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News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Archive for April 2015

Report from the Newcastle University Research Symposium on the Shelley-Godwin Circle

(We’re very glad to welcome Anna Mercer (University of York) to the BARS Blog – she’s the first of a number of new contributors who will be joining the blogging team over the coming weeks.)

 GodwinsandShelleys(Image from the Shelley’s Ghost online exhibition , Bodleian Library, Oxford: http://shelleysghost.bodleian.ox.ac.uk)

On 13th April 2015 I visited Newcastle University to attend a Research Symposium in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics (SELLL). This event, organised by Will Bowers, began with two panels of presentations by Newcastle researchers and a poetry reading, all of which paid specific attention to William Godwin, Percy and Mary Shelley and their circles. This was followed in the evening by the literature visiting speaker programme, with talks by Elizabeth Denlinger (New York Public Library) and Gregory Dart (University College London). Their talks focussed on ‘Editing Romantic-Period Writings in the 21st Century’.

Research symposiums like this are important in that they bring eighteenth century and Romantic studies together. It reminds us (and sometimes we do need reminding) why it is that Romanticism is more often connected to the ‘long eighteenth century’ rather than the Victorian period. Here specifically the symposium united eighteenth-century thought and Romantic writings by considering one celebrated family: the Godwins and the Shelleys. As they functioned as a familial group, the Godwins and the Shelleys are exemplary of the bridge between late eighteenth-century literature and the early nineteenth-century work of the second generation of Romantics. Of course, the symposium extended beyond this remit, and works by Charles Lamb, S T Coleridge and Adam Smith, for example, were also brought into the discussion. The diversity of authors discussed recalled how the Godwins and the Shelleys, although particularly recognisable because of their blood-family link, perpetually sought to extend their literary circles beyond their immediate contemporaries and relations.

 

Part I: Godwin, Shelley and their Circles: Presentations by SELLL Researchers

In the papers at the symposium there was an emphasis on intertextuality that functioned brilliantly alongside the tone of the event as a place of academic sharing and growth. The papers led to interesting discussions following each panel of speakers. On the first panel we heard from Laura Kirkley, who explored Mary Wollstonecraft as a cosmopolitan writer, concerned by what it means to be a patriot. Jonathan Quayle then discussed ‘Shelley’s Utopian Visions’: Percy Shelley’s preoccupation with a perfect society, his denouncement of tyranny, and how a tension between a distinct ideal of Utopia and the need to discourage a violent response to oppression manifests itself in his poetry. Matthew Grenby led the discussion onto William Godwin, discussing the Juvenile Library within the complex bibliographical history of children’s literature. This was exciting as it prefigures the publication of the next volume of Godwin letters edited by Grenby, and we were treated to slides showing some of Godwin’s letters in manuscript. The organiser of the event, Will Bowers, then presented on ‘”Newspaper Erudition” and the Pisan Circle’. This was about Percy Shelley’s engagement on another literary level – not with an author present in his circle, but with the newspapers he read in Italy, and the influence of this on Hellas. Finally, Margaret Wilkinson gave a fantastic sneak peak of an upcoming radio drama she is working on for the BBC about Mary Shelley. This section was completed by two atmospheric poetry readings. John Challis read poems written during a residence at the Keats-Shelley House, Rome. Bill Herbert talked about the dialogue between poets, and the influence of myth, science and literature on poetry as an art form, before reading a poem he had written, followed by a response in verse to this, composed by another poet.

The second panel began with Leanne Stokoe, whose paper discussed ‘Adam Smith and the Principle of Self in Percy Shelley’s Speculations on Morals and Metaphysics’. Intertextuality was a crucial element here, as her discussion considered Smith, Hume, Godwin, and the Shelleys. Michael Rossington followed with a fascinating discussion of his recent research in the Huntington Library, California. Having looked at a press copy of Percy Shelley’s Hellas (one of the last poems to be published in Shelley’s lifetime) in the hand of Edward Williams, he identified how editing (by an unknown compositor) has transformed words and phrases in Shelley’s original work, so as to affect the published texts we read today. This fascinating close discussion of the manuscript really emphasised the preciseness and importance of manuscript study, and alongside the consideration of digitisation elsewhere in the symposium, championed the necessity of examining manuscripts in person.

