News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Archive for September 2016

CFP: The Shelley Conference, Friday 15th September 2017, London

Please see below (and the website) for a Call for Papers for a conference on the work on Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, to be held in London next year.


CFP: The Shelley Conference 2017

Date: Friday 15th September 2017 (9.30am to 5pm, to be followed by a wine reception)

Location: Institute for English Studies, London

Keynote speakers: Prof. Nora Crook (Anglia Ruskin University), Prof. Michael O’Neill (Durham University)

A presentation will also be given by the editors of The Longman Shelley (Kelvin Everest, Michael Rossington, Jack Donovan and Will Bowers) on progress towards completion of the edition, and future plans.

* * *

This one-day conference, held at the Institute for English Studies in central London, and supported by the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, University of York, celebrates the writings of two major authors from the Romantic Period: Percy Bysshe Shelley (PBS) and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (MWS).

A continuing scholarly fascination with all things ‘Shelley’ is due in part to the unprecedented access we now have to their texts (in annotated scholarly editions) and manuscripts (presented in facsimile and transcript). The Shelleys’ works are more readily available than ever before. Michael Rossington, when discussing the task of editing PBS, emphasises the complexity of the poet’s afterlife, especially in comparison to other Romantic authors:

It will have taken nearly 200 years from his death for complete scholarly editions of his oeuvre to emerge. The absence of such fundamental resources has been, and remains, to student and non-specialist alike, a cause of puzzlement, if not consternation, especially since complete works of other Romantic poets are available in more than one modern scholarly edition.[1]

Similarly, the lack of an annual or even frequent conference dedicated to PBS (comparable to those that exist for other Romantic writers) has prompted the decision to organise this event for 2017. Excitingly it is now, in the first part of the 21st century, that the most detailed comprehensive editions of PBS’s works are in production (The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley ed. Donald Reiman, Neil Fraistat and Nora Crook is already well advanced, with Vol VII published soon, and The Poems of Shelley ed. Kelvin Everest, G. M. Matthews, Michael Rossington and Jack Donovan is nearing completion).[2]

Previous conferences at Gregynog in 1978, 1980, and 1992 and the Percy Shelley Bicentennial Conference in New York in 1992 have provided a wonderful legacy for future Shelleyan academics, and it is in the spirit of these events that we will present The Shelley Conference 2017. We include MWS in this new conference, as she also does not have her own regular academic event. However, the recent conference ‘Beyond Frankenstein’s Shadow’ (Nancy, France, 2016) focused specifically on MWS, and the emphasis placed on her work at the ‘Summer of 1816’ conference (Sheffield, 2016) indicated that her role on the main stage of Romanticism is increasingly appreciated.

It is for these reasons that the ‘Shelley’ of the conference title is left ambiguous. The Shelleys are increasingly seen as a collaborative literary partnership, and modern criticism reinforces the importance of reading their works in parallel. The nuances of this, however, are far from simple, and this statement does not imply there is anything like a sense of either consistent ‘unity’ or ‘conflict’ when considering the Shelleys’ literary relationship. This is the kind of issue which will be explored at The Shelley Conference 2017.

The conference organisers request abstracts of 200 words for 20-minute papers, sent to before 1st April 2017. Papers can be on any aspect of the work of PBS or MWS (or both). The conference particularly welcomes papers that consider the task of editing Shelley, and/or examination of the manuscripts of PBS and MWS. Other topics can include, but are not limited to:

  • Works by PBS or MWS written or published in 1817 (e.g. the jointly authored History of a Six Weeks’ Tour including ‘Mont Blanc’)
  • Shelleyan philosophy
  • PBS’s lyrics/lyric art
  • MWS’s posthumous editing of PBS
  • PBS’s prose works
  • MWS’s novels after Frankenstein
  • The 1816 Geneva Summer
  • The Shelleys & place (Italy, London…)
  • The Shelleys’ influences
  • The critical history of the Shelleys
  • The Shelleys’ translations
  • The Shelleys and genre
  • The collaboration of PBS and MWS
  • Literary communities: Shelley and his circle


Event Organisers:

Anna Mercer (PhD candidate, University of York),
Harrie Neal (PhD candidate, University of York),

Advisory Board: 

Prof. Kelvin Everest (University of Liverpool)
Prof. Michael Rossington (Newcastle University)



[1] Michael Rossington, ‘Editing Shelley’ in The Oxford Handbook to Percy Bysshe Shelley ed. Michael O’Neill, Anthony Howe and Madeleine Callaghan (Oxford: OUP, 2013) p. 645.

[2] The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley ed. Donald Reiman, Neil Fraistat and Nora Crook (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. 3 vols to date. 2000, 2004, 2012) and The Poems of Shelley ed. Kelvin Everest, G. M. Matthews, Michael Rossington and Jack Donovan (London: Longman. 4 vols to date. 1989, 2000, 2011, 2013).

Mary Shelley’s Works and their European Reception – Université de Lorraine, Nancy, Friday September 30th

Please see below for details of a workshop on the European reception of Mary Shelley taking place this Friday in Nancy.  Many thanks to Antonella Braida for bringing this to our attention.
Project : ‘Anglophone/European Identity(ies): Cross-Cultural and Cross-Border Dynamics’, (IDEA)(TELL)
Université de Lorraine, Nancy
Mary Shelley’s Works and their
European Reception II:
Workshop in Honour of Jean de Palacio

Friday 30 September 2016

Campus Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Nancy

Bâtiment A, salle A 005


14.00 Antonella Braida, Université de Lorraine. 

Introduction : Mary Shelley and interdisciplinarity today.

