PhD studentship (2020-24)

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Bringing the Bard Back Home? The English Translation of Foreign Shakespeare Criticism in the Long 19th Century

Department of Literary Studies, KU Leuven.

Deadline for applications: 15 July 2020.

You will join KU Leuven’s English Literature Research Group, part of the Literary Studies Department, a vibrant, multilingual, and international community of scholars with a strong tradition of research in comparative literature and translation studies. The department provides many opportunities for collaborative work and for developing a broad range of professional skills. KU Leuven is the oldest university in the Low Countries. It features among the world’s top 100 universities in most rankings, with high scores for Arts and Humanities research. It is located in a historic town in the heart of Belgium, 20 minutes from Brussels, and within easy reach of Paris, London, Amsterdam and Cologne.


We offer a fully-funded PhD position for research on English translations of German Shakespeare criticism in the long nineteenth century.
Unlike translations of Shakespeare’s texts, translations of Shakespeare criticism have attracted no scholarly attention. Shakespeare critics in different countries often used to read each other in the original, but their writings also reached wider foreign audiences through translations. By analysing English translations of French and German writings on Shakespeare in the long 19th century (an age of popular Bardolatry or ‘Shakespeare-mania’), this project will question the view that British publications about Shakespeare were part of an insular, patriotic literary culture that had enshrined the English ‘Bard’ at its centre. It will examine the different textual and paratextual strategies used by various translators to convey the significance of foreign perspectives on Shakespeare, and the reception of their translations. The project will highlight an important, yet neglected international dimension of Romantic and Victorian literary cultures. While the lead investigator (Raphaël Ingelbien) will work on translations of French texts, the PhD student will focus on translations of German texts.


• You hold academic qualifications in English and German: a BA and MA in modern languages and literatures and/or in translation studies, obtained with high marks in relevant subjects. 
• You have prior knowledge of and a deep interest in English and German cultural history. A fascination with all things Shakespearean is obviously a plus.
• You are interested in the study of translation and cultural transfer.
• You have strong academic writing skills in English, and can read historical texts in English and German with some ease. 
• You are a keen reader, a good team worker, and can meet deadlines.
• You are willing to make some research trips to European destinations, and to communicate on your research at conferences, through publications, and via different media.


• A PhD studentship that, pending a positive assessment after one year, will be renewed for three more years (1+3).
• A net monthly salary of about 2,000 euros, supplemented by a budget for research-related travel and equipment.
• An exciting international research context where you can develop your professional and research skills, including a doctoral training programme, and opportunities for teaching.
• Regular contacts with various leading experts in Shakespeare studies, translation studies (including KU Leuven’s CETRA centre) and cultural transfer analysis.


For questions about the position and the nature of the project, please get in touch with Prof. Raphaël Ingelbien ( ). The starting date for the position is 1 October 2020 or as soon as possible after that. Please apply through the online application tool with a CV, including detailed transcripts of courses and marks obtained for relevant BA and MA degrees; a letter of motivation stating your qualifications and the reasons for your interest in the position; one academic writing sample in English (MA thesis, coursework, published or submitted article, …); and the contact details of two referees (including information on the relationship with the applicant). Selected candidates will be interviewed by the end of August at the latest.

Conference Report – BARS PGR and ECR Conference 2020: Romantic Futurities (12-13 June)

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A report by Alastair Dawson and Vinita Singh

View the conference website here

Each new year and theme makes every BARS postgraduate and early-career researcher conference a unique academic experience, and this tradition continued into 2020. Of course, this year, thanks to worldwide lockdowns and bans on large group gatherings, this conference was unique in more ways than one.  A herculean effort by organisers (Colette Davies, Amanda Davies, and Paul Stephens) and 37 accepted speakers managed to move mountains (or, in this case, papers) onto an online platform.  With such a plethora of academic delights to choose from, some 200 delegates took part in the conference across the weekend, with just shy of a hundred in most of the live workshops and keynote sessions.  Indeed, freed from the physical and geographical constraints of a typical conference venue (although delegates are still hoping to make it to Keats House, Hampstead in future), scholars from right across the globe were able to come together in the cloud, and many of us left the conference with minds abuzz with the possibilities of future digital elements in academic conferencing.  

