News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Archive for October 2015

BARS: Seeking Expressions of Interest in hosting the biennial International Conference in 2019

(From Ian Haywood, the President of BARS, and the Executive).

The Executive of the British Association for Romantic Studies is now calling for expressions of interest from universities in hosting the biennial international conference in 2019. The BARS International Conference has a long history of successful four-day events designed to showcase new work by both eminent and new Romanticists from Britain and abroad in the field of Romantic studies. Past conferences have included ‘Romantic Imprints’ (Cardiff, 2015), ‘Romantic Imports and Exports’ (Southampton, 2013), ‘Enlightenment, Romanticism & Nation’ (Glasgow, 2011), ‘Romantic Circulations’ (Roehampton, 2009), ‘Emancipation, Liberation, Freedom’ (held jointly with NASSR, Bristol, 2007), ‘Romanticism’s Debateable Lands’ (Newcastle, 2005), ‘Romantic Conflict’ (Warwick , 2003), ‘Sustaining Romanticism’ (Liverpool , 2001), ‘Romantic Revelations’ (Keele, 1999), and ‘Romantic Generations’ (Leeds, 1997). The 15th International Conference, ‘Romanticism and Improvement’, will be held at the University of York in 2017.

Informal expressions of interest can be directed in the first instance to Professor Ian Haywood: Formal bids should be sent by Friday 18 December to Helen Stark at Applications will then be assessed by the Executive Committee and a decision announced in February 2016.

In preparing a bid, potential host institutions may find the desiderata below to be a useful resource. The very successful BARS 2015 conference in Cardiff may also be a helpful guide:

BARS International Biennial Conference Desiderata

Host institutions are expected to take account of the following in order to fulfill the requirements of the Association:

• Conference Topic
This should be of sufficient scope and significance to allow the majority of the Association’s members to take part (organizers will be catering for a group usually in excess of 100 and possibly exceeding 200). In the past, this has most often taken the form of a ‘catch-all’ topic such as ‘Romantic Generations’ (1997), ‘Romantic Revelations’ (1999), ‘Romantic Conflict’ (2003), ‘Romantic Circulations’ (2009), although other conjunctions or triangulations of topics such as ‘Emancipation, Liberation, Freedom’ (2007), and ‘Enlightenment, Romanticism and Nation’ (2011) are also possible.

• Timetable
The timetable for the conference is typically Thursday to Sunday in the second half of July, with the conference commencing on the afternoon of the first day and finishing at lunchtime or in the afternoon on the Sunday.

In fixing on a date, organizers should check which conferences are already scheduled for what is often a busy time in the calendar and liaise with conference and society chairs (such as NASSR, Wordsworth Conference etc) in order to avoid clashes wherever possible and facilitate attendance at all events.

The call for papers is usually made by October of the previous year (2018) and the outcome of the refereeing process confirming speakers is usually made by early in the conference year (2019).

• Vetting of Paper Proposals
It is usual for members of the BARS Executive to serve on the panel which referees the proposals for panel papers, though the Conference Committee usually reserves the final right of veto. (It is desirable that papers are refereed not only for the integrity of the event, but also to help delegates secure financial support from funding bodies and institutions.)

• Programme
We strongly encourage a structure based around themed and convened panels designed to showcase the best current work in Romanticism, though individual submissions are also welcomed. The programme usually comprises a series of parallel sessions consisting of panels where delegates deliver 20 minute papers. In addition, there are usually three or four plenary lectures, two of which are memorial lectures dedicated to Marilyn Butler and Stephen Copley. Plenaries are chosen by the organizing committee in consultation with the BARS Executive. Some British presence in the plenaries is considered desirable given that this is the national association, but the Association encourages a balance of male and female scholars both from within Britain and beyond. Sessions should also aim to provide opportunities for PGRS and Early Career Researchers by incorporating them on panels alongside more established academics. It is expected that the programme will also include workshops and specialist sessions aimed at PGRs and ECRs, as well as other research-related activities, readings, performances, exhibitions etc that reflect and enhance the conference theme and the host institution’s resources and facilities.

• Accommodation/Venue
We expect organizers to offer a range of accommodation from traditional student-type lodgings through to hotel level facilities. Sufficient cheaper accommodation to allow postgraduate participation is desirable.