14.15 – 15.15 Monsieur le Professeur Jean de Palacio, La Sorbonne.
Jean de Palacio will discuss the research that he undertook on Mary Shelley and her circle. His volume Mary Shelley dans son œuvre is remarkable since it was one of the first European publications on Mary Shelley and for its in-depth use of the manuscripts that were housed by Lord Abinger. His talk will illustrate his own comparative and interdisciplinary approach, which emphasized the European inspiration and breadth of Mary Shelley’s works. 

15.15   Professor Michael Rossington, Newcastle University.

Michael Rossington, in his role as general editor of the final two volume of the Longman Shelley, will underline the importance of Jean de Palacio’s research on British Romanticism. His analysis will focus on Jean de Palacio’s contribution to European scholarship in editing Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s works.

16.00 Professor Emeritus Nora Crook, Anglia Ruskin University.

Nora Crook is general editor of Mary Shelley’s works for the publisher Pickering and Chatto, and currently a general editor for Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry for Johns Hopkins. Her talk will focus on Jean De Palacio’s contribution to our critical understanding of Mary Shelley as, among other things, historical novelist, reviewer, poet, and life writer, and his work on attribution.

Questions and discussion on the creation of a European research network devoted to scholarship on Mary Shelley.

Organiser and contact :


CfP: Sanditon: 200 Years

Please see below for a Call for Papers from Anne Toner for a conference to celebrate the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s Sanditon.

‘Sanditon: 200 Years’ is a conference that will take place at Trinity College, Cambridge from March 29-31, 2017. The conference will mark the bicentenary of the composition of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, Sanditon, in a year that also marks the bicentenary of Austen’s death. Austen began to write Sanditon in January of 1817. The manuscript closes with the date of March 18. Austen died four months later.

The manuscript of Sanditon is held at King’s College, Cambridge and will be available for participants in the conference to view, along with items from the Dorothy Warren and David Gilson Jane Austen collections, also held at at King’s. To coincide with the conference, Austen exhibitions will take place at the University Library, Cambridge and the English Faculty, Cambridge University.

Proposals for twenty-minute papers on any topic relating to Sanditon are invited. The conference warmly encourages a diverse range of approaches to the work, including papers that are thematic, stylistic, biographical, socio-historical, or in any way more broadly contextual or comparative in their focus. The manuscript of Sanditon will be a subject of particular interest and we welcome papers that address subjects relating to Austen’s composition practices; revisions; the material text; manuscript culture; the fragment; posthumous publication. Papers addressing the reception and later textual history of Sanditon—its editions, completions, and adaptations —are also very welcome.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Linda Bree (Cambridge University Press)
  • Emma Clery (University of Southampton)
  • Claudia L. Johnson (Princeton University)
  • Michelle Levy (Simon Fraser University)
  • Peter Sabor (McGill University)
  • Kathryn Sutherland (University of Oxford)
  • Clara Tuite (University of Melbourne)

Please send proposals of about 300 words to: by Friday November 11, 2016.

For further details, see the conference website:

Conference organizer: Dr Anne Toner (Trinity College, Cambridge)

Romantic Antiquarianism: A Conference Celebrating Scott’s The Antiquary, 26th November 2016

Romantic Antiquarianism

Fiona Robertson and Peter N. Lindfield have organised a one-day conference at the headquarters of the Georgian Group in London to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Antiquary by examining at the multi-faceted nature of antiquarianism in Georgian Britain; this will take place on Saturday November 26th 2016.  The full line-up and registration details can be found here.

Conference Report: Part II of the Coleridge Summer Conference 2016

Report from the 15th Coleridge Summer Conference (Part II)

Thank you to Jonatan González (@jonatangonzg) for this report from the Coleridge Summer Conference in Bristol. Jonatan is a first-year PhD student at the University of La Rioja researching Anglo-Spanish literary relations and the reception of British Romantic poetry in continental Europe. His thesis examines the afterlife of William Wordsworth in nineteenth and twentieth-century Spain. Part I of the report can be found here

On Wednesday the conference moved to Goldney Hall, recently featured, as many delegates were quick to point out, in the BBC series Sherlock as the venue for the wedding of John Watson and Mary Morstan. Though no crimes took place here on this occasion, the new location did entail a change in the pace of the conference, with no parallel sessions taking place that morning, and a gala dinner awaiting for us in the evening at Goldney Hall’s own orangery. Jessica Fay opened up the first panel with a top-notch discussion of Sir George Beaumont’s illustrations to The White Doe of Rylstone and the 1815 collected edition of Wordsworth’s poems, arguing that Beaumont provided something more than illustration and that Wordsworth’s poetic responses to his paintings constituted, in turn, a form of ekphrasis. This was followed by Jeff Strabone’s thorough study of Coleridge’s, Southey’s, and William Taylor’s 1790s writings in dactylic hexameter; and Jennifer Jones and her remarkable examination of Wordsworth’s musicality and metrical innovation in his translations of Chaucer, began in the winter of 1801, though revised and published over the course of his lifetime.

