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Archive for January 2016

Conference Report: Rethinking Cultural Memory 1700-1850 – Helen-Frances Pilkington

[Many thanks to Helen-Frances Pilkington (Birkbeck, University of London) for this report on Rethinking Cultural Memory.  The conference programme can be viewed here. – Ed.]


Vor Frelsers Kirke

Vor Frelsers Kirke


Rethinking Cultural Memory 1700-1850 was held at Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen on 4th and 5th of December 2015. Under the auspices of the Nordic Association for Romantic Studies (NARS), the conference was organised by Robert Rix and Kasper Guldberg and provided wonderful demonstration of European (and wider) Romantic networks, both during the period and within current scholarship.

The schedule was arranged with four plenaries and six parallel panel sessions across the two days with somewhat ambitious 15 minute coffee breaks, which might not always have been adhered to. The conference also included an excursion to the Danish Royal Library and its Black Diamond extension on the river front for a wine reception on the first night.

‘Anamnesis: Romantic Recall’ was the first plenary by Joep Leerssen (University of Amsterdam), who heads up the Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms (SPIN). Arguing that memory is too static a concept, Leerssen focused on the rediscovery of the past which was being recalled into Romantic thought. Leerssen also highlighted the tension within Romanticism being its tendency to ignore the Renaissance and present Medievalism as their immediate precursor, a dis-continuum presented as a continuum.

After this slightly dizzying introduction, the first panel I attended was on “Monuments and Memorialisms” with Alexandre Bonafos (University of South Carolina), Miriam Strieder (University of Innsbruck) and Ana-Stanca Tabarasi-Hoffmann (Johannes-Gutenberg Universität Mainz). From picturesque views in France to clocks and megaliths in Germany, our speakers highlighted the importance of past objects and landscapes in the formation of identities and the remembering, or re-remembering, process involved in forming these identities.

Next up was the “Visual Arts” panel with Asya Rogova (St Petersburg State University) and Eveline Deneer (Université Paris I – Panthéon Sorbonne, Paris & Technische Universität, Berlin). Whilst Rogova focused on the visual-verbal relationships between Wordsworth and Haydon, Deneer reviewed the movement of images between different literary almanacs, showing the re-captioning and re-using of images between periodicals and across borders.

After lunch, I confess my brain was struggling having had three excellent sessions so I took advantage of the remaining daylight (sunset was 3:30pm) to explore a little more of Copenhagen:


Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum


Rundetaarn Observatory

Rundetaarn Observatory


We reconvened at the Black Diamond for a guided tour of the Danish Royal Library and an introduction to the special exhibition on our conference theme in relation to the collector, Count Otto Thott, who bequeathed a large number of incunabula and manuscripts to the Library on his death.


Black Diamond extension seen from the other side of the river

Black Diamond extension seen from the other side of the river


‘The Viewing Nation in the British Romantic Period’ was the second plenary by William St. Clair (University of London) and was hosted in the Black Diamond. Commencing by observing that only expensive or cheap editions, but not mid-range editions, had pictures, St. Clair argued that only political economy could explain this occurrence, rather than taste, technological changes or manufacturing costs. St. Clair noted that the use of roundels within cheap editions helped not only reduce costs but also presented a standard, classical view of these subjects. This meant that the imagined community of the nation was engaging with visual representations of imagined worlds from out-of-copyright authors. After this fascinating plenary, a well-deserved wine reception was held.

The next day commenced at 9am with the third plenary ‘The Finnish Art Society: Establishing a National Museum and a National Story of Art’ by Susanna Pettersson (Finnish National Gallery). Founded in 1846, the Finnish Art Society engaged with educating, exhibiting and collecting art. Pettersson demonstrated how the Finish Art Society shaped the art scene in Finland and visual representations of Finnish nationalism through its educational activities.