It was not merely the geographical and physical from which we were freed in this strange new world, but also the constraints of a schedule of events in which papers, keynotes, workshops, and readings must all take place in a carefully timed sequence with little room for manoeuvre.  Split into two streams, synchronous and asynchronous, this conference offered a different way of doing things, which delegates tweeting the events decreed #CFH (conferencing from home).  Thus, while workshops and keynotes were held via Zoom (with remarkably few technical hiccoughs) at particular times across the two days, the 37 papers were available continuously from 10am on the Friday right through the weekend.  Speakers rose to the challenge of physical distance in a variety of ways; there were papers in text format, audio recordings, video-recordings, and narrated PowerPoints (much of which, I confess, is well beyond my own technical capabilities!).  The discussion boards under each panel, the designated substitute for live questioning of speakers, livened up across the weekend, and, importantly, presented speakers with an opportunity to offer much more considered responses to the questions about their work – something we hope was very useful to all!

The three Friday workshops, aptly chosen to address key concerns of PGRs and ECRs alike, drew large audiences and provided a much needed sense of community – at the end of talks, delegates were encouraged to turn on their videos so that we could see the faces of our online community.  After opening remarks from the organisers inviting us to think about what Romantic Futurities might mean in the current climate, Dr Emily Paterson-Morgan kicked off the day with a rousing workshop designed to prepare us for the non-academic job market, and reminding us all that a PhD develops innumerable skills well beyond the ability to write on niche research interests.  A practical and interactive session, those attending left with workable templates and schematics to give them the best chance of success in future job applications.  Dr Charlotte May and Fiona Lewin followed (after a quick break for lunch – we admit we missed the social chatter over triangle sandwiches) with an interesting and useful examination of working in the heritage sector.  An industry on whose experience, expertise, and kindness we researchers often rely, this workshop was a valuable insight into what working in the sector might look like, as well as the emerging and changing trends resulting from lockdown restrictions.

The final workshop of the day, brought to us by Dr Andrew McInnes, focussed on the elusive beast known as the academic interview.  With many an amusing anecdote from his own life, Dr McInnes conveyed much practical advice for interview preparation, as well as tips and insights on the impenetrable schema used in shortlisting processes – a.k.a. how to simultaneously embody many conflicting ideas, desires, and traits.  For those of you who were unable to join us for these live workshops, you’ll find some handy tweet-threads of the live sections on the BARS PGR twitter, complete with Q&As.

It fell, then, to Professor Michael Gamer to close the first day of the conference with his keynote lecture entitled ‘The South Seas on Stage’ – especially relevant in a time of pandemic where each of us is confined to our own homes and left to imagine future travels to foreign lands and coming into close proximity with the peoples and cultures of these places.  Social distancing and lockdown often forces us to consider what is at stake when distances between cultures, countries, and people are dissolved.  With this in mind, Professor Gamer gave a fascinating reading of the transactions of culture between European explorers such as Charles Darwin and James Cook and the indigenous peoples of the South Pacific regions, taking his listeners on their own imaginary voyage.  A frequently contentious cultural interaction that seemingly threatened European superiority gave birth to pantomimes such as Omai (1785).  Professor Gamer reflected on how and why, in the play, Omai is remade as a royal prince destined to marry Londina, the daughter of Britannia, as well as the ways in which theatre supplied the visual and sonic language for this cultural reimagining of people from the South Pacific regions on the stage.

