BARS Blog

BARS Blog

News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

Report from ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ – Anna Maria Porter’s The Fast of St. Magdalen

Here is a report by Colette Davies from the recent ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ seminar (September 2018). This series is sponsored by BARS and seminars are held at the University of Greenwich.

A Discussion of Anna Maria Porter’s The Fast of St. Magdalen (1818) with Professor Fiona Price (Chichester)

Professor Fiona Price’s illuminating talk on Anna Maria Porter’s three-volume novel, The Fast of St. Magdalen (1818), engaged her audience in considerations of the role of the romance novel in national politics, the disposition and conduct of the hero, and characterology. Contextualising Anna Maria Porter as an author who produced an extensive oeuvre of historical romance novels, yet who has (as Peter Garside observed) often been eclipsed by the works of Walter Scott, Price moved past this overshadowing and drew links between Anna Maria Porter’s writing and the works of Jane West, Maria Edgeworth and Joanna Baillie in terms of the writers’ characterology and participation in ongoing debates about the role of romance in constructing the nation, its politics, and its leaders.

Particularly interesting was Price’s reading of Porter’s modifications of her heroes and heroines; Price focused on the role and construction of the novel’s hero, Valombrosa, arguing that Porter used this character to explore the role of the people within national politics, a focus responding to the Congress of Vienna (1814-15). Valombrosa is a character with inherent flaws of anger and jealousy. This tendency for erroneous sensibility suggests that the hero needs to be re-educated and, in the novel, Valombrosa improves his character by watching and learning from his acquaintance, Prince Angelo Rossano. These emendations of character and disposition ameliorate Valombrosa’s ability to participate in national politics and govern for the sake of the people. Similarly, Rosalia, Valombrosa’s sister, is improved through the novel’s heroine, Ippolita, who mentors her. Price focused on Porter’s decision to design Rosalia as blind, arguing convincingly that it elucidated Porter’s belief that bodily weakness facilitates and signifies mental weakness: Rosalia is indulged as a child due to her blindness and thus her gaze is introspective and solipsistic. Ippolita helps Rosalia to turn her gaze outward and, as such, fashions her as the perfect bride for Angelo Rossano. Price concluded by asserting that developed characterology within the novel’s characters illustrates that heroes and heroines skilled in self-government signify wider consideration and representation of the people in national rule.

In the lively discussion which followed, questions were asked regarding the strength and independence of the female characters in the novel, prompting debate on whether Porter focused more on redefining her heroes than her heroines. From this, we discussed the depiction of intimacy between Valombrosa and Ippolita; Porter intimates that a kiss is shared prior to their engagement, breaking conventions of representing courtship in the period. As the penultimate talk in the ‘Romantic Novels 1818’ seminar series, Professor Fiona Price’s illuminating paper and the ensuing discussion attest to the value of revisiting lesser-known novels of the early nineteenth century. It reiterated the productive practice of studying links between the 1818 novels, their contemporary reception, and the place of these texts and authors in today’s universities.

The next seminar will take place on 15 November 2018 with Christina Morin (Limerick), and will consider Charles Maturin’s Women. Full schedule here.

Call for Papers – Keats’s Odes at 200: A One-Day Bicentenary Conference (1819-2019)

CFP: Keats’s Odes at 200: A One-Day Bicentenary Conference (1819-2019)

1 February 2019, University of Caen (France)

Plenary speaker : Stanley Plumly (University of Maryland). Acclaimed poet and author of Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (Norton, 2008), The Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner with Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb (Norton, 2014), winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, and Elegy Landscapes: Constable and Turner and the Intimate Sublime (Norton, 2018).

In the spring of 1819, living in the recently built Wentworth Place on the edge of Hampstead Heath, John Keats wrote five of the six poems now commonly referred to as the ‘Great Odes’, a group of texts whose hyper-canonicity can sometimes make it difficult to appreciate the precarious, unlikely circumstances under which they came into being – let alone to say anything new about them today. Over the course of the last two centuries, countless readers have found themselves enthralled by, and moved to comment on, Keats’s Ode to PsycheOde to a NightingaleOde on a Grecian UrnOde on MelancholyOde on Indolence, and ode To Autumn (composed in September 1819), generating a vast body of scholarly criticism, as well as a number of reuses or reimaginings of the odes in popular culture. Yet, not unlike the Hellenic urn which permanently remains, in its cold silence, ‘a friend to man’, the magic of the odes remains undiminished after all these years – and the depth and originality of Keats’s texts remain, miraculously, to be accounted for, still ‘teas[ing] us out of thought’. It is the aim of this one-day bicentenary conference not only to celebrate but also to continue to probe, question, and rethink the nature of Keats’s achievement in writing, at the height of his young artistic powers, these six ‘Great Odes’; to reexamine their past uses, and speculate on their lives to come, while teasing out (and, no less fruitfully, being teased by) their ostensible timelessness.