The venue is expected to meet the usual requirements for facilities in academic meetings. It is desirable that the meeting rooms are in reasonably close proximity to each other and that there is a communal meeting area or foyer, preferably with refreshment facilities so that delegates can socialize and rendezvous. Catering should normally include lunch on Friday and Saturday, provision for dinner on Thursday and Friday, with the option of Sunday lunch depending on the programme.

• Banquet
It is customary to offer delegates the option of a banquet on the Saturday evening. Payment for this is in addition to the conference and other fees.

• Conference Excursion
It is usual to arrange an excursion with laid-on transport on the Saturday afternoon, to a venue with general relevance to the conference e.g. a museum, estate, birthplace, or gallery. This is usually an optional extra in terms of costings and a packed (brown-bag) lunch is provided for delegates.

• BARS General Meeting (BGM)
The conference organizers are required to find a central time (at least one hour) within the schedule to host the BGM.

• Cost
Organizers are asked to keep costs as low as possible without compromising the quality of the event. The Association is willing to support its international conference (subject to negotiation) but expects the event to at least break even; it is normal that any profits are shared equally between the host institution and BARS. Organisers are asked to provide a detailed budget ahead of the conference and a brief report afterwards.

• Liaison
Organizers need to maintain contact with the Association during the planning process. This is usually managed by the co-option of one of the Conference Committee onto the Executive. The host institution is expected to make a presentation at the 2017 conference at York.

Subversive Jane Austen: from the Critic to the Reader


Many thanks to Serena Baiesi for news of an international conference entitled ‘Subversive Jane Austen’ coming up at the Inter-University Center for the Study of Romanticism (CISR), based at the University of Bologna.  This will take place on November 6th; there’s more information above and below, and the full programme can be downloaded by clicking here.

Subversive Jane Austen: from the Critic to the Reader

Inter-University Centre for the Study of Romanticism (CISR)
Gemma – Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Women’s and Gender Studies
Dipartimento di Lingue, Letterature e Culture Moderne – University of Bologna

November 6, 2015

The Inter-University Centre for the Study of Romanticism (CISR) of the University of Bologna directed by Lilla Maria Crisafulli, has established itself as a major international teaching and research centre in the field of Romantic, women’s, and gender studies. Within the multifaceted research activity in this area a key role is played by the studies devoted to the work and critical reception of Jane Austen, on which two important conferences have been organised during the 2000s: Jane Austen, Now and Then (October 2002) and Unmasking Jane Austen. Gli studi austeniani oggi (March 2009). The CISR has also established an intense collaborative relationship with the Chawton House Library, the internationally renowned research center on women’s writing Women’s Writing in English 1600 to 1830 located in the historic residence of the Austen family. Our conference intends to promote the continuity and visibility of the tradition of Austen studies at the University of Bologna and to map the most recent and promising developments of this constantly developing research area. In particular, our one-day conference will focus on subversive critical readings, and on the popular reception of an author in Italy, who is at the same time a ‘classic’ of the English literary canon and an icon of post-modern mass culture.

The first section of the conference, coordinated by Serena Baiesi, will deal with Austen’s subversiveness as outlined by recent scholarship. The theme will be discussed by internationally renowned scholars such as Beatrice Battaglia (University of Bologna); Katie Halsey (University of Stirling), Gillian Dow (University of Southampton and Director of Chawton House Library), and Bharat Tandon (University of East Anglia).

The second section of the conference will focus on the Italian context, and during the afternoon we will be discussing the contribute that critics can give to the comprehension of the novelist’s cultural role in Italy with distinguished Italian Austen scholars such as Diego Saglia and Eleonora Capra (Parma), Marianna D’Ezio (Rome), and Massimiliano Morini (Urbino). New critical approaches require a revision of translation strategies, which have been so far inspired by an essentially conservative reading of Austen and are now encouraged to engage with the twofold and ambiguous language of a novelist who unmasks the hypocrisies of Georgian society with an ironic writing that is extremely difficult to translate and has been hidden to the Italian reading public for a long time. Moreover, this section will also reflect on the large work of re-mediation of Austen’s life and novels and on the dissemination of Jane Austen’s fame in popular culture, through an endless amount of adaptations, imitations, sequels, prequels, spin-offs, turning her into a global literary brand able to appeal to readers and spectators belonging to diverse social and cultural contexts. The discussion of the manifold ways in which Austen is constantly re-mediated and re-codified will involve scholars (Cristina Bragaglia), together with readers, bloggers and other Janeites in a concluding round-table coordinated by Carlotta Farese hosting, among others, the founders of the Jane Austen Society of Italy.