The second day’s keynote was equally intriguing – Dr Emily Rohrbach’s talk ‘Open Books’ invited us to reconsider the role of books and the political power and choice inherent in a decision to open and/or close them.  Focusing on Romantic poetry, Dr Rohrbach explored the interplay between time, form, and the act of reading itself – a chance both to remove oneself from the bustle of industrial life, as well as an opportunity for radical self-alteration.  Saturday evening then brought a real treat in the form of a poetry reading from Keats House poet Deanna Rodger.  Sharing some new material with conference attendees, Rodger’s poetry struck a powerful and emotional chord with many, while the subsequent discussion ranged widely from the worldwide #BlackLivesMatter protests, brought into sharp focus in Rodger’s home town of Bristol with the toppling of the Edward Colston statue, to the continuing resonance of poems written for a past moment.

This conference will, in all likelihood, remain unique in a way that no other academic conference ever could.  Whatever digital elements find their way into future conferencing plans – and there are huge benefits to many of them – it was truly a privilege to have been involved in this one, which we’re calling a bit of a trailblazer.

– Alastair Dawson and Vinita Singh

Conference Volunteers

PGRs at the Universities of Southampton and Leeds

Black Lives Matter: A Statement from the BARS President and Executive, June 2020

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The British Association for Romantic Studies condemns in the strongest terms the systemic and persistent destruction of Black lives. The deplorable and distressing murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are the latest in a long line of brutal injustices that stretch back through centuries of inequality and discrimination in the United States. It is with dismay that we see that, in 2020, so much work remains to be done.  

This crisis of racism is not confined to the US alone: in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, intolerance and discrimination have been on the rise. The deaths of Sean Rigg, Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell and Sheku Bayoh point starkly to the toxic and structural imbalances in law enforcement and the justice system within the UK. The rise in weaponized anti-immigrant rhetoric, populist ethnonationalism, Islamophobia and national scandals like Windrush demonstrate that racism is a global pandemic. Contrary to initial suggestions that the COVID-19 crisis was the ‘great leveller’, emerging data indicates that people from BAME backgrounds are significantly more likely to die from the virus than white people. Yet, people of colour disproportionately make up our health and care sectors, putting their lives at risk daily to protect and care for fellow citizens. 

The labour of addressing centuries of exploitation, violence and inequality can no longer fall upon those very victims of such enduring structures and practices, which range from the racialized microaggressions encountered by people of colour on a daily basis, to the excessive and brutal violence enacted upon Black bodies with seeming impunity. All of us have a role to play in standing against racism and brutality. We must be actively anti-racist and ensure that prejudice, intolerance and discriminatory behaviours are called out. Privilege must be used to amplify Black voices. As researchers, writers and educators, we must remind our fellow citizens of troubling national histories that might otherwise be whitewashed or sacrificed to myths of national destiny and colonial benevolence. People of colour who continue to live with the legacies of this history must no longer bear this burden alone.   

The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries—our period—saw the excesses of the triangular slave trade, colonial exploitation and imperial expansion: it was the era of the nabob and the plantation owner, which stimulated economic prosperity and the growth of the United Kingdom. It was also a period marked by political radicalism, of agitation for democracy and equal suffrage, and of abolitionism: it was not only the age of Hannah More and William Wilberforce, but also that of Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano and Phillis Wheatley. The legacies of both that violence and that resistance remain with us today.  

BARS is committed to standing alongside those fighting these injustices, and joins with other scholarly organisations in supporting a more equal society founded on fairness and inclusivity. Our community has a role to play as researchers, scholars and educators in numerous capacities: in our publications, in our classrooms, in our gatherings and among the public. Our members know the power of words in shaping actions, and how silence equates to complicity.  

At our 2019 conference in Nottingham last summer, the BARS Executive reaffirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusivity as guiding principles for our ongoing vision.  Much work remains to be done and the best way to accomplish this is by practical action. At our July meeting, the Executive will prioritise actions that can be taken swiftly and substantively:  

We will establish dedicated funding and mentoring opportunities for BAME researchers.  

We will also ensure that our forthcoming series of online seminars, blog posts and directory of resources highlight the work of our BAME members and shine a light on the important, but still under-represented, history of people of colour in the Romantic period.  