Speakers are invited to approach the odes from any number of angles, including (but not limited to) questions concerning: the composition and editing of the texts (their manuscript drafts, their multiple versions in print and digitization…); the critical reception of the odes in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries (in Britain, America, France, and elsewhere); Keats’s sources of inspiration, and of rupture; the odes and other forms of art (sculpture, music, painting); reuses and reimaginings of the odes in popular culture; their modern adaptations (cinema, fiction), etc.

Please send title of paper and abstract (300 words), with a brief CV, to Jeremy Elprin (jeremy.elprin@unicaen.fr) and Caroline Bertonèche (caroline.bertoneche@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr) by 31 October 2018.

Conference Report: ‘Character to Caricature, 1660-1850’

A report from the conference held at Northumbria University on 3 September 2018 (part-funded by BARS). Call for papers and programme here.

‘Character to Caricature, 1660-1850’: by Jenny Buckley

‘Character to Caricature’ was an interdisciplinary conference held at the Institute for Humanities at Northumbria University on 3 September, 2018. Bringing together scholars from across the UK, the conference desired to build upon current understandings of character. More particularly, it sought to explore character’s wider narratological implications and transmedial qualities in the long eighteenth century. With ‘character’ open to a range of definitions – from that which is branded or stamped, to styles of writing, distinctive personalities, moral and mental qualities, and status or official rank – given our particular historical moment, the way in which we understand the credibility and believability of character seems due for a re-evaluation.

To begin to grapple with these questions, the conference opened with a session on ‘Performing Parodies’, before featuring sessions on ‘Situating the Satirical’ and ‘Curating Character’. First to present was Montana Davies-Shuck (University of Northumbria) whose paper addressed ‘Fops, Monkeys, and Caricature’. She discussed the ways English gentlemen ape French fashions, becoming foppish in their pretensions and mannerisms and paid particular attention to caricatures of Louis Bourbon as ‘Louis Baboon.’ Next was David Barrow (University of York), who explored the way King Alfred was appropriated in the eighteenth-century as a way to respond to negative perceptions of the house of Hanover.

Characters and Caricaturas – William Hogarth (1743)

Refreshed after morning coffee, Adam James Smith (York St. John University) took us into the world of Tory satire, considering ‘The Partisan Hailing of “The Satirist” in the work of Joseph Addison and Alexander Pope’. Smith addressed the ways in which, for those in power, partisan hailing became a mode of simultaneously punching upwards and downwards. Continuing our exploration of periodicals, Mary Chadwick (University of Huddersfield) introduced us to the fascinating world of manuscript magazines. Focussing on the Breakfast Courant, she explored the use of animals in periodicals, paying particular attention to Welsh goats, Russian bears, and Addison and Steele’s lion. Olivia Ferguson (University of Edinburgh) delved into Walter Scott’s extensive collection of caricatures, considering the way in which only the author can genuinely illustrate their own work.

Following lunch, Ben Jackson (QMUL) opened with his paper ‘The Thrill of the Chaise: Gendering the Phaeton in Literary Satirical Culture, 1770-1820’. Jackson addressed the way in which carriage ownership revealed a man’s character with phaeton’s being the sign of the man ready to marry, while the possession of a carriage indicates that he has settled down. Fiona Milne (University of York) considered the way character was used in the courtroom in her paper on character defence and allegory in William Hone’s trials of 1817. Concluding the session, Hannah Moss (University of Sheffield) entered the world of visual and verbal caricatures of female artistic endeavour, challenging traditional (and also Austen’s) definition of the attributes that were required for a woman to be characterised as truly accomplished.

The keynote session was delivered by Dr Elaine McGirr (University of Bristol). Titled ‘Uniquely Typical; Typically Unique: a meditation on the paradox of character’, McGirr’s paper explored characters from Robinson Crusoe to Boris Johnson, considered the penchant for modern panel shows and the blurring of the boundary between politicians and celebrities. Her paper offered an opportunity for a wider reflection on the ways in which understanding the history of character and the ensuing cult of personality is a concern that is rooted in the eighteenth century but which inflects our culture today.

