News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Archive for January 2015

Book History and Bibliography Research Seminar

The current season of the Book History and Bibliography Research Seminar at the Institute of English Studies, ‘Paper Pen and Ink 2: Manuscript Cultures in the Age of Print’, includes a number of sessions that may be of interest to Romanticists.  The next is Wim van Mierlo (Acting Director, Institute of English Studies, University of London) on manuscript culture after 1700; this will take place at 5:30pm next Monday (February 2nd).

Romantic Imprints Website

Very pleased to announce that the website for Romantic Imprints, BARS’ 2015 International Conference, is now live.  Of particular interest will be the page on panels, which contains a list of the open call sessions (with a document giving fuller details) and gives information on a number of themed panels which will take place at the conference.  Abstracts are due on February 14th and should be submitted to  I’d just like to flag up that I’m looking for participants for a Digital Communications roundtable (one of the open call sessions) – this won’t involve full papers, but rather short (5 minute) introductions to panelist’s digital work, followed by wide-ranging discussion.  If you’d be interested in taking part in this, please submit a short (150-200 word proposal) to the conference email address – fuller details are on the document linked above.

You can also receive updates on the conference via Twitter and Facebook.

CfP: Second Call for Romantic Imprints, BARS’ 2015 International Conference

Romantic Imprints image

2nd Call for Papers: Romantic Imprints

British Association for Romantic Studies, 14th International Conference

Cardiff University, 16–19 July 2015

Proposals are invited for the 2015 British Association for Romantic Studies international conference which will be held at Cardiff University, Wales (UK) on 16–19 July 2015. The theme of the interdisciplinary conference is Romantic Imprints, broadly understood to include the various literary, cultural, historical and political manifestations of Romantic print culture across Europe, the Americas and the rest of the world. Our focus will fall on the ways in which the culture of the period was conscious of itself as functioning within and through, or as opposed to, the medium of print. The conference location in the Welsh capital provides a special opportunity to foreground the Welsh inflections of Romanticism within the remit of the conference’s wider theme. The two-hundredth anniversary of Waterloo also brings with it the chance of thinking about how Waterloo was represented within and beyond print.

The confirmed keynote speakers for Romantic Imprints will be John Barrell (Queen Mary, London), James Chandler (Chicago), Claire Connolly (Cork), Peter Garside (Edinburgh) and Devoney Looser (Arizona State).

The conference is open to various forms of format:  we encourage proposals for special open-call sessions and for themed panels of invited speakers as well as individual proposals for the traditional 20-minute paper. Subjects covered might include:

  • Nation and print: the British archipelago; cities of print; transatlantic and transnational exchanges; Romantic cosmopolitanism and print; translation; landscape and/in print; Wales and its Romantic contexts; national (especially Welsh) patterns of influence and exchange in the international context.
  • Producing and consuming print: Romantic readerships; publishers; circu­lating print; legislation, copyright and print; technologies of print; plagiarism, forgery and piracy; popular and subaltern cultures of print; periodicals and journalism; gender and genre; print as new and old, ephemeral and collectable objects; print beyond reading (paper money, cards, etc.); the fate of print as ‘rubbish’.
  • Intertextual exchanges: politics and print (e.g. revolution and radicalism, war, Napoleon, Waterloo); satire and parody; science and print culture; performance and print; Romantic visual cultures (including art and illustration); representations of print and printing; fashion; adaptation and remediation; the Romantic essay; print and its others – epitaphs, manuscripts, marginalia, etc.; print and imprint as Romantic metaphor or ideology; popular pastimes.
  • Textual scholarship: editing texts; bibliography and book history; manuscripts, correspondence and diaries; analysis and quantification; digital humanities.
  • Romantic legacies: physical traces and imprints; architecture; Romantic anti­quarianism; Victorian Romanticism; Romanticism and modernity; Romanticism and new media; Romantic biography; lives in print; Romantic afterlives; celebrity and print; adapting the Romantics (film, art, literature).

