BARS Exchange

BARS Exchange

Aggregated blogs on Romantic Studies – please click through to read full posts.

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London-Paris Romanticism Seminar, Sarah Haggarty, Friday 19 January 2018, Senate House, London


haggarty advert

The next meeting of the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar will be held on Friday 19 January 2018 in the Bloomsbury Room (ground floor), Senate House, University of London, starting at 5.30. As our distinguished guest speaker, we are delighted to welcome Sarah Haggarty of the University of Cambridge, who will present a paper entitled Blake’s Newton and Romantic Geometry. This will be followed by a discussion and wine reception. The event is open to everyone and admission is free.

is a University Lecturer in English at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Queens’ College. She has written about theories of gift-giving and exchange, phenomenologies of timing and tempo, and the writing, art, and reception of William Blake. In addition to three books previously published (authored, co-authored, and edited), she is the editor of Blake in Context, a collection of essays forthcoming from CUP, and is currently at work on an article about Blake’s manuscripts and notebooks stemming from her own contribution to this. She is also working on a monograph about eighteenth-century religious writing and the temporality of action, supported by fellowships from CRASSH (Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, …read more


Mary Shelley: Through the window

By Lynn Shepherd

Richard Rothwell's portrait of Mary, first exhibited in 1840. National Portrait Gallery, London

by Fiona Sampson

I’ve always liked buildings. When I was a child I used to get myself to sleep by imagining palaces that I designed room by room. I like the way a building tells you its age without meaning to, because it’s been designed according to the architectural fashion of its day. I spend a lot of time visiting churches because their aspirational shapes are beautiful, but also because the details of their construction are the giveaways that let us in to local history. When, last year, we moved to an old stone farmhouse that has itself been often rebuilt (it has thirteenth-century kitchen beams but an eighteenth-century façade), trying to date it became a fascinating game.

So it’s no surprise that, when I started to think about Mary Shelley and how life must have been for her, I used the places she lived as a way to reconstruct her experience. I was not going to fictionalise Shelley, but I did want to recoup in forensic and faithful detail all that we do know about her own experience. Nor did I want simply to repeat research already brilliantly and comprehensively carried out by previous biographies. Miranda Seymour’s 2000 Mary …read more


Book review: Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years, by Christopher Frayling

By Lynn Shepherd

by Barry Forshaw

Given that the 1st of January 2018 is a significant literary date — 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein — it is surprising (and disappointing) that this event is not enjoying more ballyhoo – but this sumptuous, over-sized volume goes some way to redressing that injustice.

Sir Christopher Fraying, a cultural polymath in the UK of heavyweight reputation, proves to be the perfect commentator to celebrate the Frankenstein bicentennial. Frayling utilises new research on the novel’s origins, and his text is enriched with a variety of illustrative materials (all the films, of course, but also the first visual representations of the creature).

His book is also an examination of the tributaries of the creation myth in modern times, from genetic engineering to nanotechnology, but this is no dry academic text. Shelley’s novel set in motion a cultural phenomenon whose offshoots continue to this day. Apart from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there is not a more fecund source of Gothic inspiration.

Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years
by Christopher Fraying. Reel Art Press, 208 pages, £29.95

This review first appeared in the Financial Times.

…read more


Elizabeth Craven: Georgian feminist

By Lynn Shepherd

Elizabeth Craven, c1780-3, by Ozias Humphry

by Julia Gasper

Elizabeth Craven (1750-1828) is a writer who is remembered today for her travelogue, an account of a protracted tour of Europe and the Levant made in 1785-6, and her Memoirs written in later life. (1) What the travelogue does not mention is that she was making her journey in the company of a lover, and in her Memoirs she was careful to avoid mentioning him or any of the others who had earned her a scandalous reputation.

However, she wrote far more than is generally known – poems, plays, stories and letters – and some of her most important works are overlooked. When we factor these back in we get a very different picture, and find that Craven was actually one of the most outspoken contemporaries of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Robinson. In 1784, having been driven from England by scandal, after a marital break-up and many much-talked-about love-affairs, she wrote a remarkable book called Letters to Her Son, in which she denounced the laws of marriage, as they were at that time, as unjust and oppressive to women. “Matrimony,” she wrote, “in this country, is less calculated to make people happy than any other …read more