The event was an opportunity to engage with a range of new approaches to thinking about character in the long eighteenth century, and to build upon the influential studies by Deidre Lynch, Lisa Freeman, Jane Moody, and Julie Park. We are very grateful to BARS for supporting this conference, and for the financial assistance that enabled us to offer bursaries to postgraduate and ECR speakers.

‘Character to Caricature’ conference Twitter.

‘Dorothy Wordsworth, Mountaineering Pioneer’ by Joanna Taylor

A special post on the BARS Blog today to celebrate the new exhibition ‘This Girl Did: Dorothy Wordsworth and Women’s Mountaineering’ at Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Trust. Joanna Taylor presents an edited version of her recent talk at the Trust, ‘Dorothy Wordsworth, Mountaineering Pioneer’.

On October 7 1818, Dorothy Wordsworth and her friend Mary Barker ascended England’s highest mountain: Scafell Pike. Wordsworth’s account of the feat is among the earliest records of a recreational ascent of the mountain – and it’s the earliest written by a woman.

Wordsworth’s and Barker’s climb of Scafell Pike is notable for the daring it displays: this was not simply a mountain climb, but a rebellious act that opened up the mountain – and mountaineering – for successive generations throughout the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. More than that, reading Wordsworth’s account today suggests new ways of understanding the mountains that go beyond tales of sporting prowess: as Wordsworth knew, examining the details of a mountainside can be as rewarding as the view from the summit.

 

Dorothy Wordsworth’s ‘irregular habits’

 

Alex Jakob-Whitworth’s logo design for The Wordsworth Trust’s current exhibition, ‘This Girl Did: Dorothy Wordsworth and Women’s Mountaineering’.

 

Walking was an important part of the daily routine in the Wordsworth household, but they were well aware – and proud of – the fact that their commitment to almost daily extensive walks was unusual. In September 1800, for instance, we find Wordsworth explaining to Jane Marshall that the frequency with which they walked – and the distances they travelled – was one of the household’s ‘irregular’ habits. The Wordsworth siblings walked together most days for the best part of four decades; Thomas De Quincey estimated that William walked between 175,000 and 180,000 miles over his lifetime, and Dorothy can’t have fallen far short of that. Wordsworth bragged about the speed with which she could walk, and how little fatigued she was afterwards, until her mid-fifties.

Walking was not something Wordsworth took for granted. Both at the start and end of her life, Wordsworth knew what it was like to not be able – or allowed – to walk. In her late teens and early twenties – before she moved in with her brother in 1795 – Wordsworth’s walks were restricted by her relatives’ views on social decorum. For instance, she defended herself against her aunt’s disapproval of her ‘rambling about the country on foot’ by writing that:

I rather thought it would give my friends pleasure to hear that I had courage to make use of the strength with which nature has endowed me, when it not only procured me infinitely more pleasure than I should have received from sitting in a post-chaise – but was also the means of saving me at least thirty shillings.

Wordsworth was justifiably proud of her walking prowess – in 1818, when she was 46, she boasted to Sara Coleridge that she could ‘walk sixteen miles in four hours and three quarters, with short rests between, on a blustering cold day, without having felt any fatigue’. That’s an impressive pace of a little under four miles an hour around the Lake District hills!

But the climb up Scafell Pike with Mary Barker was perhaps Wordsworth’s most significant walking achievement. The two women initially only intended on climbing Ash Course – but, on reaching that point, they decided to push on to the Pike, since ‘three parts up that Mountain’. Although the distance turns out to be ‘greater than it had appeared’, still their ‘courage did not fail’.

 

One of the two surviving fair copies of the letter to William Johnson, in which Wordsworth describes the ascent of Scafell Pike. Used with permission from The Wordsworth Trust.

 

The letter in which Wordsworth describes this feat draws attention to different ways of reading the mountain. In one moment she describes a landscape that stretches out for miles from the summit on which she stands. But at the next, when she looks down, Dorothy realises that though the summit seemed lifeless at first glance, in fact beauty could be found clinging to the rocks if one looked closely enough:

I ought to have described the last part of our ascent to Scaw Fell pike. There, not a blade of grass was to be seen – hardly a cushion of moss, & that was parched & brown; and only growing rarely between the huge blocks & stones which cover the summit & lie in heaps all round to a great distance, like Skeletons or bones of the earth not wanted at the creation, & here left to be covered with never-dying lichens, which the Clouds and dews nourish; and adorn with colours of the most vivid and exquisite beauty, and endless in variety (quoted with permission from The Wordsworth Trust).