Format of conference proposals

  • Traditional 20-minute paper proposals (250-word abstracts), submitted individually.
  • Poster presentations showcasing innovative projects or digital outputs (250-word abstracts), submitted individually.
  • Proposals for open-call sessions (350-word descriptions of potential session, outlining its importance and relevance to the conference theme). Accepted open-call sessions will be advertised on the BARS 2015 conference website from mid-January 2015. Please note: the deadline for submission of open-call panels has now expired.
  • Proposals for themed panels of three 20-minute or four 15-minute papers (250-word abstracts for each paper with speakers’ details and an outline of the panel’s rationale from the proposer).

Extended deadline for submission of abstracts: 15 February 2015. Submissions can comprise proposals for individual papers, poster presentations and submissions to open-call panels (which will be published online from mid-January 2015). If you are applying to an open-call session, you should include the name of the session on your proposal.

All proposals should include your name, academic affiliation (if any), preferred email address and a biography of 100 words. Please send proposals and direct enquiries to the BARS 2015 conference organisers, Anthony Mandal and Jane Moore (Cardiff University) at

For the latest updates about the conference, follow us on Twitter @2015BARS and join our Facebook group at

Expanded CfP: John Keats: Poet-Physician, Physician-Poet

Keats in Bronze

Please see below for more details on this year’s Keats Foundation conference at Guy’s Hospital, London, which will take place between May 1st and May 3rd.  The revised deadline for abstracts is March 1st, and the organisers will get back to those who propose papers swiftly after that date.

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John Keats: Poet-Physician, Physician-Poet, 1815-1821

A Bicentenary Conference at Guy’s Hospital, London,

Organized by The Keats Foundation

1-3 MAY 2015

(Registered Charity Number 1147589)

The Keats Foundation announces its second bicentenary conference, to be held from the afternoon of Friday 1 until the evening of Sunday 3 May 2015 at Guy’s Hospital London. The conference marks the 200th anniversary of John Keats enrolling to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital in 1815.

 Confirmed speakers include Druin Birch, Jeffrey Cox, Stuart Curran, Damian Walford Davies, Jenny Uglow, R. S. White.

The conference will be held on the 29th floor of Guy’s Hospital Tower Building – with extensive views of the City of London.

We will visit the surroundings of Guy’s Hospital, including the celebrated John Keats statue in the quadrangle. One of our receptions will be held in the Old Operating Theatre at Guy’s, giving participants an opportunity to gather around the operating table with glasses of wine. Our second reception and buffet-banquet will be held in private, wood-panelled rooms at the historic seventeenth-century George Inn – London’s only surviving galleried inn.

Call for Papers

Proposals for 20-minute papers are invited, under the broad heading of ‘John Keats: Poet-Physician / Physician-Poet’. While there is no exclusive requirement as to topics, we welcome papers on the relation of Keats’s poetry, letters, life and times to any of the following:

Medicine / poetry and medicine

Romantic-era hospitals

Medical training

Surgery / dissection / anatomy

Prescriptions and the pharmacopoeia

Infection / disease

Tuberculosis / consumption


Women’s health

Medical texts






Hallucination and drugs


States of Mind

The Senses

The Moon

Alchemy and Magic

Plants and Herbs

This list offers some starting points for presentations and is not intended in any way to limit possible topics and themes for paper presentation. For obvious reasons, however, all papers should have a Keatsian focus.

Please send 200-word proposals as an email attached document to the conference administrator, Hrileena Ghosh by 1 March 2015. Please ensure that your proposal is headed with your paper title, your name, institutional affiliation, and an e-mail contact address. Acceptances will be issued very shortly after 1 March 2015; please let us know if you have a deadline for travel or funding.

Please note: the conference registration fee will be confirmed when Registration opens in March 2015, and is likely to be in the region of £150 (full rate)/£90 (postgraduates and unwaged), inclusive of the two receptions; £100/£50 conference attendance only. Lunches, coffees, teas, biscuits, cakes and other refreshments are all included, as are conference stationary and electronic resources. We hope to reduce the conference fee further, numbers permitting. When submitting your paper proposal, please would you indicate whether you would like to attend the receptions. Every effort has been made to keep registration fees to a minimum. Travel and accommodation arrangements are left to delegates’ discretion.