We also strongly welcome suggestions and contributions from the BARS membership on how, as a community, we can speak together so that Black voices are heard. 


– The President and Executive, British Association for Romantic Studies 

AHRC-funded project DREAMing Romantic Europe and RÊVE

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AHRC-funded project DREAMing Romantic Europe and RÊVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition).

Our third project workshop was to have been held in June 2020 in beautiful Grasmere, Cumbria, as guests of the Wordsworth Trust, in conjunction with the Wordsworth250 celebrations and the opening of the redisplayed Dove Cottage. In the light of current circumstances, we have moved this event online, and this means that we have the wonderful opportunity of inviting colleagues from right around the world to come and join us on Sunday June 28th and Monday June 29th 2020.

It seems fitting that this collaboration to build a virtual exhibition of Romanticism should entail a virtual event, and stimulating that such virtuality resonates so powerfully with our chosen theme of ‘media’. The core question for our invited speakers was ‘Which media served to materialise and/or transmit Romantic ideas and sentiments across Europe?’  They were invited to present an ‘exhibit’ to RÊVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition) (This link will take you to the current exhibition, and to more information on the project generally, including reports on previous events and workshops.) Speakers have been asked to produce a 10-minute presentation, consisting of a single image plus a script running to about 1000 words. This ‘exhibit’ can be either scholarly or creative in mode.  Auditors of sessions will be able to participate in discussions via the chat pane which will be moderated by the session chair.

Please email Alice Rhodes (details below) if you would like to see the programme, wish to attend, or have any questions. (Alice Rhodes,

Romantic Dwelling

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RÊVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition) is delighted to announce the release of its latest collection, ‘Romantic Dwelling’. Comprised of an introduction and ten entirely new short pieces, it is devoted to objects held in one house- museum, the Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney, and experiments additionally with a mix of scholarly and creative responses.

Explored through these exhibits, William Cowper’s life and poetry — ambiguously composed of retreat and correspondence, of domestic privacy and commentary upon world events — offer a timely reflection upon the pleasures and privations of lockdown in the time of Covid-19.

Visit the RÊVE website for more details of this and the rest of their fascinating collection:

BARS PG & ECR Conference 2020: Registration and Live Schedule

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The BARS PG and ECR Reps are pleased to announce that Registration is now open for the BARS Postgraduate and Early-Career Conference 2020: Romantic Futurities. The conference invites delegates to examine the theme of ‘futurities’ in Romantic-period literature and thought, including the historical future, the anticipatory future, posterity, and the future of the field of Romanticism. For full details, please visit the official conference website.

1] Conference Registration
Please visit the conference website to book your place. Registration is completely free, and includes access to both days of the conference (Friday June 12th and Saturday June 13th), including all sessions, workshops, and keynotes.

2] Conference Format
The conference will be staged asynchronously on the Conference website, with synchronous discussion and video workshops on Zoom on the 12th-13th June. The conference will be held via a password-protected area of the website, which will host the video/audio presentations, and forum conversations aligned with each panel to facilitate discussion. The Organising Team will be online throughout the conference to facilitate lively and convivial forum discussions. The finalised programme will be available on the website on Wednesday 10th June.

3] Conference Live Sessions: Schedule
Alongside the asynchronous delegate presentations, there will be 6 live elements to the conference. Registrants are welcome to join in as many of them as you like. The live schedule is as follows:

Friday 12 June:
10:50 – 11:00.  Welcome & Opening Remarks
11:00 – 12:00.  Workshop: ‘Freelance Roles for PGRs and ECRs’ (Dr. Emily Paterson-Morgan)
13:00 – 14:00.  Workshop: ‘Working in Heritage’ (Dr. Charlotte May and Fiona Lewin) 
15:00 – 16:00.  Workshop: ‘Academic Interviews’ (Dr. Andrew McInnes)
16:30 – 18:00.  Keynote Lecture + Q&A: ‘The South Seas on Stage’ (Professor Michael Gamer)
Saturday 13 June:
12:50 – 13:00.  Welcome
13:00 – 14:30.  Keynote Lecture + Q&A: ‘Open Books’ (Dr. Emily Rohrbach)
17:00 – 18:30.  Poetry Reading with Deanna Rodger + Q&A, and Closing Remarks.