In focusing on these details close to hand, rather than rhapsodising on the distant prospect, Dorothy anticipates writers like Nan Shepherd: these women propose an alternative to more familiar accounts of mountaineering exploits that emphasise a victory over a feminised Mother Nature when the climber conquers the summit. Instead, Dorothy recognises that paying close attention reveals unexpected features even on a barren mountaintop.

 

Dorothy’s Legacy

 

A map from William Wordsworth’s Guide to the District of the Lakes showing the Scafell massif.  Used with permission from The Wordsworth Trust.

 

Wordsworth’s account of the ascent of Scafell Pike was later included – without attribution, possibly at her own request – in William Wordsworth’s Guide to the District of the Lakes. The implication was that it was William who had undertaken the ascent. As a result, Wordsworth’s legacy in climbing Scafell Pike is blurred into William’s, and many of the people who followed in her footsteps were unaware that it was her they were emulating.

Her ambitious walking practices established women’s walking as an accepted practice in the Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey families. Robert Southey, for instance, describes the delight which his daughter, Edith, and niece, Sara Coleridge, took from a young age in scrambling about on the fells around their home in Keswick, and Sara herself – not without some self-mockery – labelled them ‘expert mountaineers’.

But Wordsworth’s influence was much wider reaching. Harriet Martineau – a friend of the Wordsworths after she moved to Ambleside in the 1840s – seems not to have been aware that it was Dorothy who made the ascent, but her own account of an ascent of Scafell Pike closely replicates Wordsworth’s. Two decades later, Eliza Lynn Linton – the first salaried female journalist in Britain, though she’s perhaps more (in)famous for her notorious Girl of the Period essays – described Scafell’s intimidating appearance on the approach to it in her guidebook, The Lake Country, in 1865:

Scawfell rose up, and looked bigger and more formidable than ever. As we proceeded he grew, and our work seemed only beginning: all the climbing we have had mere child’s play to what was to come.

It did not put her off: Lynn Linton spent the night on the mountain. Lynn Linton’s description indicates what an extraordinary feat this climb was for Wordsworth to undertake at a moment when such ambitious routes were considered well beyond a woman’s capability. Wordsworth – like Martineau, Lynn Linton and countless others after her – made it clear that walking and other forms of mountaineering were as much for women as for men. Today, Wordsworth continues to offer a vision of the mountains that invites us all to look at, and move through, them in new ways.

 

This post is adapted from a talk given at The Wordsworth Trust on 1 September 2018; you can find a live video of the full paper here. ‘This Girl Did: Dorothy Wordsworth and Women’s Mountaineering’ opens at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, on Saturday 1 September and runs until Sunday 23 December. A film about recreating of Dorothy’s climb up Scafell Pike will premiere at the Kendal Mountain Festival on Sunday 18 November; more details and tickets will be available here.

Call for Papers: BARS 2019 – Romantic Facts and Fantasies

BARS 2019: Romantic Facts and Fantasies

 

Proposals are invited for the 2019 conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies, to be hosted by the School of English, University of Nottingham, from 25-28th July. Our theme is ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’.

We look forward to welcoming you to the East Midlands, where the historic city of Nottingham is located among the heartlands of British Romanticism. Newstead Abbey was Byron’s ancestral home; Sherwood Forest was re-imagined as the meeting place of Richard I and Robin Hood in Scott’s Ivanhoe; and the Cromford Mills are a living monument to Richard Arkwright, whose inventive development of spinning mills and power looms was an integral strand of the Industrial Revolution. This conference will explore the potency of ‘fact’ and fantasy’ both in the Romantic period and during the afterlife of Romanticism. The aim is to develop a collective understanding of how Romantic ‘fact’ and ‘fantasy’ work together and against one another, and in so doing embody the spirit of an age whose inventions and innovations laid the foundations for modernity while simultaneously exulting the power of the imagination and its creations.

Keynote speakers for Romantic Facts and Fantasies are Laura Mandell (Texas A&M), Robert Poole (UCLAN), Sharon Ruston (Lancaster), Diego Saglia (Parma), and Jane Stabler (St Andrews).

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):

Bicentenaries 1819-2019: The Peterloo Massacre; the ‘Six Acts’, the Carlsbad Decrees; the birth of Queen Victoria; Stamford Raffles and the foundation of Singapore; Simon Bolivar’s victory at Boyacá; the Panic of 1819; the opening of the Burlington Arcade, London; the Cotton Mills Act; the death of James Watt;  Keats’s odes; Scott’s Ivanhoe, Bride of Lammermoor, and A Legend of Montrose; the final volume of Southey’s History of Brazil; Blake’s ‘Ghost of a Flea’ (1819/20).