After refuelling with some coffee, the first panel on the Saturday was “Space” with Leena Eilittä (University of Tampere), Peter Henning (Lund University), Jennifer Wawrzinek (Freie Universität Berlin) and yours truly. Spanning nostalgic constructions of the past to spaces of eating in Keats’ poetry to De Quincey’s Suspiria de Profundis and astronomical networks within Europe, this panel presented very different approaches from the theoretical to the archival. Despite these differences, layering and the importance of networks were thematic links throughout.

After that, the next panel I attended was “Danish Art History” with Thor Mednick (University of Toledo, Ohio) and Gertrud Oelsner (Aarhus University). Sumptuously illustrated, both papers provided fascinating insights into the ways in which different areas of Denmark were perceived by the Danes themselves by way of paintings of the periphery as well as the construction of Danish national art.

After some of the spiciest pulled pork sandwiches many of us had eaten for quite some time, it was time for the third set of parallel panels. The “Music 2” panel of Ursula Rüger (University of Konstanz), Vivien E. Williams (University of Glasgow) and Oskar Cox Jensen (King’s College London) took us on a journey from a German music theorist in Copenhagen to the theorised origin of bagpipes (simultaneously Scandinavia and Rome) then to the loved/hated London ballad singer. Longing for a time past crossed all three papers, be it returning to Northern mythology, Ossianic mythology or the lamentable demise of the ballad singer, but all also engaged with the problematisation of that longing.

After a much-needed coffee break, we headed for our final plenary: ‘Habitats of Memory: Scott’s Materialism and Its Afterlives’ with Ann Rigney (Utrecht University). Synthesising many of the themes from the conference, Rigney examined Scott’s unpublished (in his lifetime) Reliquiae Trotcosienses, his own guide to Abbotsford and the way that this guide moved from a site of memory to a habitat of memory including the salvage of parts of demolished buildings and the disguising of the latest modern conveniences, mixing past and present. Rigney then moved to look at Loch Katrine, the location of Rob Roy and The Lady of the Lake, and argued that due to its ‘historic’ poetic nature, it could ‘cope’ with modern engineering (an aqueduct to bring water to Glasgow) being placed in it.

Thanks must go to the organisers for putting on such a fascinating conference and I hope that many of the papers presented will appear in the NARS journal, Romantik: Journal for the Study of Romanticisms.

Helen-Frances Pilkington (Birkbeck)

Five Questions: Amy Culley on British Women’s Life Writing

Amy Culley - British Women's Life Writing, 1760-1840

Amy Culley is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English and Journalism at the University of Lincoln.  She has particular interests in life writing, women’s writing and editorial practice, and has co-edited essay collections on all of these topics either published or forthcoming.  She has published articles and book chapters on topics including Sophia Baddeley, Elizabeth Fox, Lady Rachel Russell and court memoirs.  Her first monograph, British Women’s Life Writing, 1760-1840: Friendship, Community, and Collaboration, which we discuss below, was published in 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan.

1) How did you come to realise that you wanted to write a monograph on women’s life writing around the turn of the nineteenth century?

I became interested in Romantic autobiographies by Rousseau, Wordsworth, De Quincey and others as an undergraduate, but it wasn’t until I began thinking about possible PhD topics that I first considered working on women’s life writing.  The idea was sparked by browsing in indexes and bibliographies of women’s autobiographies during a visit to The Women’s Library.  I was struck by just how many women had written about their lives in the Romantic period and how many of these writers I had never heard of.  The book was based on the research of my PhD, during which time I discovered the pleasures of archival study, and the project expanded to include women’s lives written in manuscript as well as printed sources.  I was fortunate that after the PhD I became involved in other activities that broadened my perspective: running a conference on life writing at Lincoln in 2009 (with Rebecca Styler), editing four volumes of Women’s Court and Society Memoirs for the Chawton House Library series, and co-editing a collection of essays (with Daniel Cook) Women’s Life Writing, 1700-1850: Gender, Genre and Authorship (Palgrave, 2012).  These experiences returned me to the thesis with a greater awareness of its flaws and (more positively) with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for the book I was hoping to write.  My original aim was to write a critical history of women’s life writing focusing on the importance of personal relationships, communal affiliations, and creative collaborations in these often hybrid and indeterminate texts, and these ideas remained central to the project.  But stepping back and reading more widely in contemporary life writing theory and scholarship on female communities and family authorship in the eighteenth century and Romantic period enabled me to find new ways to approach these concerns.