In the next panel Kim Wheatley offered an exploration of the extent to which questioning the substantiality of rocks in British Gothic fiction and Romantic poetry is compatible with ecocritical approaches. This was followed by Tom Clucas’s engaging paper on the ways in which Coleridge’s experiences of collaborative publishing in Cambridge and Bristol prior to Lyrical Ballads helped to shape his subsequent expectations of the conversational nature of multiple authorship. Julia Carlson closed the session with a riveting discussion of the poetic configurations of tactility as a mode of knowledge, comparing Thomas Blacklock’s configuration of tactile maps to the formation of mapping and tactility in Wordsworth’s “The Blind Highland Boy” and Coleridge’s poetics of tact in Omniana, Biographia Literaria, and his Notebooks.


Jeffrey Cox

Jeffrey Cox


Julia Carlson

Julia Carlson


A short coffee break and a stroll through the grounds of Goldney Hall were followed by the second keynote speaker of the Coleridge Summer Conference, Jeffrey Cox. His remarkable lecture, “Thinking Rivers: The Flow of Influence, Wordsworth-Coleridge-Shelley”, took on the view of the later poetry of the Lake poets as responding to the so-called “second generation” of romantics, tracking the flow of influence through a series of river poems, including Coleridge’s “Hymn Before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni”, Wordsworth’s The River Duddon, and Shelley’s “Mont Blanc”.

Such an intellectually stimulating morning gave way for a more relaxed afternoon. We were treated to a visit to the site of Thomas Beddoes’s and Humphrey Davy’s infamous Pneumatic Institution, an exciting boat trip around Bristol, as well as an on-board book launch, which prompted several puns that Coleridge himself would have been proud of, including “a book launch on a launch” and “the boat that launched a thousand books”. Following the gala dinner and a poetry reading featuring a considerable number of delegates and a wide spectrum of poems, a group of Coleridgeans opted for an improvised post-banquet cider tasting in The Coronation Tap, and some late-night star gazing back in the grounds of Will’s Hall.


Delegates at the Pneumatic Institution

Delegates at the Pneumatic Institution


Coleridgeans at The Coronation Tap

Coleridgeans at The Coronation Tap


With Thursday came a return to Will’s Hall and the format of parallel sessions. An intense morning packed with papers, it featured, on the one hand, Dometa Brothers’s and Lance Sacknoff’s thorough examination of the influence of Coleridge’s philosophy and poetry upon William Rowan Hamilton’s revolutionary ideas on the approach of algebra as a discipline; followed by Aimee Barbeau’s paper on Coleridge’s and Benedict Anderson’s versions of nationality, grounded on a comprehensive study of Biographia Literaria and On the Constitution of the Church and State. Edmund Downey opened up the other parallel panel with a terrific discussion, grounded on new archival findings of a number of Coleridge’s early poems originally published in reformist publications in the light of the wider context of the 1790s political poetics and the popular press. This set the mood for Katy Beavers’s fantastic paper on the poetical responses to the evils of the Slave Trade in the works of Coleridge, Southey, Hannah More and Anna Barbauld.

The next parallel sessions of the morning featured, firstly, Philip Aherne and a fabulous close reading of James Marsh’s 1829 American edition of Aids to Reflection, published with his accompanying “Preliminary Essay”, and Rev. John McVickar’s 1839 “rival” edition, containing a new “Preliminary Essay” that deliberately supplanted Marsh; followed by Timothy Whelan’s in-depth analysis of the friendship between Coleridge and Joseph Hughes. The panel closed with Lisa Lappin’s stimulating take on the sexual ambivalence of the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. In the other panel, Ali Al Saffar offered a discussion of how Coleridge’s early “pathological dilemma” yielded the unique creative imagination and philosophical depth ascribed to him in the present day; followed by Jacob Risinger’s remarkable examination of the origins and far-reaching implications of Coleridge’s strange position within the studies on Romantic Stoicism; and closed by Peter Cheyne’s enthralling reading of Coleridge’s water-insect as an analogy that depicts the mind both relaxing on the stream of association, and resisting it with foresight, thereby emphasizing the willed dynamic between passivity and action.

In the next session, Adam Walker brought to life Coleridge’s “The Lover’s Resolution” with an examination of its narrative form through three interconnected approaches dealing with the multilayered topographies of the poem; whereas Catherine Ross focused on the remarkable productivity of the Romantics by exploring the ways in which they were taught in school and university to think and work. This was followed by the last keynote speaker of the conference, Margaret Russet. Her extraordinary lecture, “A Vision in a Dream-Machine: ‘Kubla Khan’, Xanadu and Hypertopia”, explored the Coleridgeanism of the Xanadu Project, the first-ever hypertext project, founded in 1960 by Ted Nelson, arguing that it is best understood as the vision of a perfected – hence impossible – literary history.

Thursday’s social programme featured a walk through Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and Durham Down, once again led by the brilliant and knowledgeable Robin Jarvis. Delegates were able to get some exercise done in this lovely part of Bristol, while getting to know more about the connections of these places with the Coleridge and Southey circle. The last full day of the conference finished with delegates having a late night at the pub, where the intellectual discussion gave way to more informal conversations, pool and foosball battles. Some Coleridgeans even pushed the limits of networking further, once again, with some late-night star gazing back in the college grounds in a pure Romantic style.


Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve

Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve


Deven Parker, Daniel Larson, and Grace Rexroth

Deven Parker, Daniel Larson, and Grace Rexroth


Though the conference drew to end on Friday afternoon, that morning was still crammed with thought-provoking papers. The first parallel session opened with an introduction by Kerri Andrews and Sarah Crofton to the impressive work completed so far in their current research project, the editing of Hannah More’s 2,000 surviving letters, and a discussion of how their content might inflect our understanding of Coleridge as a Bristol writer in the 1790s; followed by Emma Povall and her remarkable use of the letters and diaries of William Godwin and Coleridge to question whether the latter’s close reading of Godwin’s second novel, St Leon, helped to renew and bring about a time of intimacy to their friendship. In the other parallel panel Jacob Lloyd offered an in-depth discussion of Coleridge’s pantheistic expressions being the result of an attempt to synthesise his reading of Ralph Cudworth with Joseph Priestley’s ideas; followed by Linda R. Reesman’s proposal to expand on critical interpretations of Coleridge’s literary theory and poetic style drawing from an anthropological study on the liminality of a tribal African society.

Delegates then had to chose between Gabriel Cervantes’s comprehensive paper on Coleridge’s critical assessments of Daniel Defoe’s fiction and the particular versions of the Defoe canon he and his contemporaries inherited; and Travis Chi Wing Lau’s thorough analysis of the Pneumatic Institution’s scientific writings alongside the works of Southey and Coleridge to explore how the concept of immunization became radicalized during the Romantic period. In the next session, Ramazan Saral offered a close reading of Coleridge’s “Limbo” and “Time, Real and Imaginary” in relation to his idea of space and time reflecting the alteration between reality and dreams; whereas Emily B. Stanback remarkably delved into the key features of Tom Wedgwood’s metaphysics by exploring his thoughts on the origins of love, sympathy, and vanity. Though not generally considered by scholars of British Romanticism, in a true romantic style Wedgwood did seek to trace the feelings and tendencies of adults to their experiences in childhood. The discussion that ensued paved the way for the final paper of the conference, delivered by Dahlia Porter, and focused on Tom Wedgwood as well, with an eye towards the way in which his experiments with perception influenced Coleridge’s own practice of minute observation and self-experimentation.


Dahlia Porter

Dahlia Porter


Will’s Hall, University of Bristol

Will’s Hall, University of Bristol

After lunch it was time to say goodbye to friends old and new, and everyone departed Will’s Hall, many to begin their summer holidays, whereas others were fearless enough to join on Monday the Wordsworth Summer Conference in the Lake District, thus making it three consecutive weeks of conferencing. That, however, is a different story.

The academic director of the Coleridge Summer Conference, Tim Fulford, and the members of the organizing committee, Kerri Andrews, Michael Gamer, and Joanna Taylor, are to be congratulated and thanked for putting together this impressive five-day conference characterised by the high calibre of papers and the intellectually stimulating discussions that ensued, as well as by a superb balance of scholarly work and a Romantic-related social programme. This is a biannual event, so it will be back in Bristol in two years’ time, though to make the wait more bearable, in April 2017 Tim Fulford and Dahlia Porter will host/organise a Southey conference that is likely to attract a similar crowd of Romanticists.

Conference Report: Part I of the Coleridge Summer Conference 2016

Report from the 15th Coleridge Summer Conference (Part I)

Thank you to Jonatan González (@jonatangonzg) for this engaging account of the 2016 Coleridge Summer Conference. Jonatan is a first-year PhD student at the University of La Rioja researching Anglo-Spanish literary relations and the reception of British Romantic poetry in continental Europe. His thesis examines the afterlife of William Wordsworth in nineteenth and twentieth-century Spain. 

This part of Jonatan’s report covers the first two days of the conference. 

Hosted by the Friends of Coleridge (@FriendsofSTC) at Will’s Hall, University of Bristol, and held from the 1st to the 5th of August 2016, the 15th edition of the biennial Coleridge Summer Conference aimed at bringing together cutting-edge research on the literature of Coleridge’s circle in Bristol and beyond. A tightly scheduled week that boasted fifty-three papers distributed over twenty-six panels and three keynote lectures, it made for an engaging, inspiring and friendly conference that bears witness to the fact that Coleridgeans are a warm and welcoming breed amongst Romanticists.


