The Call for Papers for the next Wordsworth Summer Conference has now been released. See below for further details, and follow the links for details on how to apply for a bursary/submit an abstract.
The 46th Wordsworth Summer Conference, 2017
Monday 7 August to Thursday 17 August at Rydal Hall, Cumbria
Keynote Lectures, 2017:
Gillian Beer Matthew Bevis James Engell
Richard Gravil Meiko O’Halloran Nick Halmi
Alexandra Harris Felicity James
Fiona Robertson Fiona Stafford
Heidi Thomson Kasahara Yorimichi
Thank you to Jessica Hindes for the following post, reporting from the Nineteenth Century Matters public engagement training day. This event was held at the stunning location of Chawton House Library on 28 January 2017, and was sponsored by BARS and BAVS. You can follow tweets from the event by searching for the hashtag #C19Matters. Jessica is also on twitter (@bleakho).
The Nineteenth Century Matters Training Day on Public Engagement: A Report for BARS
The Nineteenth Century Matters public engagement training day at Chawton House Library offered postgraduate researchers in Romantic and Victorian studies the opportunity to come together in order to consider both the wider purpose of public engagement in academia, and the types of engagement activity they might begin to develop from their own research. With bursaries on offer to researchers without permanent academic employment, the day’s organisers displayed a refreshing awareness of the pressures faced by those coming out of the PhD into a difficult job market. As an early career researcher without institutional affiliation, one of the aspects of the day that I most enjoyed was the chance that it offered to connect with others in the same situation.
Chawton House Library in Hampshire
It was also a delight to attend an event where every one of the papers, panels and activities was so practically useful and so well thought out. The morning began with a talk from Professor Mark Llewellyn, the Director for Research at the AHRC, on ‘Living (in) the Library’, which considered the ways in which academics’ work might be enriched through contact with cultural centres outside of the university (libraries, museums) and which centred on Mark’s own experience as an early career researcher living and working in what is now the Gladstone Library in Hawarden, North Wales. In a highly entertaining paper, Mark raised thought-provoking questions about the ways in which scholars’ work is perceived by those outside the academy, invoking the notion of ‘hospitality’ to describe an approach that starts from an audience’s existing knowledge and beliefs rather than holding them to rigid academic standards from the outset.
As the day developed, Mark’s ideas about meeting an audience in spaces outside the university and his emphasis on the public engagement process as something reciprocal – something that benefits both sides – reappeared in papers from Dr Claire Wood (of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement) and Professor Holly Furneaux (of Cardiff University). Claire’s paper provided a whistlestop tour through some of the fundamental principles of public engagement best practice, recommending that researchers planning any public engagement activity consider purpose, process and people (audience) as well as prioritising evaluation as a fundamental component of their work. Claire offered links to numerous resources and pointed those attending toward NCCPE’s work in linking researchers with institutions beyond the academy, in particular the MUPI programme which connects university scholars with small museums. Holly’s presentation reflected on a public engagement project undertaken in collaboration with the National Army Museum, for whom she is a research ambassador. Holly had worked with children in schools local to the Museum (and incidentally, to Chawton House) on ‘The Ballad of the Boy Captain’, a story from the Crimean War. Holly made an enthusiastic case for academic public engagement, suggesting that done right, it could shape the direction of research in fruitful and unexpected ways. However, she was also honest about some of the challenges of this work. She pointed to the ‘opportunity cost’ involved in establishing the relationships that underpinned good engagement activity, as well as the real financial cost incurred in making study visits and giving up time to volunteer. Of course, any early career researcher is familiar with the investment of time and often money required to participate in the activities necessary to maintain a strong academic profile, but it was refreshing to hear this addressed so openly here.
Other speakers were drawn from the type of non-academic institution suggested as useful partners in undertaking this kind of activity: Professor Gillian Dow, the Executive Director of Chawton House Library (and an academic at Southampton), and Mary Guyatt, the curator at Jane Austen’s House. Gillian spoke about her experiences since joining Chawton House in 2014 and the efforts she has made to bring new audiences into the library, focusing on an exhibition hosted at Chawton in 2016 to mark 200 years since the publication of Emma. As Mark had done earlier in the morning, Gillian offered an amusing insight into some of the difficulties of reaching out to the public alongside her assessment of the many benefits of doing so (with an acknowledgement that working on a popular figure like Jane Austen brings particular challenges of its own). Mary then shared some of her expertise about the ways in which universities and museums can work together, suggesting that this might take the form of less obvious collaborations, such as writing labels for exhibits, or cataloguing parts of collections as well as offering talks or events.