A joint presentation by Helen Stark and Beatrice Turner then discussed the possibility of a digital edition of Godwin’s ‘Essay on Sepulchres’. Helen Stark gave a preview of her upcoming project on the role of the grave, and literary representations of the grave. Beatrice Turner discussed her work on ‘inheriting Romanticism 1820-1850’, and considered how authors use writing to explore what it means to be a family. Eliza O’Brien then spoke on the connections between Godwin’s fiction and his biographical and historical work, e.g. how in novels like Caleb Williams he used ‘fictional enquiries’ to explore the state of the individual. Callum Fraser, a creative writing PhD student, completed this panel with a talk on the Godwin circle and their creative practices. He discussed why, as a writer, he personally identified with this group of talented individuals, and why the study of them continues to be important. The Godwin circle frame their literary identity as something larger than themselves, he said, and a crossover of interest in different genres, philosophical thought, authors and modes of creativity was again evident in all of the papers here.

Throughout the symposium there was considerable interest in the idea of the physical text, both in terms of the original manuscript, and also in relation to the potential for producing digital versions of texts. The paper that stood out for me was Michael Rossington’s discussion of the Shelley manuscripts. As a research student I am attempting to incorporate manuscript study in my own thesis on the works of Percy and Mary Shelley, and here was a renowned Shelley expert’s experience of encountering the real thing, and unearthing previously unnoticed aspects of a manuscript. This manuscript of Hellas was a typical Shelleyan copy – written by an amanuensis, with spaces left for Percy Shelley’s completions, and corrections in Shelley’s hand. However, Rossington’s research demonstrated how it was also a unique document that deserves further study. Rossington (with Will Bowers) has also been working on Hellas for the upcoming Longman edition of the complete poems of Shelley Vol V.

 

Part II: Literature Visiting Speaker Programme

After a wine reception, Elizabeth Denlinger gave a talk on the birth and early growth of the Shelley-Godwin Archive, which launched in 2013. At the archive now (http://shelleygodwinarchive.org) you can see the Frankenstein manuscript drafts, with transcriptions and a clear distinction between the hand of Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley (using the online tool you can easily toggle between what is Mary Shelley’s hand and what are Percy Shelley’s additions and corrections). Denlinger is the curator of the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle. She discussed the progress of the Shelley-Godwin archive as it moved towards the launch date, the obstacles they faced, and what is planned for its future. The Prometheus Unbound notebooks are the next selection of manuscripts to be digitised. This work on the Shelley-Godwin manuscripts is incredibly useful to scholars as the original Garland facsimiles of the Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts and the Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics are now expensive and difficult to obtain for libraries, let alone individuals.

Gregory Dart (Senior Lecturer at UCL and editor of the OUP collected works of Charles and Mary Lamb) gave the final, compelling paper on ‘Lamb, Godwin, and the Seventeenth Century 1795-1805’. Dart discussed Romantic friendships and considered how the Romantics were using Godwin in the late 1790s. He specifically discussed Rosamund Gray (1798) as being ‘like a Lyrical Ballad in prose’ and reflected on the purpose of Lamb’s Godwinian villain. Dart placed specific emphasis on the politics of friendship discussed in the letters of all young writers in the 1790s – and how this brought public issues into the private sphere.

The Godwins and the Shelleys were always attempting to explore their connections to other authors in writing, and thus their compositions function alongside an awareness of their contemporaries, precursors, and even the potential of their own legacies. The range and calibre of academic work presented at this symposium demonstrated a similar dynamic by which scholars engaged with each other’s work in order to build on their own knowledge, and it was a fantastic environment to be a part of.