15th Coleridge Summer Conference

15th Coleridge Summer Conference


Will’s Hall, University of Bristol

Will’s Hall, University of Bristol


Following a special welcome address by the Academic Director of the conference, Tim Fulford, the first panel kicked off to a superb start. Focused on Coleridge’s symbolic imagination, it featured two absorbing papers by Michael Raigner and R. D. Hedley, which made for an engaging discussion about the impact of the Coleridgean concepts of imagination and symbol in the Romantic era. After that, the conference split in parallel sessions, with delegates having to choose, firstly, between Stuart Andrews’s comprehensive examination of the representations of the Duke of Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo in the poetry, prose and correspondence of Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth; and Kiran Toor’s discussion of the coincidences between the damned voyage of Jean-Baptiste Chappe d’Auteroche in 1769 following the transit of Venus, and Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

The closing parallel sessions of the day included, on the one hand, Grace Rexroth’s close work on the influence of James Beattie’s writings on “artificial memory” upon Wordsworth’s practice of associating poetry with architectural space, mediated through Coleridge’s readings of the former; Gregory Leadbetter’s remarkable paper on the connections between Thomas McFarland and Coleridge’s thinking on education as the cultivation of the mind; and Tom Duggett’s thorough consideration of the links between Coleridge’s On the Constitution of the Church and State and the historical fiction of Walter Scott and Ann Radcliffe. The other final panel of the day featured Joanna Taylor’s superb discussion of the use of grammatical symbols in Coleridge’s private correspondence concerning his infamous climb down Broad Stand on August 1802 to illustrate how, for the poet, the body’s reactions to and impact on the landscape have the potential to alter his imaginative responses to it; Kimberly Page-Jones and her fascinating examination of melancholia in Coleridge’s 1803 autumnal fragments written after a nightmarish 263-mile Scottish walk; and Robin Jarvis’s remarkable account of Coleridge’s and Wordsworth’s adventuresome Rhine Tour of 1828 as an example of the persistence of their wanderlust in old age.

After a brief coffee break came Peter Manning’s engaging first keynote lecture of the conference, “Edward Irving: Coleridge, Sign, and Symbol”, which kept all delegates glued to their seats with an excellent examination of the Scottish’s clergyman’s gain of influence over Coleridge and his loss of it over the course of the years. The programme for the first day closed with an official reception sponsored by the University of Bristol Centre for Victorian and Romantic Studies, followed by dinner in the college’s premises, and the first of many nights spent at Will’s Hall pub.


Tom Duggett

Tom Duggett


Peter Manning

Peter Manning


After a hearty English breakfast on Tuesday morning, the conference crew had to make the choice between heading to the Conference Hall for Brandon Chao-Chi Yen’s examination of the iconographical presence of trees in the poetry of Coleridge, Hannah Dow’s close reading of Dorothy Wordsworth’s later journals in relation to Modernist poetry, and Bethan Roberts’s enthralling exploration of the relationship between poetry, science and the environment, literary and natural history, manifest in Coleridge’s “The Nightingale”; or going to the Lounge of Will’s Hall for Monica Bushling’s paper on the theme of guilty love in “The Pains of Sleep” and Christabel, Daniel Laron’s thorough engagement with Coleridge’s 1798 fragment “The Wanderings of Cain” to uncover the relations between burial practices and state power in early-nineteenth century England, and Paul Cheshire’s paper on the connection between William Gilbert’s The Hurricane: a Theosophical Western Eclogue and Thomas Taylor’s Dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries.

With the discussion of the second parallel sessions of the morning this conference report becomes slightly biased, as the first panel featured my own paper, which engaged with the afterlife of the Coleridge persona in the nineteenth-century Spanish press. Also presenting were Adam Neikirk, giving a study of Coleridge’s 1796 Poems on Various Subjects, and Deven Parker explaining her remarkable work on the way in which early nineteenth-century live drama performances and mechanical stage technologies shaped the writing and production of Coleridge’s 1813 Remorse. The other parallel panel opened with a discussion of Coleridge’s deployment of the sublime in On the Constitution of the Church and State in charge of Murray J. Evans, followed by Sharon Tai’s on the development of Coleridge’s philosophical theology in the comprehensive paper light of the changes he made over the years in the various versions of ‘Religious Musings’, ‘The Eolian Harp’, and ‘This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison’; and Jane Bolin’s close work on the way in which repetition and reflection worked for and against the endings of “Kubla Khan” and Christabel.

The following parallel sessions featured Anastasia Stelse’s careful reading of Dorothy Wordsworth’s use of aural qualities in her journals as denoting more poetic qualities than her standard verse poetry, followed by Sue Edney’s consideration of William Barnes’s poetry as an application of a Romantic linguistic philosophy to the Victorian cultural and social dilemmas. Anna Mercer opened up the other panel with a terrific examination of the complex nuances that feature in the poetical dialogue between Coleridge and his daughter Sara, focusing on the conversation poems as well as on “Poppies” and “Edith Asleep”, thereby illustrating how though tackling similar themes, Sara’s poetry is marked by her unique perspective and tone. This paved the way for Jeffrey Barbeau’s absorbing account of Sara Coleridge’s usually-forgotten daughter Bertha Fanny Coleridge. His paper argued that a recovery of little-known manuscripts describing her life and death contributes to a fuller understanding of Sara’s obsession with baptism and spiritual regeneration in the final decade of her life.

Following such an intense morning of scholarly work, a chilled out afternoon awaited us Coleridgeans. The social programme featured a Romantic walk around Bristol, led by the wonderful authority on Romantic pedestrianism Robin Jarvis, and the knowledgeable Stuart Andrews, who made us travel back in time and feel as if we were actually walking alongside Coleridge and Southey. Some highlights included visits to the Georgian House Museum, Thomas Chatterton’s House, as well as the former site of Joseph Cottle’s bookshop on the corner of High Street and Corn Street, one of the most important literary landmarks that any Romanticist could think of. The city walk culminated with a visit to the impressive St Mary Redcliffe, where we were granted access to the Muniment Room where Chatterton found, so he said, the manuscripts of the Thomas Rowley poems. The second day of the conference was over, and we all went back to Will’s Hall for dinner, and another evening of networking at the college pub.