2) Your book is divided into three parts, examining Methodists, courtesans and women writing during and about the French Revolution. How did the process of your research and reading lead you to choose these divisions?

This may seem an unlikely trio of ‘God, sex, and politics’, and at my viva we discussed how any one of these parts could have been the focus of a book-length study (a comment that has also been made by several of the book’s reviewers).  But addressing these diverse (net)works enabled me to challenge the association of autobiography with single authorship and personal feeling and instead establish its importance as an articulation of relationships and communal identities and as a contribution to the history of a family, community, or nation.

I began with an archive of spiritual writing by Methodist women preachers whose journals and diaries, autobiographies, transcribed oral testimonies, and letters provided rare insights into friendship and spiritual fellowship and demonstrated the importance of collaboration, in contrast to the traditional association of spiritual autobiography with individualism.  Writing about the self enabled these women to explore family relationships and spiritual belonging, as well as to challenge Methodist historiography by providing a collective history of women’s preaching for the nineteenth century.  Next I addressed the life writing of courtesans whose literary experiments moved well beyond the scandalous memoir to explore themes of friendship, rivalry, maternity, marriage, and their complex identifications with the aristocratic woman of fashion.  This section, in contrast to Part I, enabled me to discuss print culture and the influence of readers, publishers, and ghost-writers on these women’s self-representations.  In the final part of the book I wanted to show how women’s life writing contributed to political and historical debates through attention to the life writing of British women travellers during the French Revolution, addressing both the writing of radical supporters of the Girondins and counterrevolutionary texts.

To create these divisions some parts of the original thesis were removed (the Quakers sadly didn’t make the cut) and some writers were added (which resulted in a very enjoyable summer in the company of courtesan Harriette Wilson).  In grouping these authors I followed the self-identifications and priorities of their life writing, but I was also aware of the instabilities of these categories and the intriguing overlaps and potential distortions created by my approach.  For instance, the courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott (discussed in Part III) shared lovers and column inches with Mary Robinson and Elizabeth Fox (discussed in Part II) and exploited the self-vindicatory strategies of the scandalous memoir, but in her Journal she defines herself exclusively in relation to events in revolutionary France.  Conversely, Mary Robinson is an important respondent to the French Revolution and a member of the radical intelligentsia, but her Memoirs (discussed in Part II) provides few traces of these connections.

3) To what extent do you see the women you examine as seeking to carve out new kinds of life writing distinct from those produced by their male peers?

I focused on women writers in particular to demonstrate their rich contribution to the culture and practice of self-narration in the period and to offer new perspectives on female communities and collaborations through the lens of life writing.  Gender shapes women’s relationships to autobiographical traditions and frames the reception of their works, but I make no claims for a distinct female tradition or poetics of life writing.  The women I consider often wrote in relation to prominent male life writers, particularly John Wesley, James Boswell, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and William Godwin and reading them in dialogue with these authors creates new webs of interpretation.  For instance, the recovery of life writing by unfamiliar figures like Methodists Mary Fletcher, Sarah Ryan, and Mary Tooth places an established author like Wesley in new contexts, while Godwin’s Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman is enriched by considering it alongside the life writing of Mary Hays and Mary Robinson.  The spiritual autobiography and scandalous memoir are familiar categories of women’s life writing, but I wanted to show the diversity and hybridity of these forms and to consider auto/biographical contributions to political and historical writing as women used personal narratives to shape the collective memories of the age.  I was also interested in connections in women’s life writing across traditional literary periods; how do experiments with semi-autobiographical fiction by Romantic women relate to the playful experiments with amatory fiction, secret histories, scandalous memoirs, and the sentimental novel of an earlier era, or uses of the roman à clef in the Regency?  Many of these questions about gender and genre are in need of further investigation, particularly women writers’ contributions to biography and the place of manuscript culture and collaborative and collective authorship in histories of women’s life writing.