Conference Report: Coleridge and Contemplation

coleridge-in-kyoto

It’s an exciting time for Romanticism in Japan at present, with last year’s excellent Romantic Connections conference being followed closely by Coleridge and Contemplation, which took place in Kyoto last month and for which BARS provided a donation in support.  Below, we present a detailed account of the proceedings; this was written, compiled and kindly provided by Philip Aherne (KCL), Emily Holman (Oxford), Jin Lu (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Dillon Struwig (York).  The schedule and other details of the conference can be viewed on its website, and there are plans afoot for a collection of essays developed from the papers which were given.

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Coleridge and Contemplation | Kyoto Notre Dame University | March 2015

This ambitious and successful conference gathered Coleridgean and contemplative scholars from all over the world in one of the most beautiful cities in Japan to discuss literature and philosophy, particularly in relation to Coleridge and the theme of contemplation. Thirty-four speakers presented lectures and shorter papers, eleven Guest Chairs added to that number, and a total of 107 people attended the three-day international colloquium.

The Romantic poet-philosopher S. T. Coleridge presents a unique opportunity for considering the relationship between these two different, but related, branches of the humanities. A range of topics were discussed, among them ethics, aesthetics, psychology, biblical criticism and the nature of philosophic practice. Needless to say, such intellectual diversity provided propitious ground for further contemplation from all the delegates.

 

Day 1: Friday 27th March

Professor Jim Mays, the renowned Coleridge scholar and editor, began the conference with a keynote lecture exploring Coleridge’s conception of contemplation in relation to the process of reading and interpreting poetry, with a focus on how Coleridge’s poetry can be seen as an attempt to work through as-yet-unarticulated emotional and intellectual problems.

In the second session, the question of contemplation was approached from three different perspectives. Jerry Chia-Je Weng considered the ways in which Coleridge’s play Osorio critically engages with the moral philosophy of Hartley and Godwin. Saeko Yoshikawa, a leading Japanese Romanticist, offered an analysis of the traces of Coleridge’s influence in the contemplative nature poetry of Edward Thomas. Emily Holman, drawing on thinkers from Newman to Maritain, advocated contemplation as a mode of knowing, in the context of F. R. Leavis’ writings on the relationship between emotion and thought in composing and interpreting poetry.

The third session, focused on Coleridge’s social, political, and ethical philosophy. Kaz Oishi, another prominent Japan-based Romanticist, offered a detailed history of the personal and intellectual relationship between Robert Owen and Coleridge, particularly with reference to their differences on economic theory, education, and the moral problems posed by child labour. Andy Hamilton considered the status of Coleridge as a conservative political and social theorist, setting Coleridge, with his balance of permanence and progression, in clearly defined relief against the political philosophies of Burke and J. S. Mill. Philip Aherne explored Coleridge’s influence on a range of nineteenth-century British philosophers and theologians.

In the final session, the theme of contemplation was again approached in a variety of ways. Yoshiko Fuji considered the textual and thematic relations between Coleridge’s mysterious ‘Woman in White’ in the multiple versions of his ‘Allegoric Vision’ and the poems Rime of the Ancient Mariner and ‘Christabel’. Jin Lu offered a new account of some of the subtle and relatively unexplored parallels between Keats’ and Coleridge’s views on poetry and philosophy, in the context of their conceptions of imagination, sense-perception, and aesthetic experience. The conference co-ordinator Peter Cheyne ended the day with an analysis of Coleridge’s ‘Order of the Mental Powers’ and how what Coleridge characterised as the higher mind subordinates the lower as it approaches contemplation through an active cognitive process that gives a role to passive associating and ‘mechanical’ forces in what Cheyne calls ‘the ordination of thought’.

 

Day 2: Saturday 28th March

Douglas Hedley opened the second day of the conference with a keynote lecture on Coleridge’s relationship to Plotinus and the tradition of Neoplatonic metaphysics and theology more broadly, considering the influence of this tradition on the different approaches to contemplation in medieval and modern Christian religious thought.