Robin Jarvis

Robin Jarvis


Joseph Cottle’s bookshop

Joseph Cottle’s bookshop


Part II will appear on the blog next week.


CfP: Robert Southey and Romantic-era literature, culture and science: 1797, 1817, 2017 – A Bicentennial Conference

Please see below for a Call for Papers for next year’s Robert Southey conference in Bristol.

Robert Southey and Romantic-era literature, culture and science: 1797, 1817, 2017 – A Bicentennial Conference

The Clifton Club, Clifton, Bristol 11-13 April 2017

In the 1790s, an extraordinary confluence of poets, scientists, publishers and political campaigners came together in Bristol. An important port city and center for the slave trade, Bristol became a hub for a radical coterie of writers whose work and conversations bridged nascent divisions between humanistic and scientific concerns. By 1817, many of these same writers—including Humphry Davy, Robert Southey, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge—had emerged as establishment figures calling for radical journalists to be imprisoned and laboring-class inventors to be prosecuted. This bicentennial conference focuses on the transformation of Bristol’s radical writers, doctors, and experimentalists in the aftermath of changes that transformed the city, most importantly the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, and the formation of the Bristol Philosophical and Literary Institution in 1817. The conference will explore several linked concerns: How does our perspective on Romanticism shift when we take Bristol as an evolving center for Romantic scientific and literary culture? What does the 1797-1817 frame reveal about the changing relations between poetry and science, and between both and politics? What questions does the twenty-year trajectory of Southey, Davy, Coleridge and their circle pose for Romanticists in 2017?

Confirmed keynotes include:

Ian Packer and Lynda Pratt, editors of Southey’s Collected Letters, on “Southey in context, 1816-18”

Frank James, editor of Faraday’s Collected Letters, on “Davy of the Pneumatic Institution and Davy of the Royal Society in 1817”

We envisage days of intense discussion in the Regency rooms of the Clifton Club and evenings of relaxed conviviality in the many bars that surround it.

The conference fee – to include dinner in the stunning surroundings of the Clifton Lido – will be ca. £100-120. Five bursaries of £100 each are available for graduate students/independent scholars.

Proposals for 20 minute papers, of no more than half a page, are welcomed on all aspects of Southey and the Bristol circle and its legacy – including, for instance, Thomas Beddoes, Erasmus Darwin, the Edgeworths, Joanna Baillie, Hannah More, William Godwin, Francis Jeffrey, Leigh Hunt, Mary Robinson, Robert Lovell, Joseph Priestley, William Taylor, William Hazlitt, William Wollaston, William Wordsworth; slavery and abolition, medicine, chemistry, experimentalism, political writing, travel and exploration.

Send your proposal by email to by 10 November. Be sure to write ‘Southey conference’ in the subject line and your name and email at the top of the proposal. If you’d like to be considered for a bursary, say this at the head of your proposal.

The conference is organised by Tim Fulford and Dahlia Porter. It is supported by the Friends of Coleridge, De Montfort University, and the University of Glasgow.

Five Questions: Andrew McInnes on Mary Wollstonecraft’s Ghost

Andrew McInnes - Mary Wollstonecraft's Ghost

Andrew McInnes is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Edge Hill University.  His work focuses on Romantic-period women’s writing across a wide range of modes and genres; he has published articles and book chapters on authors including Amelia Opie, Mary Hays, Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Dacre and Jane Austen.  At the centre of his research, though, is Mary Wollstonecraft, who takes a starring role in his first monograph, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Ghost: The Fate of the Female Philosopher in the Romantic Period, which was recently published by Routledge and which we discuss below.

1) How did you first become interested in the figure of the female philosopher?

I first became interested in the figure of the female philosopher whilst researching Mary Hays, Mary Wollstonecraft’s friend and sometime protégée, who received both praise and censure as a female philosopher, especially after the publication of her radical novel, Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796).  Hays drew on Wollstonecraft’s example throughout her writing career, developing her own philosophy about the importance of balancing reason and passion by synthesizing aspects of Wollstonecraft’s feminism with William Godwin’s political philosophy in her own idiosyncratic manner.  Reviews of Hays’ work positioned her as a female philosopher in the mould of Wollstonecraft.  Wollstonecraft herself sends Hays a teasing note after the publication of Emma Courtney, warning her that she has been ‘stygmatized as a Philosophess – a Godwinian’ by the Barbaulds.  I became really interested in both women’s wariness about the term – that emphasis on stigma – when critics at the time and after have been happy to label them ‘female philosophers’.

2) To what extent do you see the female philosopher in the Romantic period as being synonymous with Mary Wollstonecraft, and to what extent is she ‘always already partly figurative’, as you contend in your introduction?

Mary Wollstonecraft is celebrated today as the female philosopher of the Romantic period, but I’m convinced that she refused to use the term in relation to herself throughout her writing career.  In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, for example, she prefers the gender neutral ‘philosopher’ and sympathetic reviewers like William Enfield followed her lead by avoiding the term.  After her death, counter-revolutionary writers, led by the Anti-Jacobin Review, positively delighted in labelling her as a female philosopher and in attacking the term and through it, Wollstonecraft’s life and writing.  Women writers seeking to engage with Wollstonecraft’s work had to disentangle her from the figure of the female philosopher, treated as an oxymoron in the conservative press.