New number of The BARS Review

We’ve just published the autumn number of The BARS Review, containing thirty-five containing thirty-five reviews covering forty-three recent publications in the field of Romantic Studies, with a ‘Spotlight’ feature focusing on recent work in the field of Romanticism and Science.  The table of contents below provides a direct link to each of the reviews in html format; all the reviews are also available as downloadable pdfs and the complete number can be downloaded with a table of contents here (large file).  We hope that you enjoy all the contributions to this number, but if you do have any feedback or suggestions as to how the Review can be improved, we’d be glad to hear these either in the comments here or by email to the Editor, Dr Susan Valladares.

The BARS Review, No. 46 (Autumn 2015)

Table of Contents


John Bugg, Five Long Winters: The Trials of British Romanticism; Kenneth R. Johnston, Unusual Suspects; and Murray Pittock, Material Culture and Sedition, 1688–1760
   Elias Greig
David Simpson, Romanticism and the Question of the Stranger and Jane Stabler, The Artistry of Exile: Romantic and Victorian Writers in Italy
   Omar F. Miranda
Peter J. Kitson, Forging Romantic China: Sino-British Cultural Exchange 1760-1840 and David Vallins, Kaz Oishi and Seamus Perry, eds., Coleridge, Romanticism and the Orient: Cultural Negotiations
   Andrew Rudd
Elizabeth A. Bohls, Romantic Literature and Postcolonial Studies
   Kang-yen Chiu
Daniel E. White, From Little London to Little Bengal: Religion, Print and Modernity in Early British India
   Daniel S. Roberts
Cynthia Schoolar Williams, Hospitality and the Transatlantic Imagination, 1815-1835
   Evan Gottlieb
David Sergeant and Fiona Stafford, eds., Burns and Other Poets
   Vivien Estelle Williams
Evan Gottlieb, Walter Scott and Contemporary Theory
   Ainsley McIntosh
James Noggle, The Temporality of Taste in Eighteenth-Century British Writing and Ashley Chantler, Michael Davies and Philip Shaw, eds., Literature and Authenticity, 1780-1900
   Matthew Scott
Nancy Yousef, Romantic Intimacy
   Ashley Jenkins
Monika Class, Coleridge and Kantian Ideas in England, 1796-1817: Coleridge’s Responses to German Philosophy
   Philip Aherne
Lisa Feurzeig, Schubert’s Lieder and the Philosophy of Early German Romanticism
   Kristina Muxfeldt
Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, Clare’s Lyric: John Clare and Three Modern Poets
   Andrew Hodgson
Gavin Hopps, ed., Byron’s Ghosts: The Spectral, the Spiritual and the Supernatural
   Anna Camilleri
Mark Sandy, Romanticism, Memory, and Mourning
   Tim Chiou
Daniel Cook, Thomas Chatterton and Neglected Genius, 1760-1830
   Nick Groom
Jane Darcy, Melancholy and Literary Biography, 1640-1816
   Anita O’Connell
Michael Phillips, ed., William Blake. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
   David Fuller
Martin Blocksidge, The Banker Poet: The Rise and Fall of Samuel Rogers
   Charlotte May
Rachel Schulkins, Keats, Modesty, and Masturbation
  James Najarian
Barbara K. Seeber, Jane Austen and Animals
   James Castell
Mary Brunton, Self-Control, ed. Anthony Mandal and Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, In Search of Jane Austen: The Language of the Letters
   Katie Halsey
John Wiltshire, The Hidden Jane Austen
   Anne-Claire Michoux
Angela Escott, ‘The Celebrated Hannah Cowley’: Experiments in Dramatic Genre
   Kathleen James-Cavan
Allan I. Macinnes and Douglas J. Hamilton, eds., Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire
   Bob Harris
Mark Philp, Reforming Ideas in Britain: Politics and Language in the Shadow of the French Revolution 1789-1815
   Amanda Goodrich
Marisa Linton, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution
   Joseph Clarke
Julia Swindells and David Francis Taylor, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Georgian Theatre, 1737-1832
   David Kennerley
Patrick Spedding and Paul Watt, General eds.; Ed Cray, David Gregory and Derek B. Scott, Volume eds., Bawdy Songbooks of the Romantic Period
   Simon Kövesi