Christopher Kluz opened the second session with an analysis of the role of the notions of contemplation and virtue in Aristotle’s ethics, and the ways in which Spinoza attempts to engage critically and expand upon Aristotle’s core insights. Dillon Struwig offered an account of Plotinus’s theory of productive contemplation on Coleridge’s philosophy of geometry and constructive imagination. Lucas Scripter presented a critical overview of the limitations of contemporary Neo-Aristotelian Virtue Ethics, focusing on the lack of any detailed discussion of the nature and function of contemplation in many influential works in this field, particularly the writings of Alisdair MacIntyre and Philippa Foot.

In the third session, Coleridge’s views on contemplation were considered in relation to the traditions of both ancient and postmodern philosophy. For the ancient, Joseph O’Leary considered the historical and theological contexts of Coleridge’s critical responses to the thought of Plotinus, also discussing the relation of Coleridge’s views to the positions of his German theological and philosophical contemporaries, such as Schelling, Hegel, and Schleiermacher. David Vallins then offered an account of Coleridge’s views on politics, language, and society in relation to the long eighteenth-century economic theory and to Derrida’s deconstructionist theories of subjectivity and linguistic form.

The fourth session approached contemplation from a diverse range of intellectual and historical perspectives. Leesa Davis offered a critical overview of some of the limitations inherent in the conceptions of contemplation prevalent in the Western philosophical tradition, considering the possibilities for overcoming such limitations presented in the work of Bertrand Russell and others. Susan Warley discussed the relationship between the psychology of metaphor and the nature of sensory experience in Coleridge’s thought, placing it in the context of contemporary cognitive theory and philosophical analyses of metaphor. Fiona Tomkinson closed the session with an analysis of the role of Coleridgean literary allusions as plot devices in the novels of Iris Murdoch, considering also the influence of Coleridge’s poetry on Murdoch’s handling of the themes of contemplation and violence.

The day’s final session began with Matthew Sharpe’s consideration of Camus and Pierre Hadot as unique voices in twentieth-century French literature, with each exploring, in different ways, a form of philosophia as grounded in formative experience, and calling, insistently, for contemplation. Keren Mock investigated contemplation through Hebrew Scriptures as manifested in Spinoza’s translation of the Bible in Hebrew, and Coleridge’s linguistically grounded experience of contemplation through the act of translating the scriptural language. Finally, Noriko Naohara, in an Augustinian paper, considered the role of will in Coleridge’s faith and his understanding of justification, claiming that his definition of reason with regard to spiritual truths should be understood as informed by faith rather than critical epistemology.

 

Day 3: Palm Sunday, 29th March

The third and final day began with a subtle consideration of the implication of walking outdoors on modes of philosophical meditation by Professor David E. Cooper. After assessing a range of meditative behaviours that require movement, Cooper went on to consider a range of examples from, among others, Rousseau and Thoreau, before concluding that meditative walkers develop an integrated perspective of their place in the world.

This theme of the environmental implications of contemplation governed all the papers on the following panel. Ve-Yin Tee provided a political perspective on landscape contemplation, arguing that the urban elite, including, for example, Coleridge, have been distanced from the land, and that this led to a crisis of aesthetics; this was contrasted by James Woodhouse and his design of Leasowes Park, which was designed to induce reflection. Jonathan Parker discussed conflicting approaches to environmental aesthetics – one creative and the other governed by concepts – arguing that whilst they are arguably incommensurable, both have contemplative value and enhance an appreciation of the world. Lastly, the poet-scholar Eamonn Wall discussed how walking importantly provided Coleridge the appropriate conditions for deep contemplation alongside considering contemporary writers such as Tim Robinson and Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Mark Lussier began the third panel by considering the implications of Buddhist perspectives on mental operations alongside neuro-scientific theories of the mind that arose for Romanticism and analysed these in relation to Coleridge’s poetic practices. Setsuko Wake-Naota discussed the influence of Coleridge’s philosophical contemplation of Schelling and Wedgwood on his perception of Shakespeare’s genial psychological method in poetic creation. Coleridge’s spiritual, contemplative aesthetics was then brought to an interesting comparison with the Buddhist aesthetics of Japanese philosopher Kukai.