4] Conference Live Sessions: Logistics
Each of these live elements will be streamed via Zoom, and we shall send out the links and passwords to the Zoom meetings in an email to all registrants on Thursday 11 June. One of the conference organisers will chair each Zoom session, and another of us taking care of aspects such as muting sound and video for people who aren’t speaking.

5] Workshop Q&A Sessions
Our workshop leaders have kindly asked that registrants submit their questions in advance of the talks, so that they may make sure they respond to them as best they can. Please would you fill out this form with any questions you have for each speaker. There are separate sections for each. There will also be the option to ask questions during the Zoom session, either through the chat function or in person. 

Hopefully this covers all the key information that you require at this stage. But if you have any further questions then please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. We look forward to seeing you all online soon.

Very best wishes

Colette, Amanda, and Paul

BARS PGR Reps: Colette Davies and Amanda Blake Davis
BARS ECR Rep: Paul Stephens


CFP: Female Voices in 1770s-1830s: Genres/Forms of Women’s Reading, Self-education and Writing in the Anglo-European Context

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Mary Wollstonecraft, heralding the importance of female education along with the process of life-learning, claims in the preface to the collection, The Female Reader:

  […] supposing a young lady has received the best education, she has advanced but a few steps towards the improvement of her mind and heart – that is the business of her whole life; […] As we are created accountable creatures we must run the race ourselves, and by our exertions acquire virtue: the outmost our friends can do is to point out the right road, and clear away some of the loose rubbish which might at first retard our progress.[1] 

Almost fifty years later, Mary Shelley transposed Wollstonecraft’s suggestions in the short story “Euphrasia; A Tale of Greece” (1838), published in the Keepsake. Like Wollstonecraft’s ideal lady, Euphrasia is a scholar:

The study of the classic literature of her country corrected her taste and exalted her love of the beautiful. While a child she improvised passionate songs of liberty; and as she grew in years and loveliness, and her heart opened to tenderness, and she became aware of all the honor and happiness that a woman must derive from being held the friend of man, not his slave. [2]

The edited volume intends to display and analyse the versatility of the genres in which woman writers were seeking the ways to express themselves and present their development in the years 1770s to 1830s. The forms of self-education include – in addition to literary works – letters, translations, journalistic pieces, reviews, and essays. We also intend to publish papers on female writers who theoretically and practically focus on the significance of reading, for instance, Mary Wollstonecraft, Catharine Macaulay, Miss Chapone, Charlotte Smith, Felicia Hemans, Anna Letitia Barbauld (Ms Aikin), Mary Hays, Maria Jane Jewsbury. Original papers on the well-known female novel-writers of the period – among others, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and Frances Burney – are also welcome if they centre on the topic of female self-training. The analysed works should present the changing and transitory values questioned by woman writers at the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth centuries in the decades from 1770s to 1830s, that is, in the Age of Sensibility (Pre-romantic Period) and in the first decades of the Romantic Period.

Contributions are also welcome on cross-cultural relations between British women writers and European ones in order to study their role as mediators in cultural transfers. Articles may focus on women’s role in the translation and reviewing of educational writings into the English language or from English to another European language, and on influential women, like Mme de Staël and Mme de Genlis.

Please, send a 300-word proposal together with a short biography to the editors, Antonella Braida Laplace <> and Éva Antal <>. 

The new deadline for submission of proposals is 31 August 2020.

Antonella Braida Laplace (University de Lorraine, France)
Eva Antal (Eszterhazy Karoly University, Hungary) 

[1]Mary Wollstonecraft, The Female Reader, in The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. by Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler, vol. 4 (London: William Pickering, 1989), 59-60.
[2]“Euphrasia: A Tale of Greece,” in Mary Shelley: Collected Tales and Stories, ed. by Charles Robinson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 302.