4) Of the writers your book examines, whose works would you particularly recommend to scholars seeking to increase their knowledge of the field, and which works do you think would provide the most opportunities for fruitful interchanges if included on undergraduate and/or postgraduate programs?

Studies of female authorship in the Romantic period are no longer dominated by the novel, poetry, and drama and, happily, women’s life writing has been receiving considerable attention of late.  Mary Robinson’s Memoirs, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and Helen Maria Williams’ Letters Written in France (the most well known of the works I discussed) are now firmly established on English programs and I’ve greatly enjoyed teaching them.  But access to affordable scholarly editions of life writing remains a significant challenge and quite a few of my sources were manuscript journals running to multiple volumes written over many years.  That said, if an affordable edition was available, I would love to teach The Memoirs of Mrs. Sophia Baddeley (1787), the history of a friendship between the actress and courtesan Sophia Baddeley and her companion and biographer Elizabeth Steele that is punctuated by cross-dressing, bed swapping, and duels.  It illuminates topics such as the lives of actresses, the literature of sentiment and satire, and the scandalous memoir, and it would provide an interesting counterpoint to Boswell’s Life of Johnson (published four years later) or Hester Thrale’s Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson (published the year before).  Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s Journal of my Life during the French Revolution is another intriguing text which deserves to be better known, particularly by readers interested in women writers and the French Revolution, aristocratic authorship, and counterrevolutionary narratives.  Elliott was courtesan to the pro-revolutionary Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans and sought to defend her reputation from the taint of regicide by writing a personal history of the French Revolution on her return to England around 1801.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I’m still very interested in life writing.  Thanks to a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant I’m in archives working on women writers who lived from the mid-eighteenth century to the early Victorian period to see how they narrate experiences of old age in their journals and letters.  I’m hoping that personal accounts of ageing and old age written by women in the early nineteenth century will be the topic of my next book.  At the moment I’m focusing on the exchanges between Mary Berry and Joanna Baillie in late life for a collection on Romantic women’s literary networks.  My earlier interests in textual editing have resulted in a co-edited volume (with Anna Fitzer) Editing Women’s Writing, 1670-1840 that will be out this year with Routledge and I’m really enjoying working collaboratively on this.  When it’s done, I’ll be researching a book chapter on women writers’ contributions to early literary biography.

On This Day in 1816: Introducing ‘The Year Without a Summer’ Part I

We are very pleased to welcome Eleanor Fitzsimons (winner of the 2013 Keats-Shelley Prize and author of Wilde’s Women) to the BARS blog. This post, part of the ‘On This Day’ series, presents Part I of her essay ‘Every Cloud: How Art and Literature Benefited from a Year Without Summer’. Eleanor’s essay looks at 1816 as the year of no summer and examines the impact that catastrophic weather patterns had on the work of writers and painters such as Turner, Austen and the Shelleys. Part II is to follow.

We think you’ll all agree that this is a great way to introduce 1816 in 2016, a year in which we will be celebrating the bicentenaries of many important Romantic events. If you want to contribute to the ‘On This Day’ series with a post on literary/historical events in 1816, please contact Anna Mercer ( 



JMW Turner. Weathercote Cave, near Ingleton, when half-filled with Water and the Entrance Impassable, a watercolour. British Museum

JMW Turner. Weathercote Cave, near Ingleton, when half-filled with Water and the Entrance Impassable, a watercolour. British Museum

Often, an artist must go to great lengths to get the aspect he desires. In 1808, English Romantic landscape painter Joseph Mallord William Turner scrambled to the bottom of Weathercote Cave, a misnamed pothole situated close to the hamlet of Chapel-le-Dale in North Yorkshire. On reaching a plateau, thirty-three meters below ground level, he unpacked his kit and produced a characteristically vibrant watercolor that captured the wild torrent of water as it tumbled from a cavity situated two-thirds up before terminating in a violent whirlpool at the base of towering rocks. Barely discernible at the foot of the canvas is a tiny figure that appears to represent the artist himself. Turner’s somewhat dramatized representation, which he presented to his great friend and patron Walter Fawkes, is titled simply Weathercote Cave, Yorkshire and can be seen in Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery.