Spotlight: Romanticism and Science

Jon Klancher, Transfiguring the Arts and Sciences: Knowledge and Cultural Institutions in the Romantic Age and Roderick Tweedy, The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor, and the Myth of Creation
   Robert Mitchell
Martin Priestman, The Poetry of Erasmus Darwin: Enlightened Spaces, Romantic Times
   Trevor H. Levere
Warwick Mules, With Nature: Nature Philosophy as Poetics Through Schelling, Heidegger, Benjamin and Nancy
   Frederick Gregory
Robert Mitchell, Experimental Life: Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature
   Jan Golinski
David Ward, Coleridge and the Nature of Imagination: Evolution, Engagement with the World, and Poetry
   Jessica Roberts
Sharon Ruston, Creating Romanticism: Case Studies in the Literature, Science and Medicine of the 1790s and Carmen Casaliggi and Paul March-Russell, eds., Legacies of Romanticism: Literature, Culture, Aesthetics
   Edward Larrissy

Whole Number

The BARS Review No. 46 (Autumn 2015) – review compilation (.pdf)
   The BARS Review Editors

Archive Spotlight: New William Godwin Discovery

Dr Evert Jan van Leeuwen, of Leiden University, has written the following report for us on a new discovery he’s made in the Abinger Collection at the Bodleian.  We’re very happy to publish short notes like this relating to discoveries that might be of interest to the Romantic Studies community – if you’d be interested in contributing a piece on archival findings, please get in touch.

— — — —

Unknown Manuscript Note Identified in the William Godwin Papers of the Abinger Collection, at the Bodleian Library

In consulting the online catalogue of the Abinger Collection at the Bodleian Library, on Thursday 15 October 2015, I was able to identify the source of a piece of manuscript in William Godwin’s papers catalogued as “unknown.”  It concerns the following item, the pages of which can be viewed online here and here:

• Shelfmark: MS. Abinger c. 39
• Former shelfmark: Dep. b. 229/4(a)
• Fol(s).: 90r (and 90v)
• Document type: copy, in the hand of William Godwin, and Mary Jane Godwin
• Contents: ?Extract from an unknown work, beginning ‘The head is a house built for reason…’

The “unknown work” is The Guls Horne-Booke (1609) by Thomas Dekker, which Godwin read on the 5th and 6th of February 1813, according to William Godwin’s Diary.

Dr. B.C. Barker-Benfield, of the Department for Special Collections & Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, explains that “the leaf is transcribed in the hand of an amanuensis, probably Mary Jane Godwin, but with corrections certainly in William Godwin’s hand.”  It contains the extended “head is a house” metaphor from Chapter 3 of Dekker’s text (pp.14-15 of the 1609 text, available as a digital file via EEBO).  It is transcribed almost verbatim, with only minor differences in punctuation and a small phrase missing on fol. 90v that appears between “Frenchman” and “nor” in the 1609 text: “that pluckes up all by [y] rootes” (15).  Dr. Barker-Benfield points out that “the watermark of this leaf is the lower half of Britannia, a very common pattern, with no visible date.”

Dekker’s pamphlet is a burlesque of the conduct literature circulating in early seventeenth-century fashionable society.  One wonders what drew the aging philosopher to The Guls Horne-Booke.  Godwin’s young admirer Edward Bulwer Lytton would become famous for his satirical portraits of high-society beaux and belles; Godwin, by contrast, holds the reputation for being a serious (even gloomy) psychological and political novelist of purpose.

In 1817, Godwin published Mandeville, a Tale of the Seventeenth-Century in England.  Reading Dekker may have been part of his research towards writing this work of fiction.  What I am currently researching is to what extent Dekker’s extended “head is a house” metaphor functions as a governing literary motif in Mandeville.  The narrator-protagonist Charles Mandeville reflects at the outset that “it is…necessary that I should here describe the most remarkable features of [my uncle’s] residence” because “they insensibly incorporated themselves as it were with the substance of my mind; and my character, such as it was afterwards displayed, owed much of its peculiarity to the impressions I here received” (23).  Audley Mandeville’s coastal residence is a full-blown Gothic mansion “in a woful [sic] state of dilapidation” (24).  In the course of the novel, Charles Mandeville’s mind becomes as isolated and ruinous as his uncle’s home.  Godwin was clearly struck by Dekker’s extended “head is a house” metaphor and his appropriation of this figure of speech suggests that he was developing a Gothic motif that the American poet, critic and short-story writer Edgar Allan Poe (who read Mandeville) would perfect in “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839).  In this tale, the house and the mind of its proprietor are indeed one; they fall down together.