Throughout the eighteenth century, the term ‘female philosopher’ shifts from referring to real women such as Elizabeths Carter and Montagu, and others in the Bluestocking circle, to representing an avatar of thinking womanhood, embodying Enlightenment ideals of the progress of civilization.  Shadowing this celebratory version of the figure is a negative vision of the female philosopher, representing male anxieties about domineering, highly sexed, politically and religiously heterodox women.  By the 1790s, this divided figure – both Enlightenment avatar and reactionary nightmare – splits further in revolutionary and counter-revolutionary discourse, with Anti-Jacobin writers adopting the figure as a term of abuse, explaining Hays and Wollstonecraft’s hesitancy in using the term in relation to themselves.  So, ‘female philosopher’ is used to refer to real women but, at the same time, accrues a set of mostly literary conventions associated with reason, reading, political engagement, and sexuality.  As a literary critic, I am fascinated by how the female philosopher as literary archetype gets used by women writers before and after Wollstonecraft’s death in order to think about the thinking woman.

3) What do you see as being the main gender-specific lines of attack directed at female philosophers in the period?

Counter-revolutionary reviewers of works by Hays, Wollstonecraft, and others poured scorn on the term ‘female philosopher’ itself, questioning the ability of women to think philosophically (or, sometimes, at all) and representing female philosophy as rote-learned pedantry.  These attacks mask gender-specific anxieties about women engaging in political debate, which was increasingly viewed as stepping outside of their private, domestic sphere, and female sexuality.  In my introduction, I engage with Jürgen Habermas’ work on the eighteenth-century public sphere (split between literary and political aspects but imagined as one and indivisible) to argue that women were able to access the literary side of the public sphere, especially by writing novels, but when their work started to encroach on political discourse they triggered anxieties in male readers and reviewers.  In France, female philosophers were linked to the philosopher whore in French pornography – which you can see reflected in the Anti-Jacobin Review’s notorious decision to index Wollstonecraft under Prostitute in their first volume.  Wollstonecraft also leads Rev. Richard Polwhele’s crew of ‘unsex’d females’ in his similarly infamous poem, viewing Wollstonecraft, Hays, and others as both disconcertingly unfeminine and dangerously sexy.

4) How do you see attitudes to female thinkers changing over the chronological span that separates the 1790s texts that you examine in your first chapter and the novels of the 1820s and 1830s that you consider in your fourth?

In the 1790s, attitudes to female thinkers shift from an initially celebratory tone, linking female philosophy to the ideals of the French Revolution, to an increasingly angry discourse, denouncing female philosophers along with French revolutionaries as threatening to the fabric of British society.  In the early nineteenth century, women writers seeking to celebrate female thinkers have to disentangle counter-revolutionary representations of female philosophers as dubious, dangerous, and dogmatic from the positive aspects they wish to recuperate for their post-revolutionary moment.  In the 1800s and 1810s, this often involved including a character explicitly labelled a female philosopher who tends to meet a sticky end: seduced by malevolent French philosophers, unmarried, pregnant, suicidal, or otherwise mortally sick.  Other female characters in their novels could then take on some of the positive elements of female philosophy, whilst avoiding the opprobrium ostentatiously piled on the erring and often dying woman.  By the 1820s and 30s, some of the radical sting of the female philosopher had worn off, and elements of the figure find their way into representations of the female artist.  My fourth chapter analyses the work of Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary Shelley, in relation to several popular genres of the time: the Gothic, the historical novel, and silver fork fiction.  Shelley manages to work tropes relating to the female philosopher into Frankenstein and her later novels Valperga, Perkin Warbeck, and Lodore, exploring the figures continuing relevance reshaped across several genres.  So, by casting the female philosopher back into history in her historical novels, Shelley provides a genealogy for the figure, previous to eighteenth-century and revolutionary debates about her abilities, imagining a historic lineage of female philosophers from Renaissance Italy to her present day.

5) What new work are you planning on moving forward with now that the book’s complete?

I’m currently working on two distinct but related research projects, both more or less Gothic.  They sometimes feel quite unrelated to Wollstonecraft’s Ghost, but then I think my choice of title for the book is appropriately spooky.  My first project explores Jane Austen’s continuing interest in the Gothic, beyond Northanger Abbey, arguing that Austen continues to make use of Gothic tropes and situations but positions them at a geographic distance from the central concerns of her plots.  I’ve recently published an article in Gothic Studies on Emma as a Radcliffean Gothic novel in disguise and have another forthcoming in Romantic Textualities on how Ireland functions as a Gothic space in the novel.  My second project analyses twentieth- and twenty-first-century adaptations of Frankenstein in children’s literature and Young Adult fiction, arguing that modern authors use Shelley’s novel to explore the monstrosity inherent in adolescence (and adolescents).

CfP: BARS 2017: Romantic Improvement

The Call for Papers for BARS’ 2017 International Conference, Romantic Improvement, is now live on the conference site.  I’ve also pasted the text below.