Factual and fantastical encounters and dialogues: travel narratives; poetry of encounter; translations; colonial discourses; geologies, geographies and aesthetics of landscape; rivers, canals, bridges and roads in material, commercial and imaginative landscapes.

Facts and fantasies of collective and individual identity: Romantic provincialism (the Lunar Society, the Lake School); national identity and ideas of the state; religion; ethnography; Romantic life writing and autobiography; Romantic-period economics, consumerism, industry and agriculture; Romantic facts and fantasies of childhood; Romantic experiments in education; Rousseauism.

The scientific imaginary: Mary and Percy Shelley; Humphry Davy, poet and scientist; the development and legacies of Romantic science fiction; Erasmus Darwin, the Lunar Society and Joseph Wright of Derby; Malthus and Malthusianism.

Imagining the Romantic world: Keats’s ‘living year’; plagiarism and originality; the professional imagination in Keats, Davy, Blake, Caroline Herschel and William Herschel; pedagogic and didactic poetry, prose and drama; histories and history-writing, including the emergence of national histories; paintings, sculptures and music commemorating the events and ‘heroes’ of the Napoleonic wars, politics, industry and culture; architecture and Romantic fantasy (eg. Walter Scott’s Abbotsford, William Beckford’s Fonthill Abbey, and Joseph Gandy’s visualisations of the Bank of England and other buildings by John Soane); Romantic book illustration and developments in the technology of print.

Presentation formats

We welcome proposals for the following:

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

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

Open-call sessions. Proposals should include a 350-word (excluding the title) description of the potential session, outlining its importance and relevance to the conference theme. Accepted open-call sessions will be advertised on the BARS 2019 website from mid-November 2018.

Submissions

The deadline for proposals for open-call sessions is 1 November 2018.

The deadline for submissions of panels and individual papers is 17 December 2018.

Please email proposals to bars2019@nottingham.ac.uk.

For more information, please visit the BARS 2019 website.

The Scottish Romanticism Research Award 2018

The executive committees of the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) and the Universities Committee for Scottish Literature (UCSL) are delighted to announce the winner of the third annual Scottish Romanticism Research Award: Eva-Charlotta Mebius, a PhD Candidate in the English Department at University College London. During her research trip she will visit the the Dundee City Archives, in order to study Robert Mudie’s early writing in the Dundee Advertiser, the Fife Archives and the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness, to uncover more information about Mudie’s time there as a schoolmaster, and the National Records of Scotland.

BARS and UCSL have established the annual award for postgraduates and early career scholars to help fund expenses incurred through travel to Scottish libraries and archives, including universities other than the applicant’s own, up to a maximum of £300. A postgraduate may be a current or recent Master’s student (within two years of graduation) or a PhD candidate; a postdoctoral scholar is defined as someone who holds a PhD but does not hold a permanent academic post. If appropriate, UCSL will endeavour to assign the awardee an academic liaison at one of its partner universities in Scotland.

Recipients are asked to submit a short report to the BARS Executive Committee, for publication on its website, and to acknowledge BARS and UCSL in their doctoral thesis and/or any publication arising from the research trip. Please join us in congratulating Eva-Charlotta on her award. We look forward to welcoming her to Scotland.

– Dr Daniel Cook, University of Dundee

Read Eva’s Stephen Copley Research Report for BARS, ‘Unearthing Robert Mudie in the National Library of Scotland and Dundee University Archives’, here.

Stephen Copley Research Report: Lauren Christie on Gothic Literature

Lauren Christie (University of Dundee) has completed the following report on her time in Manchester this summer carrying out research on the Gothic and attending the Gothic festival and the International Gothic Association’s (IGA) biennial conference.

Research report: Gothic literature, children’s literature and the Gothic Manchester Festival/the IGA conference

The very nature and beauty of eighteenth-century Gothic is its fluidity. Originating with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) many established Gothic tropes are still present in aspects of contemporary culture: for example, fashion, architecture, and literature. We are witnessing new developments that reflect different audiences, such as Gothic gaming and post-apocalyptic fiction. Gothic remains such a prominent fibre of the twenty-first century through its inherent ability to adapt and modify for new generations. Due to the diverse scope and nature of my research (ranging from children’s to Gothic and horror literature) there are so many texts that are vital for me, from the eighteenth century to the present day. The Stephen Copley Research Award from BARS enabled me to visit the library and special collections archive at Manchester Metropolitan University in order to examine specialised texts spanning this vast time period. I combined this research trip with an offer to present at the International Gothic Association’s biennial conference. The organising committee for the IGA arranged additional events through the ‘Gothic Manchester Festival: Gothic Hybridities’ series. Exploring the hybridity of the genre from its origins to the present led me to consider and observe the popularity and diverse nature of this topic.