Nicholas Roe (John Keats. A New Life)

Richard Marggraf Turley (Bright Stars: John Keats, Barry Cornwall and Romantic Literary Culture)

Sarah Wootton (Consuming Keats: Nineteenth-Century Representations in Art and Literature)

CfP: The Romantic Eye (Yale, 17-18 April 2015)

Please see below for a Call for Papers for an exciting-sounding symposium on the Romantic Eye at Yale this April.  The organisers are particularly keen to secure contributions from early career scholars (including people working on their doctorates).  Flights and accommodation will be provided for those invited to speak, so if you’re working on a topic in this area, this could be a really great opportunity.

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The Romantic Eye, 1760–1860 and Beyond
April 17, 2015-April 18, 2015
Call For Papers
Yale University

This symposium examines Romanticism as a shape-shifting cultural phenomenon that resists easy categorization. Focusing on the period from 1760 to 1860, the symposium embraces the amorphousness that has been ascribed to Romanticism historically by eschewing any limiting definition of it, seeking instead to explore the broad range of art and visual culture characterized as “Romantic” during this hundred-year span. We are interested in what the Romantic “eye” pursued and perceived, and how it set itself the task of recording those perceptions. In addition to interrogations of the relationship between the visual arts and Romanticism, we welcome papers on writers, composers, scientists, and philosophers whose projects engaged the visual. Papers also are sought for a special panel that will address the legacies of Romanticism in contemporary art.

This symposium coincides with a major collaborative exhibition organized by the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery, The Critique of Reason: Romantic Art, 1760–1860, which opens March 6, 2015. The exhibition comprises more than three hundred paintings, sculptures, medals, watercolors, drawings, prints, and photographs by such iconic artists as William Blake, John Constable, Honoré Daumier, David d’Angers, Eugène Delacroix, Henry Fuseli, Théodore Géricault, Francisco de Goya, John Martin, and J. M. W. Turner. Talks that respond explicitly to works in the collections of the Yale Center for British Art or the Yale University Art Gallery are particularly encouraged, as are cross-disciplinary and comparative studies.

We are seeking presentations of thirty minutes in length. Graduate students and early career scholars are particularly encouraged to apply. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the organizers. Please e-mail abstracts of no more than three hundred words and a short CV or bio (no more than two pages) by February 2, 2015, to

The symposium is cosponsored by the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, the Yale Center for British Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Yale Student Colloquia Fund.

Five Questions: Judith Thompson on John Thelwall

Judith Thompson - John Thelwall in the Wordsworth Circle

Judith Thompson is Professor of English at Dalhousie University and is, in her own words a ‘Romanticist by profession and predilection’.  Over the course of her career she has written on a wide range of topics including Wordsworth, Coleridge, poetics, literary couplings, cultural geographies, archival work, genre and historicism, but, as most readers of this blog will know, the lodestar of her research is the orator, writer and elocutionist John Thelwall, on whom she has published a series of groundbreaking studies, articles and editions.  In the interview below, we discuss her work on Thelwall: past, present and forthcoming.

1) How did you first become interested in John Thelwall and his works?

I first heard of Thelwall as a grad student, while reading Kenneth Johnston for my PhD dissertation on Wordsworth and wandering.  I read The Peripatetic, found it fascinating, and decided to propose an edition for my first new project after getting the degree.  The text was remarkably hard to access (misindexed in the microfilm collection I consulted), which introduced me to another intriguing but frustrating feature of Thelwall’s oeuvre; I was amazed by how much of the archive was missing, whether due to political suppression or sheer bad luck.  But that too was part of what makes his story so compelling: how could such a working-class hero, prolific writer, original thinker and energetic polymath be so thoroughly forgotten?  As I got deeper into my research, more stimulating prospects kept opening up (including the Wordsworth Circle connection).  I also adopted the peripatetic method that I have used ever since, following in his footsteps and venturing out from the major libraries into little local studies collections in places where he lectured, like Huddersfield.  In so doing, I began to realize that Thelwall was like a thread connecting disparate communities of discourse (metropolitan and provincial, romantic and radical, artisan and professional, oral and written) within and between his own time and place, and our own.  The big pay-off of that method came in 2004, when in the space of two weeks I found both the site of Thelwall’s “Llyswen Farm” in Wales, with its hidden waterfall and hermitage still visible, and the archival treasure-trove of the heretofore unnoticed 1000-page “Derby Manuscript.”  By that time I was completely hooked, and I’ve become increasingly, almost uncannily, obsessed, as if I’m living out A.S. Byatt’s Possession (though sadly, the older I get, the more I’m like Beatrice Nest rather than Maud Bailey).