The discussion of Coleridge’s aesthetics extended to the next panel, from both contextual and textual angles. James Kirwan considered Coleridge’s critical attitude to eighteenth-century aesthetics by rethinking his criticism of Associationism, which Coleridge adapted for reasserting the transcendental aspect in the contemplation of beauty. Osmond Chien-Ming Chang explored Coleridge’s theory of polarity and magnetism along Todorovian lines in the enigmatic Christabel.  Masako Fujie placed Coleridge’s contemplative aesthetics in the context of his collaboration with Wordsworth in searching for a genuine ‘philosophical poem’.

The final session, in engaging and inspiring ways, developed the previous aesthetic focus to a grounded contemplation of Coleridge’s broader legacy in worlds West and East. Elaine Sponholtz explored an impressive parallel between the mythopoetic dreamworlds shown in Coleridge’s imaginary ‘Kubla Khan’ and William Bertram’s contemporary travelogue of Florida. Shifting the locality to twenty-first-century Fukushima, Jonathan Britten contemplated the significance of Coleridge’s poetry in providing emotional and intellectual metaphor and framework to understand modern environmental catastrophe. Mikako Nonaka’s talk, closing the conference, discussed Coleridge’s influence on Japanese late-Meiji Romantic poet Tokoku Kitamura, drawing a beautiful, fitting conclusion to the panel and the three-day intense, fruitful contemplation on poetry, philosophy, beauty and nature.

This was an engaging, lively, and successful conference that not only stimulated profound scholarly discussions on Coleridge, but also significantly enhanced local and international scholarly exchange for Humanities research in Japan.

 

Reports written and collated by:
Philip Aherne, Ph.D. (King’s College, London)
Emily Holman (D. Phil. cand., University of Oxford)
Jin Lu (Ph.D. cand., Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Dillon Struwig (Ph.D. cand., University of York)

 

Chawton House Library Fellowships

A reminder that the deadline for sending applications for Chawton House Library Visiting Fellowships this year is April 10th.  BARS is sponsoring a new two-month fellowship for a mid-career or senior scholar, but there are also a large number of other fellowships available.  The library has some great collections, so worth taking a look at the catalogue if you’re working in the areas which it covers.

CfP: Texts in Times of Conflict

BARS members might be interested in this year’s postgraduate conference at De Montfort University, Texts in Times of Conflict.  The Call for Papers is below and the organisers are actively seeking to include scholars with a wide range of interests and specialisms.

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Texts in Times of Conflict (8 September 2015)

Keynote speakers: Dr Natasha Alden (Aberystwyth University) and Prof. Ian Gadd (Bath Spa University).

Reflecting on the seismic cultural and political shifts of his own time, Francis Bacon pinpointed ‘printing, gunpowder, and the compass’ as the technological drivers which had ‘changed the appearance and state of the whole world’. Bacon’s identification of communicative (print), violent (gunpowder) and technological (compass) forms of cultural expression and exchange as world-shaping continues to resonate, shaping the production and interpretation of texts.

We welcome papers of between 15 and 20 minutes’ length on topics including but not limited to:

  • Textual and visual representations, interpretations of and responses to conflict
  • Adaptations which respond to past and/or present conflicts (including conflicts within academic disciplines)
  • Conflictual relationships between artistic, critical and intellectual movements
  • Processes and agents shaping the design, production, dissemination and consumption of texts
  • Theoretical and bibliographical methodologies
  • Intellectual conflicts surrounding the emergence of new media and technologies
  • Competing or contradictory representations of conflict through identical or different expressive forms
  • State involvement in the production, dissemination and consumption of texts in times of conflict
  • The evolution of media forms and their impact on conflict-based studies

Proposals of up to 250 words should be submitted online at https://gradcats.wordpress.com/call-for-papers/ by Friday 5 June. Alternatively, email them to gradcats@outlook.com.

Bursaries are available. See https://gradcats.wordpress.com/ for details.

This conference is jointly hosted by De Montfort’s Centre for Textual Studies and Centre for Adaptations.