With assistance from Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes (Senior Lecturer) and Rachel Fell (subject librarian for English at MMU), I gained access to MMU’s departmental collection that exclusively focuses on Romantic and Gothic literary criticism of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. Prominent texts included: Coats, McGillis and Jackson’s The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders (2008), Crawford’s The Twilight of the Gothic? Vampire Fiction and the Rise of the Paranormal Romance (2014), Tropp’s Images of Fear: How Horror Stories Helped Shape Modern Culture (1990) and Townshend’s Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (2014). I also encountered contemporary children’s literary criticism such as: Lenz’s Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction (2001), Lewis’s Reading Contemporary Picturebooks (2001) and Coats’s Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature (2004).

MMU houses a unique archival collection of children’s literature. This dates back to 1764, and consists of children’s annuals, fiction, picturebooks and pop-up books, to name but a few examples. Immersed in this collection, I came across an extraordinary Gothic children’s pop-up book entitled Thomson and Hartas’s Ghoul School (2001), and a bibliotherapeutic picturebook for young children: Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (2004). I also looked at several children’s Gothic texts that promote imagination such as Thompson’s How to Live Forever (1995) and Turner’s The Tree Witches (1983). There were also Gothic transitional books for education such as Waddell and Wright’s Little Dracula Goes to School (1987). One particular text that I found incredibly dark and poignant was a contemporary one: Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls (2003). This novel emphasises the power of the imagination and questions the figure of the monster (and whether we mean wolves or humans).

Alongside my research, I was honoured to be able to attend the Manchester Gothic Festival and present at the IGA conference. This year saw the society’s biggest ever conference, hosting over 300 experts from all over the world. I attended several vibrant panels such as: Gothic Houses and Gothic selves, Gothic Monsters in children’s and Young Adult (YA) fiction, Gothic Fairy Tales, Outsiders in YA Gothic, Haunted Scotland, and Reading the Gothic in Popular Children’s Fiction. I also attended wider festival events, including Scoring Fear: An Evening of Classical Music and Gothic Horror Film Scores (BBC Philharmonic and BBC Radio 3), and a reception at the Manchester Art Gallery. In addition, the IGA Postgraduate community had organised a round table event on Gothic-studies careers in academia. This was incredibly supportive as we were able to seek advice from several experts in the field.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the British Association for Romantic Studies for awarding me the Stephen Copley Research Award, without which this trip would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes and Rachel Fell for their help in organising my individual research trip to the library and archives, Dr Linnie Blake and the staff at the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, and the IGA organising committee for creating such a diverse and exciting conference and festival. The combination of all of the above events during my week in Manchester has helped further my research, thereby developing ideas for my thesis and publications.

Call for Papers: The 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion

Call for Papers

The 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion

University of Glasgow, 11th and 12th April 2019

Plenary Speakers: Ian Duncan (Berkeley) and Angela Esterhammer (Toronto)

The reign of George IV was a decade of profound transformations, during which technological, generic and ideological innovations opened up culture to unprecedentedly vast audiences, mandating the creation of new modes of communication and production, but also triggering fears about the loss of social cohesion and nostalgia for perceived lost identities.  By 1830, Samuel Taylor Coleridge felt empowered to contend that ‘Roads, canals, machinery, the press, the periodical and daily press [and] the might of public opinion’ had fundamentally reconfigured political and social discourse.

This international conference aims to produce a new understanding of the underappreciated innovations and diffusions that occurred during the 1820s.  Topics to be considered include, but are not limited to:

  • The Spirit of the Age
  • Media, mediality and technology
  • The proliferation of institutions
  • Reform and reaction
  • Cultural mediators
  • Public(s) and audiences
  • Mobility

Abstracts of around 300 words for 20-minute papers should be sent to 1820sconference@gmail.com along with the proposer’s name, institutional affiliation (if any) and a short biographical note (50-100 words).

We also invite proposals for keywords for framing the 1820s suitable for a special session of 5-minute presentations employing a single slide.  Examples might include ‘Power’, ‘Speculation’, ‘Generation’, ‘Environment’, ‘Regulation’, ‘Genius’ and ‘Flash’.  Proposals should be submitted in the same manner as paper abstracts, but should be no more than 150 words and should include ‘Keyword Proposal’ in the subject line of the email.  Keyword proposals may be submitted either alone or with an abstract for a paper.