Turner loved to paint the Northern English landscape and experimented with dramatic light and weather effects in his compositions. In recognition of his deep appreciation for the untamed beauty of the region, Longman & Co. commissioned him to produce one-hundred-and-twenty watercolours for incorporation into an illustrated history of Yorkshire, the accompanying text to be supplied by the Reverend Dr. Thomas Dunham Whitaker, the highly respected author of a well-received series of scholarly histories. Although artist and author had worked together on Whitaker’s The History of Whalley (1801) and his The History of Craven (1812), this would be by far their most ambitious collaboration and Turner’s fee of three thousand guineas was the highest paid to a British artist at the time.

On July 12, 1816, Turner left London and travelled north to Farnley Hall near Otley, the home of Walter Fawkes, who was to accompany him on this lucrative tour. Regrettably, the undertaking proved to be far from pleasurable. Although the entire Fawkes family set out with the artist on a series of excursions to local beauty spots, the company disbanded at the end of a week of almost constant rain that culminated in a thorough soaking as they traversed the moors that led to the towering cliffs of Gordale Scar. In order to complete the sketches that would form the basis of his finished watercolours, Turner had no option but to negotiate his way around the vast county of Yorkshire, a distance of more than five hundred miles, alone on horseback in torrential rain. At some point, a capricious wind must have snatched his little sketchbook from his hands, since one page is coated in mud to this day. As he went, he recorded how his progress was hampered by the frightful weather that blighted the summer of 1816: ‘Weather miserably wet. I shall be web-footed like a drake…but I must proceed northwards. Adieu’, he lamented in a letter to watercolorist James Holworthy, dated July 31, 1816

Turner returned to Weathercote cave that summer with the intention of sketching it for inclusion in his book, but days of incessant rain had left it submerged and completely inaccessible; ‘Weathercote full’, he scribbled on the pencil study he made that day. His finished painting, the cumbersomely titled Weathercote Cave, near Ingleton, when half-filled with Water and the Entrance Impassable, a watercolour, is on view in the British Museum; this time the perspective is from above. Days later, the route Turner followed took him across the treacherous Lancaster Sands, a low tide shortcut that intersected Morecombe Bay and was particularly dangerous after heavy rainfall. As he went, he sketched a sodden band of horsemen huddling together in the lee of the Lancaster coach while ferocious rain crashed down from an angry sky. His dramatic Lancaster Sands is housed in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

JMW Turner. Lancaster Sands. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

JMW Turner. Lancaster Sands. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

After all his efforts, Turner must have been disappointed when spiralling costs ensured that the project was scaled down significantly and just one of the proposed seven volumes was published. He had been desperately unfortunate in his timing. The apocalyptic weather that blighted the summer of 1816 was truly exceptional and had its origins in an event that occurred fifteen months earlier and many thousands of miles from England. On the evening of April 10, 1815, the tiny island of Sumbawa in the Indonesian archipelago was rocked when Mount Tambora, the highest mountain in the region and a volcano that was long believed to be extinct, produced its largest eruption for ten thousand years. The outcome was catastrophic. Eyewitness accounts describe how the summit disintegrated, leaving behind a crater measuring three miles wide and half a mile deep. Horrified locals watched open-mouthed as three towering columns of rock-laden fire shot thirty miles skywards and a pyrocastic flow of incandescent ash surged down the mountainside at a speed of in excess of one hundred miles an hour, scouring everything in its path. On reaching the coast, twenty-five miles from its point of origin, this boiling mass cascaded into the sea, destroying aquatic life for miles and forming vast platforms of pumice that blockaded vital ports and inlets.

