BARS Blog

BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

BARS 2019 Report

Today on the Blog is a post from Johnny Cammish (University of Nottingham). This is the second in a series of reports from the International BARS conference that took place in July 2019. You can also see pictures from the event if you search #BARS2019 on Twitter. 

The run up to BARS was a busy time for us, as the postgraduate helpers. It was a lot of work that, thankfully, all seems to have come together in the end. Or, at least, that was the impression I got from various grateful delegates who consistently offered thanks and praise throughout the conference.

It was an intense first day; opening with the fantastic plenary by Professor Laura Mandell about some of the digital approaches she’s been working on were an exciting indication of things to come. The first panel I attended was equally fantastic, though of a far more sombre tone. Featuring discussions of ageing, lateness and dementia being wonderfully thought provoking and, with such heavy topics, inevitably very moving. However, the brief quotation of James Montgomery, my own interest, may have somewhat biased me in celebration of this panel.

Montgomery did crop up again later in the day; although this time when I gave my own paper after a somewhat complicated but well-handled panel shift, with the Romantic Radicalism and Romantic Life-writing panels being combined synergistically in a new beast that worked remarkably well. I’ve not had much experience giving papers, but I found the energy and interest in the room genuinely inspiring; questions and comments I’ve received have given me a long list of additional areas for me to investigate, which I am grateful for!

Me presenting my paper

Unsurprisingly, considering my own paper on Montgomery’s radicalism and imprisonment, many of my personal highlights were the papers of a political nature – Olivia Murphy’s discussion of the bizarre difficulties of the Birmingham mob to burn ‘Dr Phlogiston’ was fascinating, and Ian Packer’s paper on Wat Tyler reminded me that I really need to read more on how the older Southey dealt with his more radical youth. That’s not to say that I neglected other panels; I thoroughly enjoyed viewing Scottish Romanticism and Percy Shelley Panels, despite how they demonstrated my own near-criminal neglect of Romantic Drama.

I could, of course, talk about the panels ad infinitum, but I cannot fail to mention the other plenaries. Professor Diego Saglia’s discussion of (potentially) Byron’s skin was fascinating and wonderfully macabre; something I had never even thought of considering before. Professor Jane Stabler’s comparison of Byron to The Office (US)’s Dwight Schrute is forever etched on my brain, Dr Robert Poole’s wonderful discussion of Peterloo highlighted the role of women, and clarified the state of Manchester in 1819 – dispelling a lot of my own misunderstandings. Finally, Professor Sharon Ruston’s discussion of Humphry Davy and his rejection of poetry in favour of science felt like a fitting microcosm of the Humanities side-lining to the Sciences.

The excursion to Newstead was also wonderful; I visit it regularly as I work there part-time, but seeing it full of scholars who know and appreciate Byron and his history was wonderful; and I was pleased with how much enthusiasm everyone had for the Abbey, both as postgraduate helper and as part-time Visitor Assistant. In short, the conference was wonderful, and there is far more to be said than could fit in 500 words. I am glad that many seemed to enjoy it as much as I.

The next BARS conference will be the BARS PG/ECR Conference in 2020. The conference will be held at Keats House, Hampstead, from 12th-13th June. Further details and CfP to follow – for now, save the date!

Johnny Cammish, University of Nottingham

16th August 2019