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Archive for June 2018

Nineteenth-Century Matters Fellow: Lancaster University 2018-19

Applications are now open for a Visiting Fellowship at Lancaster University with Nineteenth-Century Matters.

Outline

Nineteenth-Century Matters is an initiative jointly run by the British Association for Romantic Studies and the British Association for Victorian Studies. Now in its third year, it is aimed at postdoctoral researchers who have completed their PhD, but are not currently employed in a full-time academic post. Nineteenth-Century Matters offers unaffiliated early career researchers a platform from which to organise professionalization workshops and research seminars on a theme related to nineteenth-century studies, and relevant to the host institution’s specialisms. The focus should be on the nineteenth century, rather than on Romanticism or Victorianism.

For the coming academic year Nineteenth-Century Matters will provide the successful applicant with affiliation in the form of a Visiting Fellowship at Lancaster University. The fellowship will run from 1 September 2018-August 31 2019. The successful fellow will particularly benefit from and contribute towards the University’s expertise in digital and environmental humanities. They will also be encouraged to actively contribute to events being planned by the Research Centre for Culture, Landscape and Environment.

This fellowship includes a Lancaster University e-mail address, and access to its library and electronic resources for the full academic year. There is no requirement to live in the Lancaster area during this time. The primary purpose of the fellowship is to enable the successful applicant to continue with an affiliation and remain part of the academic community. It is a non-stipendiary post, and the fellow will need to support themselves financially during the academic year. The fellowship will, however, include a week’s accommodation at the University over the summer, where the fellow will be free to develop their research and make the most of Lancaster’s archives (particularly those held in the Ruskin Library) and digital resources. The fellow will also be financially supported by BAVS and BARS with the organising of a research and professionalization event on a theme relevant to Lancaster’s collections and/or research interests. It is expected that the fellow will acknowledge BARS, BAVS, and Lancaster University in any publications that arise from their position.

Application Process

Applicants should submit a CV with a two-page proposal of their research topic and event, and explain why they would benefit from the fellowship. These should be sent to Matthew Ward (m.ward.1@bham.ac.uk) and Joanna Taylor (j.e.taylor1@lancaster.ac.uk). The deadline for applications is July 31 2018.

 

 

 

Stephen Copley Research Report: Emma Probett on Austen and Gaskell

A report from a research trip funded by a BARS Stephen Copley Research Award.

Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell – Conduct novels and the Novel of Manners at Chawton House Library

by Emma Probett

The BARS Stephen Copley Research Award afforded me the opportunity to visit Chawton House Library in Hampshire, which holds a large collection of women’s literature, predominantly from 1600-1830, including books belonging to the Knight family and borrowed by Jane Austen.

I was able to spend a fortnight in May 2018 studying conduct novels ranging from 1814, the year of Mansfield Park’s publication, to 1830, when Elizabeth Gaskell became a teenager. The research I undertook will inform the foundation of my PhD thesis in which I will track the tropes and transformation of the conduct novel, from conduct manuals such as Hannah More’s Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, to the established conduct novels of Frances Burney and Maria Edgeworth. I will consider the collective effect these novels had on women’s writing, and on public opinion regarding what it was appropriate for women to write about.

Though a number of critics have vied to align Austen with contemporaneous conservative and radical novelists alike, there is a distinct lack of research exploring her far-reaching effects on Victorian women novelists and the conduct novel canon. My thesis explores Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell as subversive novelists and analyses their codified references to morally dubious behaviour, and their process of experimenting with and undermining established conduct novel tropes. As part of this research I am surveying once-popular female novelists and ideologists of the conduct novel who, though now obscure and out of print, provide a rich insight into the building blocks of the genre. This cross section demonstrates not only the rules of the genre but the rules of conduct for women novelists.

Women novelists could be outspoken on social and political matters, prominent figureheads being Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Hays; however, when they were, their private lives were often intruded upon and harshly criticised by the general public. In order for women novelists to retain social standing, a degree of privacy, and the ability to write for an independent living, they needed the approbation of mainstream publishers, reviewers, and the general reader; any criticism regarding social and political issues required gentle satire, nuanced irony, and embedded references which required the reader to have a specialist knowledge of a saying, a limerick, or a product etc. to understand the inference.

In addition to the typical three volume novel sets which focus on conduct and manners, I was also able to review transitionary materials that strike a blend between the conduct manual (as an instruction book) and the conduct novel (as an entertaining parable). Considering how authors experimented with the novel form was not only deeply rewarding, but further emphasised the issues facing novelists in terms of communicating authentic virtue in their protagonists in a way that was not as indirect and distancing for readers as the epistolary novel, nor as direct and potentially inappropriate as passionate dialogue between a protagonist and their love interest. Borderline performative body language such as fainting fits, catatonic immobility, and unstable blushing to blanching is at the foreground of the conduct novel; the appearance of good health and ill health as an indicator of emotional health (often closely linked to moral health), is constantly publicly monitored, discussed, interpreted and policed.