After lunch, participants separated into smaller groups to work with the speakers and experts in attendance on developing public engagement activities from their own research. Although the time limitations meant that ideas could reach only a very early stage at this point, I found the exercises thought-provoking, and my fellow conference-goers full of creative insight. I also appreciated the focus with which Gillian (leading my session) encouraged us to consider the practicalities of what we suggested: where would the money come from? Where would we stage and how publicise our work? As was the case with all of the morning’s talks on the day, the session felt grounded in the reality of today’s humanities research environment, offering concrete suggestions to point the researcher on their way. Alongside the chance to connect to others in a similar position, this was for me the best thing about the whole event: its pragmatic focus on getting things done.
The grounds at Chawton
The last session of the day offered the opportunity to come back together, to thank those who had offered their expertise throughout, and to express gratitude to the event’s organiser Catherine Han for her hard work in putting on the day. I left Chawton not only with some useful new connections in hand, but with a renewed confidence in my own position within the nineteenth-century studies research environment and (most of all) with a number of positive ideas about my own future practice as an academic in the public sphere.
Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.
– Oscar Wilde
Beauty is desired in order to be befouled. Not for its own sake, but for the joy brought by the certainty of profaning it.
– Georges Bataille
Beauty has many contradictory associations, from ephemerality to permanence, the natural to the artificial. When we attempt to locate the beautiful, notions of ‘conventional’ beauty often conflict with individual assessments of what is beautiful. We are told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder(s), but is beauty only ever a perception, or can it be an intrinsic quality of objects and people? Is it possible to define the nature of the aesthetic experience? Beauty may trigger philosophical or spiritual contemplation, but it can also evoke possessiveness and lust. Historically, beauty has been admired as virtuous and feared as dangerous. Do judgements about beauty do a disservice to their object, or do they elevate it?
This special issue of MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities aims to consider the wealth of ways in which notions of beauty have been expressed, represented, and critiqued across literatures and cultures. From literary depictions of beauty, to those expressed in philosophy, art, architecture, film, photography, and music, this collection of essays will scrutinise the beautiful in its myriad forms, across geographical and temporal boundaries. Responses to the theme might be theoretical (perhaps considering movements such as New Aestheticism or Cultural Materialism), (inter)artistic, or sociological.
We invite proposals covering a range of periods (from the medieval and early-modern to the twenty-first century) and across different national contexts (including French-, Hispanic-, Germanic-, Italian-, Slavonic- and English-speaking cultures). We hope to attract scholars working in a variety of fields (Modern Languages, English Studies, Comparative Literature, Cultural History, Film and Media Studies and Digital Humanities, Performance and Reception History, History of the Book and of Print Culture, and others). Interdisciplinary approaches are particularly welcome.
Topics could include, but are not limited to:
Art, aesthetics and ekphrasis
Gender and sexuality
Youth and aging
The role of the senses
Class, wealth, and prejudice
Inner beauty, morality, and religion
Adornment, body modification and fashion
The natural world
Measure, the golden ratio, mathematics
Beautiful books, treasure bindings, deluxe editions, book fetishism
Ugliness, the ‘grotesque’
We invite proposals for papers of up to 4,000 words in MHRA style, with completed essays to be delivered to the editors by 15 September 2017. Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent, accompanied by a short biographical statement on the same page, to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 June 2017.
Please see the notice below from Daniel Cook re. the winners of the Stephen Copley Research Awards 2017.
The BARS Executive Committee has established these bursaries in order to support postgraduate and early-career research within the UK. They are intended to help fund expenses incurred through travel to libraries and archives necessary to the student’s research. As anticipated, this year we received a large number of applications, many of which were of a very high quality indeed. Please do join us in congratulating the very worthy winners. Romanticism is alive and kicking, we’re pleased to say!
Alexander Abichou (Durham University)
Hadi Baghaei-Abchooyeh (Swansea University)
Marianne Brooker (Birkbeck College, London)
Rebecca Davies (The Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
Lucy Johnson (University of Chester)
Robin Mills (University College London)
Lauren Joy Nixon (Sheffield University)
Brianna E Robertson-Kirkland (University of Glasgow)
Paul Stephens (Lincoln College, Oxford)
Once they have completed their research trips each winner will write a brief report on their projects. These will be published on the website and circulated through our social media. For more information about the bursaries, including reports from past winners, please visit our website: www.bars.ac.uk.
Bursaries Officer, BARS
University of Dundee