The submission deadline for both kinds of contribution is Friday November 30th 2018.

A key function of the conference is to catalyse a new edited collection.  In the year following the conference, there will be a pair of workshops in York and Glasgow at which invited authors will develop papers into chapters in conversation with other contributors.  Funding kindly provided by the Royal Society of Edinburgh will be available to support attendance at these workshops.

For a fuller version of this Call for Papers, along with further information on the conference and related events, please see our website: http://www.1820s.net.

Five Questions: David Higgins on British Romanticism, Climate Change, and the Anthropocene: Writing Tambora

David Higgins is Associate Professor in English Literature at the University of Leeds and Deputy Director of the Leeds Humanities Research Institute.  He has written widely on Romantic literature and culture, including the monographs Romantic Genius and the Literary Magazine and Romantic Englishness: Local, National, and Global Selves, 1780-1850 (which he has previously discussed on the BARS Blog).  Last year, he published two books: a co-edited collection (with Russell Goulbourne) entitled Jean-Jacques Rousseau and British Romanticism (Bloomsbury) and a monograph called British Romanticism, Climate Change, and the Anthropocene: Writing Tambora (Palgrave), which we discuss below.

1) How did you first become interested in the implications of the Tambora eruption?

I’m not sure where I first read about Tambora – perhaps in Jonathan Bate’s The Song of the Earth – but a few years ago I started thinking about the possibility of producing a kind of popular cultural history of the eruption and its effects in time for the bicentenary of the ‘Year without a Summer’ in 2016.  Through writing my monograph, Romantic Englishness, and working with some brilliant colleagues at Leeds, I had started to see myself as a researcher in the environmental humanities.  Tambora seemed a great case study for such an approach, as well as a potential springboard for public engagement work around culture and climate.

2) Why did you decide to write a short book specifically, and how was the experience of writing compared with that for your previous two monographs?

I ended up abandoning the cultural history, partly because I didn’t think that it would play to my strengths and partly because Gillen D’Arcy Wood beat me to it with his excellent 2014 book.  I decided instead to write a shorter book that, rather than simply telling the story of Tambora, would analyse it as a process in which material and discursive elements were profoundly intertwined.  I had started reading theoretical work on speculative realism/new materialism and realised that contemporary ideas about non-anthropocentric agency had a great deal to offer this project and the environmental humanities more broadly.  My case studies seemed to suit a shorter book and I felt that publishing with Palgrave Pivot would allow me to make a more urgent intervention than a longer monograph, as well as roughly coinciding with the bicentenary of the post-Tambora crisis.

The writing experience was very different from my previous research books.  My first was based on my PhD thesis.  It required a lot of primary research and was worked on quite intensively during the course of my PhD and then intermittently for a couple of years afterwards.  My second was a very slow burner as various other things intervened.  In contrast, I wrote this book in not much more than a year, largely during research leave kindly funded by my institution and then by the AHRC.  During this period, I also had some leadership responsibilities associated with the AHRC funding, which took up some time but also very much fed into to my research.  I hope that the resulting study seems timely rather than rushed, and reflects that I had been thinking about the book for a long time before having the chance to write it.

3) How did you come to select the three case studies on which your book focuses: the official narrative of the eruption compiled by the British administration in Java; the 1816 writings of Byron and the Shelleys; and political periodical writings regarding the ‘distresses’ of 1816 and 1817?

Including Byron and the Shelleys was an easy decision as I have a longstanding interest in their writings.  It also struck me that, although their 1816 works were often invoked in relation to Tambora, there was very little actual analysis of the complex ways in which they imagine environmental catastrophe.  Similarly, I noticed that the colonial narrative of the eruption was known as a key source for understanding how Tambora unfolded across the Indonesian archipelago, but nobody had paid any attention to its rhetorical construction of the catastrophe.  Finally, I felt that a chapter on political periodical writings offered a good way to address the impact of Tambora in Britain, as well as to explore the complex relationship between human and nonhuman agents that creates a supposedly ‘natural’ disaster.  I felt, too, that all the case studies would show the value of a close textual analysis of disaster narratives within the broader intellectual framework provided by the environmental humanities.  I have always tried in my work to bring canonical and non-canonical texts into close relationship, and without treating the latter as mere background or context.  The case studies, while manageable for a short book, offered a transnational and generic reach that I felt was vital for a project of this nature.

4) What for you are the most important kinds of insights that can be gleaned by using the lenses of climate change and the Anthropocene to view the art and culture of the Romantic period?