I believe that this issue of dramatised bodily health – as an author’s assertion of a character’s virtue – was addressed by Austen in the development of the novel of manners, a subgenre of the conduct novel, which focuses on behaving and speaking virtuously rather than being innately and unaffectedly virtuous, effectively circumventing an author’s struggle to categorically prove that their character is truly virtuous. The research I undertook at Chawton House Library aided me in forming definitions and differentiations between the conduct novel and the novel of manners.

I am very grateful to BARS for giving me the opportunity to organise a prolonged visit to Chawton House Library, as without this funding I would not have been able to undertake such an extensive and indispensable research trip. Chawton House Library is currently housing an excellent exhibition, The art of freezing the blood’: Northanger Abbey, Frankenstein, & the Female Gothic, open until 7th December 2018.

Conference Report: ‘Romanticism Goes to University’, Edge Hill, May 2018

A detailed report from the BARS-sponsored conference that took place last month. Visit our website to find out how to apply for BARS conference support.

Conference Report: Edge Hill Symposium ‘Romanticism Goes to University’, 19-20 May 2018

by Juliette Misset

‘Romanticism Goes to University,’ the third installment in a series of three annual symposiums held at Edge Hill University, took place over a warm and sunny weekend this past May. Following ‘Edgy Romanticism/Romanticism on the Edge’ in 2016 and ‘Romanticism Takes to the Hills‘ in 2017, ‘Romanticism Goes to University’ offered participants the chance to consider the Romantic period both as researchers and as teachers, complete with keynote presentations, panels, and workshops, and even live-tweeting.

The first day started off with a panel entitled ‘The Romantic University and Romantic Poetry,’ where Matthew Sangster’s opening paper discussed a number of Romantic poets’ diverging takes on the university experience in their verse, highlighting the conflicting views of higher education at the time. Catherine Ross gave us the institutional perspective in the paper that followed, detailing the organisation of academic curricula in Oxford and Cambridge in the period, along with how students would typically spend their time outside of class, arguing for the importance of the whole of the university experience for emerging poets.

The second panel saw us venturing beyond the borders of Great Britain and into universities on the European continent. Maximiliaan van Woudenberg first explored the intellectual exchanges at the University of Göttingen, where a number of British intellectuals found an alternative to the traditional curricula offered to them in Britain, and the ways in which the German university and particularly its library has become significant for Romantic thought. Fittingly, Michael Bradshaw then turned to a specific British student of the University of Göttingen, considering the theatrical and performative element of Thomas Lovell Beddoes’ experience there. Moving farther east on the continent, Daiva Milinkevičiūtė studied the relationships between university teachers and students who belonged to the Philomaths and Philaretes organisations at Vilnius University. In the final paper of the panel, José Manuel Correoso-Rodenas presented an ongoing research and development project taking place at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, which aims at digitising all the existing illustrated editions of Edgar Allan Poe’s works.

The last panel of the day gave us rich and complementary insights into education in the Godwin-Wollstonecraft circle, extended to Mary Hays and her niece Matilda. John-Erik Hansson first looked at the ways in which William Godwin reworked the fable for innovative pedagogical purposes that move away from didactic moralising in order to focus on opening the mind of the child-reader to a myriad of subjects. Colette Davies moved on to  how Mary Wollstonecraft instructed other female writers through her professional reviews in the Analytical Reviews and in her private correspondence, and persuasively argued that Wollstonecraft was far from maternally supportive of all literary efforts by women. Finally, Susan Civale reconsidered Mary Hays’ image as a revolutionary turned isolated conservative by looking at the textual and personal ways that she mentored her niece Matilda.

After an afternoon tea that allowed for conversations to continue beyond the panel, Katie Garner gave the first keynote of the weekend. Taking advantage of the records kept by the University of St Andrews library, Katie reconsidered the assumption that universities were exclusively male spaces in the Romantic period. Her research on the borrowing records of the period showed that women who were connected to academia through a male family member, such as professors’ wives, had access to the library collections, and that there was no clear boundary between reading material borrowed for academic purposes or for pleasure among library card holders.

Katie then led the workshop on teaching Romanticism, which ended the day in the beautiful rooftop garden of the Business School building. This first workshop devoted to experiences of teaching the Romantic period in university today allowed for everyone to engage in a conversation that helped to bridge the gap between teaching and research, in an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere where early-career teachers and researchers felt comfortable sharing their experiences and thoughts with their more experienced colleagues. We discussed expanding the Romantic canon and trying different ways of teaching and assessing students. A wonderful end to a rich and stimulating first day, where dialogue continued all the way through to the conference dinner.