Ten times the quantity of debris that had buried Pompeii two millennia earlier rained down on Sumbawa and its neighboring islands during what remains to this day the largest recorded eruption in history. On Sumbawa, the cool air that was sucked into the vacuum left by the inexorable rise of superheated air formed a ferocious whirlwind that moved across the ravaged landscape, destroying everything before it. The tiny villages of Tambora and Sanggar, which had clung safely to the slopes of Mount Tambora for generations, were wiped out entirely and an estimated ten thousand people died in an instant. Fresh water sources were contaminated and crops withered in the fields, resulting in the death by starvation of a further eighty thousand inhabitants of the region. For days, the archipelago was battered by towering tsunamis and such was the extent of the devastation and loss of life that the indigenous Tambora language was eradicated forever.

On the northern shore of Eastern Java, three hundred miles away, residents of the city of Surabaya reported that the ground shook beneath their feet. On hearing a series of thunderous roars, startled inhabitants of the island of Sumatra, which lay one thousand miles northwest of Sumbawa, concluded that they had come under attack from some deadly enemy force, although they couldn’t be sure if it were human or supernatural. Within days, the entire region was enveloped in an ash cloud so fine that tiny particles suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere blocked adequate sunlight from filtering through. The entire East Indies, as the region was known, was plunged into an oppressive and unnatural darkness. Within three months an aerosol cloud of sulphide gas compounds had encircled the Earth from pole to pole. Volcanic dust entered the high stratosphere, supplementing debris deposited there by two earlier volcanic eruptions: La Soufrière on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent in 1812, and Mount Mayon on the island of Luzon in the Philippines in 1814. Although he had not witnessed the spectacular eruption of La Soufrière, Turner had painted it, basing his vivid oil painting on a sketch made by Hugh Perry Keane, a barrister and sugar plantation owner who was present that day. Keane wrote an account of the eruption in his diary:

Thurs 30: … in the afternoon the roaring of the mountain increased & at 7 o’clock the Flames burst forth, and the dreadful Eruption began. All night watching it – between 2 & 5 o’clock in the morning, showers of Stones & Earthquakes threatened our immediate Destruction …Wed 6 May: … The Volcano again blazed away from 7 till ½ past 8. Thurs 7: Rose at 7. Drawing the eruption.

Turner’s painting, The Eruption of the Soufrière Mountains in the Island of St Vincent, 1815, can be viewed at the Victoria Gallery and Museum in Liverpool.

JMW Turner. The Eruption of the Soufrière Mountains in the Island of St Vincent, 1815. Victoria Gallery and Museum, Liverpool

JMW Turner. The Eruption of the Soufrière Mountains in the Island of St Vincent, 1815. Victoria Gallery and Museum, Liverpool

All this volcanic activity had a disastrous impact on the weather, and nowhere on Earth escaped the consequences of this latest cataclysm. Across the globe, average temperatures plummeted by five degrees Fahrenheit as weather patterns were thrown into absolute chaos. In time, 1816 would be dubbed ‘the year without summer’. In Asia, unseasonably cold weather coupled with unprecedented early monsoons caused catastrophic floods that destroyed the rice crop and wiped out valuable livestock. Famine gripped China, killing many thousands of her citizens, while India was devastated by a cholera epidemic that swept through the subcontinent. In North America, accumulating snow was observed in the Catskill Mountains as late as June 1816, and it snowed on Independence Day in the southern state of Virginia.

Unprecedented quantities of weirdly-hued, ash-laden snow fell all over Europe and it was still snowing in London as late as July 1816. By the following September, the Thames had frozen and abnormally large hailstones were flattening the wheat and barley crops as they ripened in the fields. In neighboring Ireland, eight weeks of incessant rain resulted in the failure of both the potato crop and the corn harvest, triggering a widespread famine that provided a foretaste of what was to come three decades later. Starvation was followed inexorably by disease. Typhus erupted throughout the British Isles before fanning outwards across Europe and killing tens of thousands of her citizens.