2) In John Thelwall in the Wordsworth Circle: The Silenced Partner, you examine Thelwall’s practices as they ‘emerge in reciprocal relationship with those of Wordsworth and Coleridge’.  What do you think were Thelwall’s most important contributions to this occluded collaboration, and why do you think Wordsworth and Coleridge were so keen to write him out of the picture?

Thelwall’s contributions were both formal and philosophical, valuable both in their own right and for the new perspectives they offer on Coleridge and Wordsworth.  Probably his most important contribution is to the development of the ode (including the sonnet, which he defined as an ode of a single stanza), a genre with whose prosodic and conversational possibilities he was experimenting well before he met Coleridge, but which was enriched through their conversational exchange, both intimate and antagonistic, between 1796 and the late 1820s.  His work offers valuable new contexts for rereading both the structure and the substance of the conversation poems, odes and sonnets of Coleridge and Wordsworth, and of romanticism in general.  He articulates a philosophy of correspondence (sympathetic exchange or “action and reaction”) that rivals and reshapes the “one-life philosophy,” and a materialist poetics that challenges but also complements both Coleridgean metaphysics and Wordsworthian naturalism.  Another influential contribution by Thelwall is his technique of seditious allegory, which provides a kind of language theory in practice to counter Coleridgean symbolism, and opens up exciting new ways to read the ballads of Wordsworth in particular.  As to why Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote their friendship with Thelwall out of history: with Coleridge, the motives were obviously political: Thelwall was the embodiment of his own Jacobin past, from which he went out of his way to distance himself, by dissing Thelwall and destroying his letters.  I think there’s a certain psychological contest and contortion involved there too, consistent with his other male friendships.  That same battle of egos is evident with Thelwall and Wordsworth, but for him, I think the repudiation was based more on changing class allegiance than political ideology: as Wordsworth entered a higher social sphere and scorned the mass marketplace, he was embarrassed by Thelwall’s brash vulgarity, autodidact ambition and commercial success.  But Wordsworth’s manner was more genteel: he did not disavow or condemn his old friend, just damned him with faint praise (as he did with others like Charlotte Smith).  In fact, probably the best evidence of Wordsworth’s unique brand of seditious allegory is the retroactive image-management of his Fenwick notes.  Posterity has proven him a better spin-doctor than either Coleridge or Thelwall.

3) You’ve been an instrumental figure in the foundation of the John Thelwall Society, have been involved in pioneering productions of Thelwall’s drama, and have worked closely with other scholars on Thelwall on a number of projects, most recently co-editing The Daughter of Adoption with Michael Scrivener and Yasmin Solomonescu.  How important have these collaborations been for you in seeking to recapture Thelwall’s importance?