I will present a working paper on this thesis at the January 2016 British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference and plan to publish a finished essay in the course of the year.  I would like to thank Dr. Barker-Benfield for encouraging me to publish a note on the identification of Godwin’s transcription of Dekker’s text.  The online catalogue entry will shortly be corrected in the light of the identification.

Dr Evert Jan van Leeuwen
Leiden University, the Netherlands

On This Day in 1815: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Christabel’ and his letters to Lord Byron

S T Coleridge by George Dawe c.1811-1812 (Wordsworth Trust)

S T Coleridge by George Dawe c. 1811-1812 (Wordsworth Trust)

Exactly two hundred years ago today, on the 15th October 1815, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote to one of his sincere admirers. Coleridge was approaching his 43rd birthday, and had been through many personal trials and tribulations since the publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1798. The admirer was Lord Byron, who, following the success of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and his more recently published Eastern Tales (such as The Giaour and The Corsair) was securing his status as one of the eminent and respected poetic figures of his day.

This letter sparked the interchange that led to Byron expressing his admiration for Coleridge’s other-worldly and mysterious poem Christabel. With Byron’s support, the poem was eventually published in 1816. On the 15th October 1815 Coleridge writes of his dramatic compositions and his future ‘intentions of presenting three old plays adapted to the present stage’. This letter details his affection for Richard II (‘perhaps the most admirable of Shakespear’s historical plays’). He suggests that in his new rewritten version of the drama he will introduce a ‘new female character’, one of the faults of the original narrative being ‘the entire absence of female interest’. STC’s letter (which is characteristically rambling and yet charming) then goes on to muse on actors and actresses of the day, and he signs off: ‘Your Lordship’s obliged servant S. T. Coleridge’.

Byron’s reply on the 18th October instigates a discussion on Christabel, as yet unpublished, and still unfinished:

Last spring I saw Wr. Scott. He repeated to me a considerable portion of an unpublished poem of yours – the wildest and finest I ever heard in that kind of composition. The title he did not mention, but I think the heroine’s name was Geraldine. At all events, the ‘toothless mastiff bitch’ and the ‘witch Lady’, the description of the hall, the lamp suspended from the image, and more particularly of the girl herself as she went forth in the evening – all took a hold on my imagination which I never shall wish to shake off. I mention this, not for the sake of boring you with compliments, but as a prelude to the hope that this poem is or is to be in the volumes you are now about to publish. I do not know that even ‘Love’ or the ‘Antient Mariner’ [sic] are so impressive – and to me there are few things in our tongue beyond these two productions.

Coleridge replies:

            My Lord

The Christabel, which you have mentioned in so obliging a manner, was composed by me in the [year] 1797 – I should say, that the plan of the whole poem was formed and the first Book and half of the second were finished – and it was not till after my return from Germany in the year 1800 that I resumed it – and finished the second and a part of the third Book.

He then goes on to explain that ‘A Lady is now transcribing the Christabel’. The editor of Coleridge’s letters Earl Leslie Griggs has identified the lady as ‘probably Mrs. Morgan or Charlotte Brent’. However, the copy of Christabel sent to Byron was the one made by Sara Hutchinson, for whom Coleridge had expressed an unrequited love that caused pain and suffering for the poet and those close to him. Sara was the sister of Mary Hutchinson (Wordsworth’s wife). The idea of Coleridge sending off the transcript of the poem in her hand strikes me as a poignant recollection of Coleridge’s difficult personal life, at a time when Byron’s serious personal difficulties – including debt, scandal and a broken marriage – were just beginning. Coleridge goes on to mention Wordsworth (in 1808 Wordsworth had written a preface to the ‘White Doe’ acknowledging his indebtedness to Christabel) and muse on poetical form in this second letter.