New issue of European Romantic Review

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The European Romantic Review is delighted to announce the publication of ERR 31.3 (June 2020), the NASSR “Romantic Elements” issue guest edited by Timothy Campbell. In his words, the issue includes works addressing “direct and urgent consideration of what it must or could mean now to pursue first principles, essential components, or primary qualities of Romanticism, whether through more intensive or expansive recovery of a deep archival past or through closer (albeit more dispersed) attention to what has stood before, outlasted, and thereby evaded the critical trends and transformations we have found easier to recognize and address.”

Contents include papers by Timothy Campbell, Jocelyn Holland, Daniel Stout, Ian Balfour, Manu Samriti Chander, Suh-Reen Han, Andrew Sargent, Karen Weisman, Alice Rhodes, Adam Kozaczka, and Trevor McMichael, as well as shorter panel pieces celebrating new books and pedagogy.

Five Questions: Crystal B. Lake on Artifacts

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Crystal B. Lake is Professor of English Literature at Wright State University, specialising in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British literature and culture. Her recent work includes an essay on needlework verse (forthcoming in Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain), ‘Hairstory’ (in A Cultural History of Hair in the Enlightenment), ‘Antiquarianism as a Vital Historiography for the Twenty-First Century‘ (in the Wordsworth Circle) and an edited collection on Romantic Antiquarianism (with Noah Heringman, for Romantic Circles). Her exciting new monograph, Artifacts: How We Think and Write About Found Objects, was published in February by Johns Hopkins University Press. In the interview below, we discuss the book’s roots, findings and implications.

1) How did you first become interested in studying antiquarianism?

When I started my graduate studies, I was really interested in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century representations of ruins. Reading about ruins led me to reading around in antiquarian histories. I’ve since liked to joke that if you’ll stick with an antiquarian history long enough, something weird always happens around page 284—and I, at least, was both delighted and fascinated by how antiquarian histories swerved from “drysasdust” descriptions into curious anecdotes and surprisingly heated debates.

I was probably also primed to have my interests piqued by eighteenth-century antiquaries. I grew up in a log cabin in rural West Virginia on a spot of land where my great-grandparents had also lived in a cabin—just a few miles down the road from a small town where my grandparents ran the only general store for miles and miles. Maintaining and repurposing old things were necessary efficiencies in rural Appalachia, but my father also had what you could call an antiquarian sensibility. As the area’s aging population dwindled, a lot of old things seemed to make their way into our cabin: oil lamps and pocket-watches, quilts and farm equipment, books, fossils, a spinning wheel, a pie safe, a trunk organ—all these scraps of lives once lived. Our cabin was like a museum. My dad died when I was 17 years old, and we sold the cabin along with most of the things in it to pay his medical bills. Even though I don’t have the same zeal for collecting that my father did, I still find myself compelled by old things as aesthetic objects and as byways to the past.

2) In your introduction, you write that ‘we’ve forgotten about most of the old, dirty, rusty, moldy, and broken items—the small bits and bobs whose origins or backstories were unknown and whose worth or meaning was not self-evident—that once called out to so many people’.  What do you think are the most important things we can learn by remembering these unruly artifacts?

For me, one of the biggest takeaways from my research into artifacts is that they can help us to refine our thing theories. More specifically, my book argues that old, dirty, rusty, dusty, moldy, and broken things put pressure on some of the tenets of the new materialisms. Although I’ve been convinced by the new materialists who make the case that objects have agency, I’ve been less convinced by their claims that such agency will translate into meaningful political action. I’m thinking here in particular of something like Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, which shaped a lot of my thinking as I was finishing Artifacts. Although I agree with so much that Bennett has to say in Vibrant Matter, I don’t share her optimism that attending to objects’ vibrancy will produce the kind of political changes that so many of us want and need. In the book, I conclude that artifacts are “things that do things,” to use Bruno Latour’s well-known phrase, but they don’t do what we expect or call upon them to do—which is usually to provide us with unassailable facts about the past, which is usually also a plea for objects to resolve a political-philosophical debate we’re having in the present. Instead of settling debates, artifacts provoke relays of interpretations and representations as we try to reconstruct their histories or shapes from the fragments that remain. My hope, then, is that artifacts will remind us of the responsibilities that people, rather than things, bear for creating the conditions of the past as well as the present.