Since the beginning of my career, collaboration has been absolutely necessary for my work.  I think this is a result of my grad school experience: I was one of the last generation to apprentice under a system that taught us to do research in intellectual isolation, like the so-called solitary geniuses we studied, and I emerged hungry for Thelwall’s “sweet converse,” even though I had not met him yet.  When I did, my desperation was compounded by the almost complete absence of people who’d even heard of him.  All I ever really wanted was someone to talk to about my reading, to have the kind of casual critical conversation that is normal when researching other, canonical writers.  In the absence of a community of response and a body of known texts, I had to create the taste by which Thelwall was to be appreciated; hence my editorial and archival work, undertaken by default, simply as a way to start the conversation.  Anyone whose cursory query about Thelwall has been met with one of my long impassioned emails has seen how desperately I need to bounce ideas off someone; I apologize for cluttering your inbox but this is the only way I can develop intellectually, and I have a whole file of such messages, many of them like little mini-essays or abstracts.  Two of my earliest (and most reciprocally generous) email correspondents were Michael and Yasmin, so it was natural that we would extend this into more formal collaborations, and I do the same thing with my students.  Of course this complements Thelwall’s own modus operandi (as well as recent trends in Romantic studies, and our networked culture in general), and as Thelwall Studies has expanded, the collaborative, conversational method (between disciplines, between junior and senior scholars, between academic and activist publics) has become integral to the unique democratic mission of the Thelwall Society.

Judith Thompson - John Thelwall Selected Poetry and Poetics

4) What can we expect from your upcoming edition of Thelwall’s Selected Poetry and Poetics?

The book is coming out March 12, and I think that readers will be surprised by both the range and the quality of Thelwall’s poetry, which connects his many interests and identities: his poetic voices and forms are as various as his polymathic vocations.  The roughly 125 poems and essays I’ve selected draw equally from the unpublished Derby MS and his publications, which are more numerous than scholars have realized (five volumes of verse between 1787 and 1822, along with many periodicals, miscellanies and anthologies–and that doesn’t even include the poems he recited at thousands of lectures over more than 25 years).  I’m able to reprint only about a quarter of his total verse output, and there were so many really good pieces I was forced to cut or excerpt radically, but it is still broadly representative.  Loosely following Thelwall’s own instructions, the book is organized by genre and chronology into eight chapters, starting with pastorals, and moving through comic ballads and satires, sonnets, odes of various kinds, excerpts from his epic, and autobiographies.  Each chapter has a headnote introducing the genre, followed by a relevant essay by Thelwall, and there are brief headnotes to each poem or sequence, as well as explanatory footnotes.  Another surprising feature of the edition is the number of love poems Thelwall wrote; he looks ahead to Brecht by combining radical politics and eros in ways that beg to be explored further.  Much of his work is also autobiographical, and in the introductory chapter to the Poems edition I sketch the first complete biography of Thelwall, focusing on “the dawn and progress of a poetic mind.”  I also endeavour to explain his challenging and idiosyncratic elocutionary poetics.  This edition connects with other recent work on voice, sound and performance in romantic poetry, and will, I hope, inspire a reassessment of elocution as, among other things, part of an unacknowledged romantic ancestry for contemporary political spoken-word art.

5) What are you planning to work on once the poetry edition is complete?

I’ve already started my next (and final) big project, which is the first full biography of Thelwall.  I guess I’ve been working on it since I first started working on him, but it’s only recently that I’ve realized that this seems to be my destiny (if that makes Thelwall my Darth Vader, so be it).  It was long thought that the missing Cestre materials posed an insurmountable impediment to any Thelwall biography, but with the discovery of the Derby MS, and letters and other archival materials beginning to come out of the woodwork, I think the time is right—though obviously it is going to take me several more years of peripatetic research and lots of collaborative correspondence.  Hand in hand with the biographical project is a continuing editorial/archival one; with the help of grad students who I’m actively recruiting (here’s a shout-out to all prospective applicants reading this blog: Dalhousie wants you), I want to revive my dormant Thelwall website and begin to produce good digital critical editions of many of his works that remain unpublished, including poems I was not able to include in my forthcoming print volume.  I also have a embryonic plan to develop workshop-excursions and teaching resources, live and virtual, to explore and extend the possibilities of Thelwall’s methods of peripatetic, elocutionary reading and/in public activism.  Of course I will continue to cull and develop shorter articles from among that bulging sheaf of emails—right now I am writing a Thelwall ghost story, exploring the limits of historical biography by focusing on what we can and cannot know about what happened at #57 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the haunted summer of 1816.  I am also exploring intersections of gender and genre in relation to Thelwall’s turn-of-the-century transition from seditious to seductive allegory.  All in all, there’s enough there to take me to retirement and beyond.