feed from @WomensArt2019 or by following the hashtag #WomensArt2019.

Positive feedback received on the day via comment cards and Twitter focused on the cultural relevance of the event, the range of papers presented, and the inclusive atmosphere – not to mention the conference cake printed with Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s Self-Portrait with Two Pupils (1785, The Met: New York). Well, it wouldn’t have been a conference on eighteenth-century art without a portrait cake!

It just remains for me to say thank you to everyone who attended for making Women & the Arts such a friendly and intellectually stimulating environment, as well as to BARS whose generous funding not only helped with running costs, but meant that postgraduate travel bursaries could be offered. I hope that the conversations initiated during the course of the day will continue, and aim to publish a special edition from the conference proceedings to disseminate the research further. I envisage that this will be just the first event of this kind, and would very much like to run another Women & the Arts conference in the near future.

– Hannah Moss  (PhD Researcher at the University of Sheffield & organiser of Women & the Arts)

Read more about BARS conference funding here.

Report from ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ – Charles Maturin’s Women

A final 2018 report from the ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ seminar. This series is sponsored by BARS and seminars are held at the University of Greenwich. 

 

Charles Robert Maturin, Women; or, Pour et Contre (1818), as discussed by Christina Morin (University of Limerick)

Blog post report by Victoria Ravenwood (Canterbury Christ Church University)

 

 

The highly-anticipated final seminar in the ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ series was delivered by Christina Morin, of the University of Limerick, on Charles Robert Maturin’s Women; or, Pour et Contre. Interestingly, Morin opened the discussion with talk of another notable 1818 novel – namely, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein– and the Frankenreads project directed by Neil Fraistat to mark its 200-year anniversary. With this in mind, she presented the question: Why are we celebrating Frankensteinalone, and not any of the other great works published in that same year? Morin offered Maturin’s Womenas an equally fascinating alternative to Shelley’s seminal Gothic work.

Women; or, Pour et Contrewas Maturin’s fourth novel, and centres around the lives of two women – Eva, a deeply religious but naïve young girl; and Zaira, a beautiful, talented and successful actress – and their romantic involvements with the same man, the charming De Courcy. The novel was supposed to be published in 1816, but was not actually published until several months after the publication of Shelley’s Frankensteinin 1818. Although Shelley is highly unlikely to have read Women before this time, we do know that she was reading other works by Maturin (such as Melmoth the Wanderer) whilst she wrote and prepared Frankensteinfor publication. From this, Morin suggested, we can surmise not only the influence that Maturin’s writing had on Shelley, but also the ways in which he is responsible for contributing to the formation of the literary Gothic.

To be sure, Maturin’s works were popular and influential in the early decades of the nineteenth century. They are not as widely read today, however – evidenced in the fact that a copy of Maturin’s 1818 novel was hard to locate. Likewise, scholarship on Women; or, Pour et Contre,is limited. Morin suggested that the main reason for this erasure is that defining and identifying Irish Gothic fiction in the Romantic period is difficult, with criticism tending largely to overlook works which fall outside of the retrospectively defined boundaries of Romantic fiction (which, she added, is very much held to an ‘English standard’).

Morin explained that Irish writers had been contributing to the Gothic all along, with notable writers such as Regina Maria Roche utilizing the tropes of the genre as early as the 1780s, and yet she also noted that works by these writers are little read now. Moreover, they are continually written out of literary criticism, or else mentioned only to be dismissed as opportunistic imitators of more widely-acclaimed Gothic writers such as Ann Radcliffe. Morin argued, however, that works by the likes of Maturin cannot, and should not, be dismissed as such.

– Victoria Ravenwood

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

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

Substance Use and Abuse in the Long Nineteenth Century:

a report by Anna Rowntree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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