Byron had not only praised Christabel but sent it to John Murray, asking him to publish it. Coleridge and Byron met in person on the 10th April 1816, where Byron again brought up the subject of Christabel and implored its author to publish it despite the work’s unfinished state. At this famous meeting Coleridge also recited ‘Kubla Khan’ to Lord Byron and another literary icon, Leigh Hunt, who was also present. Two days later Murray came to see Coleridge to arrange the publication of Christabel and ‘Kubla Khan’ along with ‘The Pains of Sleep’.

Christabel captured the imagination of those authors now known as the second-generation of Romantic poets: Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley would read the poem aloud one stormy night later that year (18th July 1816) at the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva. A crucial participant in this evening of ghost-tales and philosophical discussion was Mary Shelley, who within the same month would start to write the narrative that became Frankenstein.

…But the full story of that night is for another post, which may well feature on this blog in 2016!

From Christabel (Part I, lines 135-189)

So free from danger, free from fear,
They crossed the court: right glad they were.
And Christabel devoutly cried
To the lady by her side,
Praise we the Virgin all divine
Who hath rescued thee from thy distress!
Alas, alas! said Geraldine,
I cannot speak for weariness.
So free from danger, free from fear,
They crossed the court: right glad they were.

Outside her kennel, the mastiff old
Lay fast asleep, in moonshine cold.
The mastiff old did not awake,
Yet she an angry moan did make!
And what can ail the mastiff bitch?
Never till now she uttered yell
Beneath the eye of Christabel.
Perhaps it is the owlet’s scritch:
For what can ail the mastiff bitch?

They passed the hall, that echoes still,
Pass as lightly as you will!
The brands were flat, the brands were dying,
Amid their own white ashes lying;
But when the lady passed, there came
A tongue of light, a fit of flame;
And Christabel saw the lady’s eye,
And nothing else saw she thereby,
Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall,
Which hung in a murky old niche in the wall.
O softly tread, said Christabel,
My father seldom sleepeth well.

Sweet Christabel her feet doth bare,
And jealous of the listening air
They steal their way from stair to stair,
Now in glimmer, and now in gloom,
And now they pass the Baron’s room,
As still as death, with stifled breath!
And now have reached her chamber door;
And now doth Geraldine press down
The rushes of the chamber floor.

The moon shines dim in the open air,
And not a moonbeam enters here.
But they without its light can see
The chamber carved so curiously,
Carved with figures strange and sweet,
All made out of the carver’s brain,
For a lady’s chamber meet:
The lamp with twofold silver chain
Is fastened to an angel’s feet.

The silver lamp burns dead and dim;
But Christabel the lamp will trim.
She trimmed the lamp, and made it bright,
And left it swinging to and fro,
While Geraldine, in wretched plight,
Sank down upon the floor below.


Works Cited:

S T Coleridge, Collected Letters ed. by Earl Leslie Griggs Vol IV 1815-1819 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959) pp. 596-607.

S T Coleridge, Christabel in Coleridge: Poetical Works ed. by Ernest Hartley Coleridge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912 repr. 1974) pp. 220-222.

CfP: Romantic Voices, 1760-1840, the 2016 BARS Early Career and Postgraduate Conference

Please see below for the Call for Papers for our next Early Career and Postgraduate Conference, which will take place in Oxford next June.

— — — — —

Call for Papers

Romantic Voices, 1760-1840

The Early Career and Postgraduate Conference for the British Association for Romantic Studies

22nd – 23rd June 2016, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Oxford, in association with TORCH, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

Keynote Speakers:
Dr Freya Johnston (University of Oxford)
Professor Simon Kövesi (Oxford Brookes University)

‘The present is an age of talkers, and not of doers’ (William Hazlitt)

‘Thus did I dream o’er joys & lie / Muttering dream songs of poesy’ (John Clare)

‘Coleridge came to the door. I startled him with my voice’ (Dorothy Wordsworth)

‘[Mary Wollstonecraft] is alive and active, she argues and experiments, we hear her voice and trace her influence even now among the living’ (Virginia Woolf)