Sunday began with the second keynote and workshop of the event, given and led by Judith Pascoe. Judith presented various examples of the use of digital methods both in research and teaching, at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, keeping in mind the challenges such methods represent. One of the examples that most stood out was probably the recording of part of an ongoing doctoral project in the form of a podcast as opposed to the traditional thesis, which was a wonderful example of combining creative and critical work. The teaching workshop was embedded in the keynote as participants were asked to think of syllabus design including assessment during the presentation before discussing our picks during the workshop.

The following panel considered alternative approaches to education, with two papers that explored Romantic poetry in terms of vitality and mourning respectively, in a fitting duality. Shiwa Mun looked specifically at Percy Shelley’s ‘The Sensitive-Plant’ and its manifestation of ‘vegetal vitality’ where the poem becomes a textual garden, while Emily J. Dolive demonstrated how Mary Robinson and Jane Alice Sargant used the printed page as a physical space to guide Romantic readers through grief in the war-torn period.

The final panel explored ways of engaging with the Romantics beyond the classroom, digitally and otherwise. Lindsey Seatter traced the evolution of a digital editing project that originated as a classroom assignment and developed into a scholarly portfolio, delineating the challenges and constraints of such undertakings, while highlighting the exciting avenues for editing and research these represent. Val Derbyshire closed the panel with the presentation of a project involving a public re-enactment of Revolutionary addresses at The Old Bell pub in Derby, that historians believe to have taken place in the same pub in 1792. Val related how the performance eventually turned into a social protest event anchored in contemporary times, movingly showing just how relevant studying the Romantic period remains to this day.

This rich and diverse symposium closed with a final keynote and workshop by Alice Jenkins, highlighting once again the relevance of the Romantic period today through a comparative overview of some of the dilemmas facing universities then and now. While universities have changed to a great extent since the Romantic institutions of Oxford and Cambridge, fundamental questions such as whether and how to teach so-called ‘useful’ subjects—subjects that are understood to constitute a direct path to employment—within the university still very much apply today.

Overall, the weekend proved an extremely stimulating as well as welcoming event, where the single-track format allowed everyone to appreciate the careful constitution and progression of the panels, workshops, and keynotes. As a first-time attendee of an academic conference of this kind, I very much look forward to many more.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Val Derbyshire on James Northcote

Val Derbyshire has completed this research report following a recent trip to archives in London. She was funded by a BARS Stephen Copley Award.

 

James Northcote: The Man Who Exists Only in Fragments

by Val Derbyshire (University of Sheffield)

 

This year, I was fortunate enough to win the Stephen Copley Research Award from BARS.  This generous award provided the funding to visit the Royal Academy of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, both of whom hold personal letters and papers belonging to the portrait painter James Northcote (1746-1831).  I’ve written about Northcote’s work before, and am particularly interested in how this often overlooked portrait painter sits at the centre of a number of celebrated figures from Romanticism.

 

The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, on the very sunny day on which I visited to look at Northcote’s personal papers and letters held here.

 

My PhD thesis explores Charlotte Smith’s connection with Northcote.  My research has shown that both Northcote and Smith utilise similar techniques in portraying their male heroes.  Northcote was a painter who portrayed far more men than women and both Smith and Northcote adapt the tropes traditionally associated with the aesthetic of the beautiful in the portrayal of their male ‘heroes’.  This undermines the conventional view that the sublime is a male trait, whilst the beautiful belongs to the feminine sphere.  By considering the male portraits of Northcote and Smith in tandem, it becomes possible to see how both artists engage with an abstract concept in order to reveal that it is a conceit which is utterly flawed.  This, in turn, leads to questions and uncertainties concerning masculine identity which Smith emphasises within her novels, just as Northcote similarly raises these concerns within his artworks. Over the past few months I have been visiting archival holdings to look at the personal correspondence of James Northcote.   These visits have thrown up some interesting findings, including the fact that he had a close relationship with William Godwin (close enough to leave him £100 in his will) and he also corresponded regularly with other literary figures like Elizabeth Inchbald.  Northcote’s notebook held by the Bodleian Library includes fifteen letters from Inchbald to Northcote and their mutual friends.  These letters include charming details such as how Northcote called for Inchbald one evening in order to take her to ‘Mrs Wedells rout.’  Unfortunately, as Northcote was not expected, Inchbald had already put on her nightgown and was ready for bed, but was then crippled by guilt at refusing to see Northcote, if only to ‘load [him] with reproaches.’[1]