(To be continued…)


About the author: 

Eleanor Fitzsimons is a researcher, writer and journalist specialising in historical and current feminist issues. She has an MA in Women, Gender and Society from University College Dublin. In 2013, she won the Keats-Shelley Essay Prize with her essay ‘The Shelleys in Ireland’ and she is a contributor to the Romanticism Blog. Her work has been published in a range of newspapers and journals including The Irish Times, the Guardian, History Ireland and History Today. She is a regular radio and television contributor. Her book, Wilde’s Women: How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped by the Women He Knew was published by Duckworth Overlook on 16 October 2015. She tweets as @EleanorFitz.

CfP: Encountering Malta III: Literature and the Sea 1750-1850

Please see below for a Call for Papers for a nautically-focused conference happening in Malta this March.  The deadline for submissions is a couple of weeks away (January 22nd).

Encountering Malta III
Literature and the Sea 1750-1850

An International Conference
hosted by the Department of English, University of Malta,
and the School of English, University of St Andrews
Valletta, Malta, Saturday 12 to Sunday 13 March 2016

Call for Papers

Located at the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta has been a destination for writers and travellers since ancient times and particularly so during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Count Cagliostro visited Malta in 1762 and 1766, and, twenty years later, Goethe planned a visit. Sir Richard Colt Hoare, antiquarian and collector, was in Malta in 1790-1, Thorvaldsen, Danish sculptor, in 1796, and Napoleon arrived for a few days in 1798. Samuel Taylor Coleridge made Malta his home in 1804-6, Lord Byron called during 1809, followed by Lady Hester Stanhope in 1812. Gabriele Rossetti stayed for three years from 1821. John Hookham Frere, diplomat and author, settled in Malta in 1828 and was visited by Sir Walter Scott. Disraeli arrived in 1830, John Davy (brother of the famous chemist) followed, as did Lamartine in 1832, Newman in 1832-3, and Prosper Mérimée and Hans Christian Andersen in 1841.

Focusing on the period 1750-1850, Literature and the Sea will be held in the elegant buildings of the Old University in Valletta. Twenty-minute papers on any aspects of the conference theme will be welcome. Papers on writers who actually visited Malta are welcome, but this is not an exclusive requirement. Please e-mail a 200-word paper proposal to Dr Maria Frendo and Professor Nicholas Roe at Your paper proposal should be in the form of a Word file attached to an e-mail message. Please ensure that you include your name, professional affiliation and e-mail contact. Deadline for paper proposals is 22 January 2016; acceptances will be confirmed by 31 January at the latest.

Papers on literatures other than English are welcome, but must be delivered in English. It is hoped that some of the papers may be published.

Confirmed speakers to date include Ivan Callus, Maria Frendo, Michael Raiger, Nicholas Roe, Matthew Scott, Peter Vassallo.

The ‘early bird’ Conference registration fee is set at 115 euros until Monday 8 February 2016, payable in advance to the University of Malta. After 8 February 2016 the rate for registration will rise to 135 euros (registration closes on the 26 February). Accommodation has been arranged at local hotels, at special conference rates. For all conference information, including registration and accommodation, please go to our website at

Travel: Air Malta, British Airways, Ryanair and Easy Jet fly to Malta all year round from various European locations. Lufthansa, Alitalia and KLM also route to Malta, and Emirates has a direct flight from Dubai.

Enquiries may be e-mailed to Dr Maria Frendo at the University of Malta at or to Professor Nicholas Roe, School of English, University of St Andrews at Paper proposals should be sent to

Conference coordinators are:
Professor Ivan Callus (University of Malta), Dr. James Corby (University of Malta), Dr. Maria Frendo (University of Malta), Professor Nicholas Roe (University of St Andrews), Professor Peter Vassallo (University of Malta).

But the sea, Jack, the sea
John Keats