Although the meditative insights of the “Great Romantic Lyric” have often been considered to be the voice of Romanticism, this conference will also explore and uncover different types of voices in Romantic literature, ranging from the loud chatter emanating from coteries and coffee-houses, to the marginalised voices of the disabled and dispossessed. It will understand ‘voice’ from a variety of perspectives: as the sound of communication; as the oral and written word; as a mode that anticipates an audience, even if only that of an internal listener; as the fashioning of the self, and the forming of communal identities; as a tool for disseminating knowledge and political opinions publicly and privately. We invite proposals for themed panels, as well as proposals for the traditional individual twenty-minute paper. Applicants might reflect on some of the following areas, though we also encourage you to interpret the theme more widely:

  • The self-constructed image of the poet as Bard
  • The lyric form
  • Dissenting voices
  • The rise of the periodical press
  • Voicing national and regional identities
  • Disjunctions between the oral, written, and published word
  • The politics of conversation and debate
  • Forums of exchange – from intimate and close-knit communities to literary salons and public institutions
  • Literary inheritance – the interplay between first- and second-generation Romantics, the impact of eighteenth-century voices on Romanticism, and the afterlife of Romantic thought
  • Non-linguistic modes of communication, and their relation to aesthetics, sensibility, morality, and politics
  • Reform debates and the relationship between literary and political representation
  • Narrative voice

As well as the plenaries and panels, we aim to include seminars led by early career scholars on some of the following: political dissent, poetics, letter-writing, the periodical press, scientific voices. We also anticipate that delegates will have a rare opportunity to see some Romantic manuscripts from the Bodleian Library.

Please send abstracts of up to 750 words for themed three-person panels, including details of all proposed speakers, and 250 words for individual papers to: The deadline for abstracts is December 20th. We aim to notify successful speakers by the end of January 2016. More information will appear on the BARS Blog ( and website ( in due course.

Organisers: Honor Rieley (Oxford), Matthew Ward (St Andrews), Jennifer Wood (Oxford).

Five Questions: Susan Valladares on Staging the Peninsular War

Susan Valladares - Staging the Peninsular War

Susan Valladares is Junior Research Fellow and Lecturer in English Literature at Worcester College, Oxford.  Her work focuses on political history, gender, autobiographies, Romantic-period theatre and print culture, and she has published book chapters and articles on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Remorse; Wordsworth and the Convention of Cintra; Walter Scott’s Don Roderick; and Anne Lister and the Ladies of Llangollen.  She is also the editor of The BARS Review, the autumn number of which will be published shortly.  Her first monograph, Staging The Peninsular War: English Theatres 1807-1815, which we discuss below, was published by Ashgate last month.

1) How did you first become interested in representations of the Peninsular War?

When I first began researching the Peninsular War, I was often asked whether I was a fan of Sharpe.  But although I knew of the TV series by name, I had yet to watch an episode.  My interest in the war thus resists the memorable answer that Sean Bean and his fellow cast members might otherwise have provided.  I can trace it back, instead, to my time as a Masters student, when I found myself intrigued by the distance between the revolutionary 1790s and later Napoleonic period.  The war in Spain and Portugal – described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his Biographia Literaria (1817) as the war that ‘made us all once more Englishmen’ – seemed to offer an ideal starting point for my inquiry.  I soon decided, however, that it marked a point of arrival in its own right; that I was eager to delve deeper – to discover, among other things, how Napoleon’s opportunistic invasion of Portugal developed into a major struggle involving entire populations, and to understand why overwhelming public support for Britain’s military intervention in Spain and Portugal dissolved, in less than a year, into dangerous partisanship.

2) What were the principal ways in which the war changed the manners in which Spanish and Portuguese characters were presented on the stage?

For most of the eighteenth century, the stage Spaniard was more often than not a comic don, easily identifiable by his large whiskers and behavioural idiosyncrasies.  He invariably appeared in sixteenth-century dress, as did most Portuguese characters (which made it hard to distinguish the two nations, at least visually).  But the fact that Portugal was England’s oldest ally and Spain its inveterate enemy made a crucial difference.  Watching the Spanish don move across the stage in his breeches and slashed doublet helped ensure that Spain remained the national bugbear, firmly associated, in the popular imagination, with the Armada of 1588.  In May 1808 this image was unexpectedly and dramatically challenged by Napoleon’s attempt to install his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the Spanish throne; a manouevre that resulted in a series of popular uprisings against French rule.  Across the Spanish provinces, civilians took to the streets, often armed with nothing more than makeshift weapons.