I am very aware of the dangers of ‘presentism’ and I would certainly resist the idea that the Romantic period speaks to us in any straightforward (or moralistic) way about climate change.  I also accept that the present-day environmental crisis may well require new ways of thinking.  However, understanding the Anthropocene as a kind of epistemological breach (as some thinkers do) risks dehistoricising environmental change and presenting it as the inevitable result of human ‘progress’, rather than as the result of a range of contingent factors over time.  As scholars such as Mike Hulme have shown, climate and culture have been understood as intertwined by many human societies.  I believe that understanding how the Romantics address the complex interactions of human and nonhuman agencies that create an environmental catastrophe can contribute to a better understanding of our current predicament.  This genealogical approach requires an attentiveness to the significant differences between then and now, as well as the similarities.

5) Now that this book is finished, what are you planning to work on next?

I’m currently involved in Landlines, an AHRC-funded collaboration between academics at Leeds, Sussex, and St Andrews to write a history of British nature writing over the last two centuries for Cambridge University Press.  We’re not offering a survey, but a pointed and (I hope) sophisticated account of nature writing as a complex literary form.  The project has also involved some very enjoyable public engagement, including a poll to discover the nation’s favourite nature books.  Increasingly, I am motivated as a researcher by the opportunity to engage with broader audiences and so I hope to develop some new impact collaborations around culture and climate over the next twelve months.  In the longer term, I’m planning a book on the relationship between philosophical pessimism and environmental thinking: a project that will take me well out of my Romantic-period comfort zone…

Conference Report: ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Bodily Fluids in the Long Nineteenth Century’

Dr Abigail Boucher (Lecturer in English Literature, Aston University) reports on her conference, which was partially funded by the BARS conference support award.

Anxious Forms 2018 Conference Funding Report: ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Bodily Fluids in the Long Nineteenth Century’

It has oft been a stereotype that those living during the long nineteenth century were prudish to the point of self-disembodiment. Although more recent criticism has sought to undo this century-long cliché, ideas of the abject – in this instance, bodily fluids – still seem conspicuously absent from both primary texts of the long nineteenth century and in much of the academic work about that period. The conference ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Bodily Fluids in the Long Nineteenth Century’ engaged with such perceived omissions.

The generous contribution from BARS to the conference budget went toward the travel and accommodation costs for the keynote and plenary speakers: Professor Talia Schaffer (CUNY) opened the conference with a paper entitled ‘Fluid Reading: Subjectivity, Sentimentality, and Sociality’, which interrogated emotion in nineteenth-century novels, focusing on ideas of tears, sentiment and sympathy in theories of care. Professor Schaffer also discussed the metaphorically ‘fluid’ ideas of community within these theories of care. Plenary speaker Dr Kate Lister (Leeds Trinity) gave a paper in the afternoon session entitled ‘Buzzkill: The Victorians and the Vibrator’, which discussed sexual fluids, hysteria, and the myths surrounding sexual repression, kink, and anxious illness in the long nineteenth century. Dr Lister also brought to the forefront many pertinent issues about modern scholars who deal with still-taboo subjects and the ways in which the academy deals with them.

The research presented by other delegates covered a wide swathe of territory, with papers on nineteenth-century stigmata, breastmilk, tears, ectoplasm, blood and heredity, syphilitic incontinence, blood magic and anthropology, menopause, hormones, vomit, ‘night-soil’, and other effluvia. Conference delegates were especially successful in addressing why our current conception of the long nineteenth century is so skewed in terms of bodily function and excrescence. In part, the delegates debated how actual social, scientific, or moral anxieties played a role in muffling certain conversations. Others found that racial, class, and gender structures kept certain topics out of hegemonic – or at least the best recorded – discourses. Delegates also traced how various paradigm shifts over the long nineteenth century led to certain topics becoming more or less acceptable for public consumption. And, perhaps most significantly, several papers reported that certain bodily fluids were not considered as taboo as a modern audience would have them; authors instead recorded them in euphemistic or idiomatic language that has ceased to be fully recognised by the modern reader.

The conference was the third in the biennial Anxious Forms conference series which seeks, with every event, to interrogate a different point of anxiety – overt or implied, addressed or ignored, contemporaneous or a later construction – in the literature and culture of the long nineteenth century. The inaugural conference ‘Bodies in Crisis’ was held in 2014 and the second ‘Masculinities in Crisis’ was in 2016; both were held at the University of Glasgow, although this third entry was held at Aston University in Birmingham to commemorate the opening of the English Literature department (2017) and the History department (2018).