It is known that Smith and Northcote were friends.  He was included within an invitation to take tea at Smith’s home which was addressed to William Godwin dated 27 February 1800: ‘Will you dine with me some day next week if I can assemble Mr & Mrs Fenwick, Mr Northcote, Mr Coleridge, & one or two friends – who would not spoil the party.’[2]  The party took place on 4th March 1800, when Godwin noted in his diary ‘tea C Smith’s w. Coleridge, Northcote, Fenwicks & Duncans.’[3]  By visiting these archival holdings of Northcote’s personal letters and papers, I hoped to find further evidence of his friendship with Smith (more letters perhaps?)  Unfortunately, however, there were no letters either from Smith to Northcote or vice versa.  What I did gain, nevertheless, was a fascinating insight into the man Mark Ledbury describes as ‘mostly a curiosity […] enmeshed with many others’ and hampered by the ‘widespread and persistent belief that Northcote was simply not an interesting enough painter to merit close critical scrutiny.’[4]  ‘It is unfair,’ as Ledbury argues, ‘to liken Northcote to the subject of his satirical fable ‘The Painter Who Pleased Nobody’ (see figure 2), but rather he was ‘the painter who pleased nobody enough.’[5]

 

James Northcote, ‘Illustration to accompany “The Painter Who Pleased Nobody”’ in James Northcote, Fables Original and Selected (London: John Murray, 1838), pp. 216-7.

 

My visits to the Royal Academy of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum helped me to construct a more rounded picture of Northcote.  The letters held by the Royal Academy are for the most part addressed to his beloved brother Samuel, and detail the period in time when Northcote left home, much against the advice of his parents.  Northcote headed to London to learn his craft, to seek his fortune as an artist, and ‘follow an amusement which is to me beyond every other upon Earth.’[6] Shortly after his arrival in London, Northcote would take up residence with the founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Art, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and spend his time perfecting his artistry in copying Reynolds’s own art collection and painting the drapery and hands in Reynolds’s masterpieces.  The letters progress through Northcote’s apprenticeship with Reynolds to the point when he leaves him in order to complete his training abroad by taking an Italian tour, providing details of this tour and the friendships he forms during this.  By the time Northcote left Reynolds, he writes ‘I know him thoroughly and all his faults, I am sure, and yet I allmost Worship him.’[7]  This ‘worship’ was to persist throughout Northcote’s long life.  In his will, held at the British Library in London, he desires that ‘my mortal remains […] shall be deposited […] as near as possibly may be to the remains of my late lamented Friend and Master Sir Joshua Reynolds.’[8]

 

Detail from James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 3rd January 1776, NOR/15, Royal Academy of Art.

 

The notebook of letters and personal papers held by the Victoria and Albert Museum were much more diverse in nature.  They included letters relating to Northcote’s business as a successful portrait painter, as well as personal epistles from William Godwin and William Cowper, and details of his friendship with fellow artist (and also friend to Charlotte Smith), John Raphael Smith (1751-1812).

All in all, despite not finding any letters between Smith and Northcote, the research trip was very successful.  It provided me with a clearer picture of the man who ‘exists in fragments,’ as Ledbury terms it, and whilst only a few items will contribute to my doctoral research, the trip has given me food for thought for future research projects.[9]   I would like to thank BARS for their generous award of the Stephen Copley Research prize which has made all this possible.

 

[1] James Northcote, The Letter book of James Northcote (Oxford: Bodleian Libraries, MS Eng Misc e143).

[2] Cited in Pamela Clemit and Charlotte Smith, ‘Charlotte Smith to William and Mary Jane Godwin: Five Holograph Letters’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 55 (2006), 29-40 (39).  ‘Mr & Mrs. Fenwick, refers to Eliza Fenwick (1766-1840), author of Secresy, or the Ruin of the Rock (1795), and her husband.’

[3] Cited in Pamela Clemit and Charlotte Smith, ‘Charlotte Smith to William and Mary Jane Godwin: Five Holograph Letters’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 55 (2006), 29-40 (39).  (Clemit notes that ‘the Duncans have not been further identified.’ (p. 39).

[4]Mark Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables (New Haven & London: Yale Center for British Art, 2014), pp. 1-2.

[5] Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables, pp. 1-2, emphasis in original.

[6] James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 25th June 1771, NOR/1, Royal Academy of Art.

[7] James Northcote, Letter to Samuel Northcote dated 3rd January 1776, NOR/15, Royal Academy of Art [Sic].

[8] James Northcote, ‘Last Will and Testament of James Northcote’ in The Papers of James Northcote, holding number 42524, British Library, London.

[9] Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables, p. 1.