Britain responded by entering into an alliance with Spain that would have made the English theatres’ damning portrayal of Spanish characters seem at odds with government policy.  Yet, although attempts were made to revise the anti-Spanish stereotype, any success was, at best, short-lived.  As the war progressed, the Anglo-Spanish alliance, which had been shaky from the outset, received fatal blows from reports of Spanish inefficiency, poor co-operation and political intrigue; reports, in short, that are likely to have convinced the war’s growing party of detractors that the negative depiction of the Spanish nation did not, in fact, need to undergo any significant re-writing.  At the same time, interestingly, the Irish soldier began to acquire a new presence on stage.  Approximately 28% of the British army in the Iberian Peninsula consisted of Irish recruits, which helps explain why so many of the Irish characters in the plays, entertainments and song arrangements of this period are celebrated for their patriotic spirit and physical hardiness.

3) How rigorous were the systems of state and establishment control regulating the different theatres during the war with France?

The Licensing Act of 1737 gave the patent theatres (Covent Garden and Drury Lane; the Haymarket, as of 1766; and the provincial Theatre Royals thereafter) a monopoly on the spoken word.  This resulted in a split between legitimate (i.e. patent) and illegitimate theatrical cultures (the latter being represented by minor theatres, such as Sadler’s Wells, where managers were confined to performances based on song, dance and spectacle).  The office of the Lord Chamberlain was made responsible for licensing all playhouses, and an Examiner of Plays appointed to censor any new or amended play script, which had to be submitted up to two weeks prior to an intended representation.  While politics and religion were deemed taboo subjects, the creativity of playwrights, managers, actors, and audiences ensured that the theatre remained a politically charged public space.

Allegorical readings of the nation’s drama allowed for political commentary to be carefully unpacked by knowing audiences, while plays also frequently took on topical meanings simply by virtue of their performance dates.  There were also advantages to be gained by a geographical distance from the centre of law-making: while a play such as King Lear was excised from the London theatres’ repertoires between 1810 and 1820 (the years of George III’s so-called ‘madness’), it continued to secure packed auditoriums in provincial Theatre Royals, such as that of Bristol, for example, where the role of Lear was performed to acclaim by the star actor John Philip Kemble.

4) To what extent were the advances and reversals of the Peninsular campaign subjects directly addressed on stage, and to what extent did they shape theatrical productions in less obvious ways?

In the Calendar that serves as an appendix to the book, I use bold font to help readers identify the plays and entertainments performed at the patent theatres between 1807 and 1815 that featured Iberian settings or characters.  Coleridge’s Remorse (1813) is a prime example; but even plays that lacked obvious references to Spain or Portugal could be seen to speak to Peninsular politics, as was the case, for instance, with the Shakespearean repertoire.  While censorship exerted undeniable pressure on what was available, the Peninsular War received direct address in several plays and entertainments.  Managers of the minor theatres openly competed to stage spectacular re-enactments of recent military victories.

In 1812 Charles Dibdin the Younger (the writer-manager of Sadler’s Wells) put on an impressive production called The Battle of Salamanca, boasting not only new music and scenery, but a carefully choreographed ‘bayonet charge’, which was performed by soldiers awaiting deployment.  It is important to underline, however, that the programme on offer at the minor theatres was not as straightforwardly triumphalist as this description might suggest.  As I argue in my book, by the early nineteenth century, English theatres provided spaces for military celebration and contestation.  On both the legitimate and illegitimate stages, it was a question of reading between the lines; of understanding how plays, both old and new, came to acquire urgent meanings during the war, as I argue through my detailed reading of Sheridan’s 1799 tragedy, Pizarro.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I continue to explore Anglo-Hispanic relations through my work for the ‘Anglo-Hispanic Horizons, 1780s-1840s’ network, which I helped set up in 2013.  This international, interdisciplinary research group sets itself the target of recovering Britain’s conflicted literary, political and visual constructions of Spain (and its empire) during the long nineteenth century.  We are currently working towards the publication of our first collection of essays, for which I am contributing a chapter that explores how the Peninsular War afforded new opportunities for British female novelists of the time, such as Anna Maria Porter, Susan Fraser, Augusta Amelia Stuart, and Mary Meeke.  I am also writing on James Gillray’s representations of Elizabeth Farren, the actress who was courted by and then married Edward Smith Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby; and working on my next book project, a study of the patent theatres’ eighteenth-century repertoires.