Call for Papers

Proposals are invited for the 2017 conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies, to be hosted by the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies and the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York from 27-30th July. The theme of this interdisciplinary conference is ‘improvement’, which marks a semantic field also encompassing cognate terms such as ‘innovation’, ‘progress’, and ‘reform’, all with implications across a range of discourses. The aim of the conference is to develop a collective investigation of the different but imbricated meanings of improvement in a period alternatively optimistic and pessimistic about its prospects in literary and other fields. The keynote speakers for Romantic Improvement are Catherine Hall (UCL), Jon Klancher (Carnegie Mellon), Nigel Leask (Glasgow), and Jane Rendall (York).

We encourage proposals for open-call sessions and themed panels as well as individual proposals for 20-minute papers. Subjects covered might include (but are not limited to):

Progress and perfectibility: ‘the march of mind’; universal modernity; ‘four stages’ theory and conjectural history; utopias and anti-utopias; millenarianism; philanthropy; socialism and social security

Languages of reform: the 1790s and the Revolution controversy; popular radicalism; evangelicalism and atonement; innovation/ renovation; utilitarianism

Education and useful knowledge: libraries, readers and reading; dissenting academies, schools, universities; Sunday Schools; clubs, societies, and networks of improvement; ‘home’ and domesticity

The arts and ‘improvement’: genre; adaptation, mediation, performance; legacies and afterlives; ‘crooked roads … of Genius’; ruin writing; nostalgia; the arts as ‘non-progressive’

Fiction and romance: the ‘progress of romance’; historical fiction and national pasts; Gothic; didacticism and improvement fiction; children’s literature

Print and material culture: technologies of print and publishing; book history; editing and illustrating; museums; exhibition and display

Empire: the ‘improvement’ of subject-peoples; four-nations Britain; travel-writing and cultural comparison; missionaries; settling, planting, transplanting; abolitionism and amelioration; colonial administration

The city: urban planning and urbanization; architectural improvement; consumer culture, fashion, shopping; interior decoration; policing; assembly rooms, theatres, and spaces of sociability

Land and landscape: estates, parks, gardens; enclosure; farming and agriculture; radical agrarianism; animal husbandry

Commerce and manufacture: political economy; industrialization; machines and machinery; the factory system; steam power; roads, turnpikes, canals

The sciences: botany and botanic gardens; medicine; asylums and mental health; chemistry; public science; electricity; experiment and spectacle

Presentation formats

We welcome proposals for the following:

Individual 20 minute papers. Abstracts of no more than 250 words. Please include your name and institutional affiliation (if applicable).

Panels of three 20 minute papers or four 15 minute papers. Please include an abstract of the panel theme, together with 250-word proposals from each of the speakers, in a single document.

Open-call sessions. Proposals should include a 350-word description of the potential session, outlining its importance and relevance to the conference theme. Accepted open-call sessions will be advertised on the BARS 2017 website from mid-November 2016.


The deadline for proposals for open-call sessions is 1 November 2016.

The deadline for submissions of panels and individual papers is 18 December 2016.

Please email proposals to, directing any inquiries to Dr Joanna Wharton.

President’s Report for 2016

British Association for Romantic Studies President’s Report for 2016

This is an exciting time to be President of BARS. Thanks to a buoyant membership (currently almost 400) and last year’s highly successful conference at Cardiff, we are in a stable and healthy financial state. This means that we have been able to expand our activities in key areas, improve our web presence, digitize The BARS Review, and expand our international collaboration. Here are some of our initiatives:

  • For Early Career Researchers, there are several new Fellowships: the Scottish Romanticism Award, the Wordsworth Trust Fellowship, and the ‘Nineteenth Century Matters’ award. We also hope to include some new training events and opportunities to work with partner institutions at the next biennial conference in 2017. Our new focus on public engagement was launched with a very successful training session run by Nicola Watson at the BARS PG and ECR conference, ‘Romantic Voices’.
  • The BARS First Book Prize award will run again this academic year, with the winner announced at the biannual conference in July 2017. We are delighted that Professor Nigel Leask has agreed to chair the panel.
  • The BARS Blog includes ‘Five Questions’ with authors of recent books, and regular announcements.
  • The BARS Review is now digital: this has enabled us to include over 30 reviews per issue and to include a ‘spotlight’ on emerging areas of interest.
  • Despite Brexit, we are exploring the possibility of a new European-wide network of Romantic associations and partner institutions, provisionally known as ERA (European Romanticism Association).
  • We now sponsor a BARS panel at the annual NASSR conference.
  • We have commissioned BARS postcards, to be used for publicity purposes.

We have also increased the budget for our current schemes: the Copley bursaries, the regular subvention of conferences, and the BARS First Book award. The PG and ECR conference (held this year in Oxford) continues to be a great success.

None of this would have been possible without the commitment and enthusiasm of the BARS Executive Committee, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank Nicky, Anthony, Jane, the two Matts, the two Susans, Gillian, Helen, Honor, Neil and Dan.

Finally, a reminder that that our next biennial conference ‘Romantic Improvement’ will be held at the University of York, 27-30 July 2017. The CFP will be issued soon, and I look forward to seeing you all there for what is sure to be an instructive and fun occasion.

Ian Haywood
University of Roehampton, London
August 2016