News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Nicola Watson on Marilyn Butler

All members of BARS will have been very sad to hear of the death of Professor Marilyn Butler on 11 March 2014 after a long illness.  There will be a memorial service held on Thursday April 24th at 3.30 pm in Exeter College Chapel, Oxford.

Those of us who were lucky enough to be taught by her at Oxford, Cambridge and elsewhere will remember her with great affection, but her influence in the field was far more widely felt.  Her scholarly work was always remarkable for its originality and sweep, from her early biographical work on Maria Edgeworth (which reinvigorated the idea of looking at women novelists of the period other than Austen), and her ground-breaking and controversial account of Jane Austen as a politically-engaged writer in Jane Austen and the War of Idea (1975), to her remarkable monograph on Thomas Love Peacock, Peacock Displayed (1979).  Her survey of the literature of the period, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries (1981) remains a standard work even today.  She was a key figure in the resurgence of left-wing historicist criticism in the period, not least because she replaced Bloomian ideas of romantic genealogies with a practice of intensive contextualisation of canonical romantic texts with the non-canonical, illuminating thereby the political and formal choices being made.  To her is largely attributable current interest in the once-celebrated – Southey, Campbell and Moore, amongst others.

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If you’d like to leave your own tribute to Professor Butler, please feel free to use the Comments field here – we’d be very grateful for any memories you’d like to share.