3) How did you choose the four kinds of artifact you focus on in your case study chapters (coins, manuscripts, weapons and grave goods)?

Honestly, I don’t feel so much like I chose to focus on coins, manuscripts, weapons and grave goods so much as those were just the objects that I kept finding not only in antiquarian histories but also in descriptions of eighteenth-century collections and popular museums. Searching around in databases and indexes confirmed that coins, manuscripts, weapons, and grave goods preoccupied artifact-enthusiasts throughout the century. I also spent some time poking around in the Society of Antiquaries of London’s museum where I saw firsthand just how many of those four types of items had made their way into the Society’s collection.

There’s a lot of really great scholarship out there about antiquarianism as a methodology and a practice, about the relationships between antiquarianism and natural history, and also about antiquarianism relative to neoclassical connoisseurship. I was having, however, a very “Goldilocks experience” trying to find the book that would explain to me the significance of all the smaller bits and bobs that seemed to start piling up in England beginning in the seventeenth century; nothing that had been written yet seemed just right. I think a lot of scholarly books must get written that way. You end up writing the book you were hoping to read.

4) Your book concludes with an assertion about timeliness: ‘The artifactual form may be particularly responsive […] to political crises and cultural paradigm shifts in which diametrically opposed worldviews become irreconcilable: those moments when two intractable factions appear to be using the same piece of evidence for competing claims, like reading the same book but discovering different stories therein.  For these reasons, artifacts and the kinds of texts that they inspire are likely due for a comeback.’  How might thinking about eighteenth-century experiences of grappling with artifacts help us with the possibilities and the pitfalls of negotiating our own increasingly digital cultural heritage?

That’s a really great question, Matt! A lot of the digital cultural heritage we encounter erases the relationships that exist between people and things. It’s easy to forget that humans are behind every database and digital collection, making decisions and taking actions. I have in mind here not only the people who wrangle the tech but also those people who, throughout history, owned, found, preserved, or identified the texts and objects that we view on our screens. We should be careful, I think, not to get lulled by the plenitude or presentation of the digital into a false sense of security about historical facticity. Whether I’m marvelling or despairing at how much of the past seems to be available to us now online, I try to remember that there’s so much history that’s been—that’s still being—erased and contested. I hope that Artifacts might go some way in helping attune us to the politics of curation and interpretation that our digital cultural heritage often occludes.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

Right now, I’m working on two new book projects. One of these is a history of the crafts that early readers made and the consumer goods they customized: things like needleworks, toys and games, personal accessories and interior decorations that either quote from or refer directly to popular texts that were published between 1650 and 1850. The other project I’m working on is a memoir of sorts: a collection of personal essays about growing up in rural Appalachia in the 1980s, organized around key terms in literary criticism. In the meantime, I’m also working on a digital edition of Vetusta Monumenta with Noah Heringman and running The Rambling with Sarah Tindal Kareem.

CFP: New Directions in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art

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This digital seminar series seeks to showcase new and innovative research being undertaken on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art and its histories. We invite contributions for papers investigating any aspect of the artistic, visual and material cultures of this period, and produced across the globe. Sessions will be hosted via video conferencing software, and will take the form of a 40-minute seminar, with time following for questions.

We welcome proposals from PhD researchers and Early Career Academics, particularly those from underrepresented groups.

Please send abstracts of 300 words and short biographies to by 15 June 2020.

For more details, visit: