Stephen Copley Research Awards 2022 (round one)

The BARS Executive Committee established the Stephen Copley bursary scheme in order to support postgraduate and early-career research within the UK – we have extended this to a second round per year. The bursaries primarily fund expenses incurred through travel to libraries and archives necessary for the applicant’s research, but the remit was this year expanded to include other research-focused costs, such as (but not limited to) photocopying, scanning, and childcare. Please do join us in congratulating the very worthy winners. 

Laura Blunsden (University of Liverpool)

Jessica Fay (University of Birmingham)

Ifemu Omari-Webber (University of Wolverhampton)

Amy Wilcockson (University of Nottingham)

Once they have completed their research projects, as far as the bursary scheme is concerned, each winner will write a brief report. These reports will be published on the website and circulated through our social media. For more information about the bursaries, including reports from past winners, please visit our website:

Daniel Cook

Bursaries Officer, BARS

University of Dundee

24 June 2022

Archive Spotlight/On This Day 1822- “Remain, thou, thou art so beautiful”: Shelley’s Boat Sketches

The BARS ‘On This Day’ Blog series celebrates the 200th anniversary of literary and historical events of the Romantic period, and our ‘Archive Spotlight’ series showcases research projects based in archives and heritage institutions and showcases work with physical or digital manuscripts. Want to contribute a future post? Get in touch.

As we approach the 200th anniversary of the death of Percy Bysshe Shelley on 8 July 1822, we bring you a special Archive Spotlight/On This Day crossover from Laura Blunsden, who explores the relationship between text an images in Percy Shelley’s notebooks held at the Bodleian Library, focusing on the sketch of a sailing boat in his pocket notebook, its relationship with the texts that surround it, and its haunting foreshadowing of Shelley’s upcoming death.

Between translated lines of Goethe’s Faust and his lyrical poem ‘With a Guitar. To Jane’, a sketch of a sailing boat emerging from around a bend in the river Arno fills an entire page of Shelley’s pocket notebook. The sails are filled with an invisible breeze which ripples the water’s surface with thin, wave-like lines, and sways the curly loops of foliage that cover the sloping river banks. Even the tree, which frames the top left corner of the page, seems to lean over the little boat as it passes. The rough, short strokes and inky smudges suggest that the sketch was made quickly, in the open air. It is known that Shelley enjoyed composing his poetry outside; perhaps he sat on the embankment and sketched the boat as it drifted towards him. Below, the stern of the same boat is studied from several angles, each layered one on top of the next, as it floated past Shelley and continued down the river.[1]

Sketches of sailing boats by Shelley
‘Sketches of Sailing Boats by Shelley’, Shelley’s Ghost Project (2010)
Shelfmark: MS. Shelley adds. e. 18, p. 106 rev.
Credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Yet the sketch is in a relatively finished state compared to many of the other doodles that appear in his notebooks: Shelley took his time to add shading and detail as he enjoyed a moment’s peace in the Italian sunshine. Edward Trelawny would later recall that he found Shelley in this state of ‘bardish reverie’, gazing into the river from the lee of a fallen pine, deep in the forest of the Cascine, one spring afternoon in 1822. A copy of Shakespeare lay nearby, and Shelley’s thoughts still lingered in the atmosphere of The Tempest when he declared to Trelawny that

“In those three pines the weird sisters are imprisoned, and this,” pointing to the water, “is their cauldron of black broth. The Pythian priestesses uttered their oracles from below—now they are muttered from above. Listen to the solemn music in the pine-tops—don’t you hear the mournful murmurings of the sea? Sometimes they rave and roar, shriek and howl, like a rabble of priests. In a tempest, when a ship sinks, they catch the despairing groans of the drowning mariners. Their chorus is the eternal wailing of wretched men.”[2]

Perhaps Trelawny’s memory of the scene was coloured by his knowledge of what was to come, but this vision of impending doom seems to foretell the confusion and chaos into which Shelley’s life would descend in the months following this brief period of relative stability. It creates a striking contrast with the tranquillity of the setting, which is not unlike the one depicted in the boat-sketch. The ‘weird sisters’ imprisoned in the pines, recalling Macbeth’s Three Witches, animate the trees and water as agents of evil. The priestesses’ ominous utterances prophesise Shelley’s drowning in the wreck of his own boat, the Don Juan (which he had preferred to call Ariel), and the lines from ‘Ariel’s Song’ which would be inscribed on his gravestone.

But The Tempest had even more immediate significance: on the very next page after the boat-sketch, ‘With a guitar. To Jane’ figures Shelley as the spirit Ariel, and Jane and Edward Williams as the reincarnations of Miranda and Ferdinand. As these lines seem to have been drafted in the same brown ink as the sketch, they can be dated to the early spring, when Shelley was forming his plan to gift a Pisan guitar to Jane. Along with the guitar, he gave the poem to her, written neatly on a sheet of paper that he had folded into a little booklet, so that he might deliver it into her hands himself, out of Mary’s sight. The series of passionate lyric poems he secretly wrote for her in the months before his death suggest that Shelley’s feelings for Jane had been strengthening since January 1822. He admired her beauty and musical talents, and she offered him affection and comfort, while Mary was struggling with depression following the death of their toddler William. If it had been discovered, their affair could have destroyed their marriages and the peace of their household in Villa Magni, where the couples stayed during the summer.

But for now, sailing on the river and canals surrounding Pisa was Shelley’s favourite way to spend his afternoons. It offered him an emotional, as well as literal, escape from the grief and distress back on the shore. His desire to remain in the present moment, to efface all that has passed and is to come, became more insistent in the last months of his life. In a letter dated 18th June 1822, two hundred years ago today, he wrote to John Gisborne:

[My boat] is swift and beautiful, and appears quite a vessel. Williams is captain, and we drive along this delightful bay in the evening wind, under the summer moon, until earth appears another world. Jane brings her guitar, and if the past and the future could be obliterated, the present would content me so well that I could say with Faust to the passing moment, “Remain, thou, thou art so beautiful”[3]

The Faust quote is significant: it is addressed to the moment of transcendence that Faust has been granted by Mephistopheles in exchange for his instant death and an eternity in Hell. The line must have felt particularly poignant for Shelley, who, like Faust, stands ‘upon a precipice, which I have ascended with great, and cannot descend without greater, peril’.[4] Even as it grasps at the present, the line ebbs into the past and manifests anxieties about the future.

               The lines of Goethe’s Faust drafted on the page before the boat-sketches express the same fantasy:

Through the mossy sods & stones

River & streamlet hurry down

a flood of song, a rushing throng

Beneath the vault of Heaven is blown

Sweet notes of love, the speaking tones

Of this day of Paradise

Resound around beneath above

All we hope and all we love

Finds a voice in the sweet strain

Which wakens hill & wood & vale

And which echo like the tale

Of old times repeats again

(Scene II, lines 51-6, 58-61, 63-4)

Mephistopheles and Faust chant these lines in chorus by as they traverse the desolate Hartz Mountain. The water, the wind, the hill and wood and vale, are all animated by a voice: not the mutters and shrieks of priests and priestesses described to Trelawny, but the stilted repetitions and echoes of unseen witches, whose song ‘Streams the whole mountain along’ (Scene II, line 149).[5]

If the suggested dates are correct, the sketch was made as Shelley’s translation of Faust was nearing completion, and therefore predates little Allegra’s death in May and Mary’s miscarriage in June. The little boats represent a ‘day of Paradise’, which hovered between years of accumulated disappointment and disillusionment, and his remaining few months, marked by despair and deteriorating health. Several sheets before and after the sketch are torn out, but Shelley preserved the leaf with the sketch on it because it accomplished something that the Goethe lines and the Jane lyric could not. For all the movement that is evoked in the drawing, by the sails full of wind and the water rippling into small waves, the sketch halts and holds time in a way that verse cannot. A line of poetry, though it may exclaim against the future, must necessarily move forward onto the next; but the little boat is stilled forever in the pages of Shelley’s notebook.

Laura Blunsden (@blunsden_laura) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Liverpool. She researches mentoring relationships – between authors of, and represented within – eighteenth-century prose fiction. She is also interested in the life and works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and assists the Shelley200 organisers with their upcoming conference in July 2022

[1] The Faust Draft Notebook: Bodleian SM adds. e. 18, p. 207.

[2] Edward Trelawny, Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron (1858; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 71.

[3] The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. F.L. Jones, 2 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964), II, pp. 435-6.

[4] Letters, II, p. 436.

[5] Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Scenes from the Faust of Goethe’ in The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Thomas Hutchinson (1905; revised edition Geoffrey Matthews, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 748-762 (p. 753 and p. 755).


Barker-Benfield, B.C., Shelley’s Guitar: An Exhibition of Manuscripts, First Editions and Relics, to Mark the Bicentenary of the Birth of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 179–1992 (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1992).

Holmes, Richard, Shelley: The Pursuit (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974).

The Faust Draft Notebook: adds. e. 18, The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts, gen. ed. Donald H. Reiman, 23 vols (New York: Garland, 1986-2002) xix, ed. Nora Crook and Timothy Webb (1997).

The Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Geoffrey Matthews and Kelvin Everest, 4 vols to date (London: Longman, 1989-2020) i.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Thomas Hutchinson (1905; revised edition Geoffrey Matthews, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970).

The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. F.L. Jones, 2 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964).

Trelawny, Edward, Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron (1858; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Five Questions: Porscha Fermanis on Romantic Pasts

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Porscha Fermanis is Professor of Romantic Literature at University College Dublin. Her research interests include Romantic poetry and poetics; the relationship between Romanticism and Enlightenment; history and historiography; nineteenth-century colonial material culture; global Romanticisms; and the history of globalisation. She is the Principal Investigator of the European Research Council-funded SouthHem project. Her recent books include Romanticism: A Literary and Cultural History (Routledge, 2016; with Carmen Casaliggi), Early Public Libraries and Colonial Citizenship in the British Southern Hemisphere (Palgrave, 2019; with Lara Atkin et al) and Worlding the South: Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture and the Southern Settler Colonies (Manchester University Press, 2021; ed. with Sarah Comyn). Her latest book, Romantic Pasts: History, Fiction and Feeling in Britain, 1790-1850, which we discuss below, has just been published by Edinburgh University Press.

1) How did you first become interested in what your introduction describes as ‘the complex relationship between feeling and the making of the modern historical method’?

I’ve been interested in historiography for what seems like a long time now, dating back to my 2009 book on Keats and extending to a co-edited collection on Romantic-era history in 2014 (with John Regan). While my interest in feeling is a bit more recent, the role and place of feeling in written history is a long-standing issue in the philosophy of history. There are a number of ways of understanding historiographical shifts over the longue durée, but in nearly all of these explanations feeling has had a significant role to play in history’s changing self-definition. It’s almost a truism at this point to say that the historical writing of the Romantic period saw a deepening of those sympathetic registers that emerged out of late Enlightenment thinking. Ironically, however, my own interest in feeling surfaced from the ambivalence towards sentimental techniques that I discovered in Romantic-era written histories. There is a sense in the historical writing of Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Walter Scott, Thomas Carlyle, and others that sympathetic identification—while desirable—comes with its own set of ethical problems, including ideological concealment and the complicity between the personal and political. More generally, I was interested in connecting work from the history of emotion, which has demonstrated how modern conceptions of emotion took shape in the nineteenth century, to the writing of history itself.

2) How did you decide to focus on ‘the protocols, norms, and evidentiary claims of “real” history rather than on the novel, memoir, or biography’?  What for you are the most important things we see when we place the spotlight on such histories, rather than on forms like the historical novel?

My decision to focus on ‘real’ or ‘official’ history was partly a pragmatic one. There has already been so much excellent work produced on women’s historical writing and on the historical novel. Mark Salber Phillips has also done a brilliant job of thinking about quasi- and para-historical genres in Society and Sentiment (2000). It seemed to me, however, that some (although by no means all) of this work tended to see official history as an unchanging norm against which innovations in other genres could be mapped or measured. I wanted to think instead about how written history was contributing to, rather than just belatedly incorporating, some of the formal innovations we normally attribute to the novel, memoir, and biography. Putting the spotlight on official history can, for instance, allow us to see how the genre developed new technologies for the staging of historical selves, technologies that emerged as much from Enlightenment faculty psychology and from what I call ‘feeling documents’ as from the novel. By treating written history as (at least to some degree) separable and distinct from quasi- and para-historical genres, I think that we can see more clearly what heuristic models history borrowed from the novel and vice versa.

3) To what extent do you see Romantic-period history-writing as departing from earlier eighteenth-century practices?  What are the main legacies of the period’s approaches for the development of historical writing and the organisation of history as a discipline?

History’s familiar coming-of-age or disciplinary birth story is that professional empirical history emerged only in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Romantic Pasts I focus less on questions of institutional or disciplinary professionalisation and more on the longer and slower processes of differentiation and specialisation internal to genre hierarchies and classifications. While I do not deny that the Romantic period reflects a gradual shift away from eighteenth-century philosophic history towards a more affective and narrative type of history, the legacies of Romantic-era historical writing are, I think, much more closely aligned with the development of the modern historical method than they first appear. For one thing, the archival turn was well and truly under way in the Romantic period, fortified by a revised form of antiquarianism. For another thing, Romantic-era historians had already begun to centre a different conceptualisation of emotion that the traditional empiricist one, a conceptualisation that focused more on the motivational than the affective character of emotions. I suggest that this new conceptualisation of emotion gradually allowed for the objectification of feeling in written history, in the sense that feeling was increasingly seen as an object of historical study rather than just as a rhetorical mode.

4) How did you come to select the groupings of writers around which you structure your chapters (Edmund Burke and Wollstonecraft; Godwin and Carlyle; Scott, Thomas Moore and Robert Southey; Thomas Babington Macaulay and Carlyle; the reviewers for the Edinburgh Review and ‘other organs of “higher journalism”‘)?  Were there other historians you considered including as you refined the plan, but who ultimately didn’t fit with the book’s design?

I could have considered many other historians in more depth in the book. Among them are figures who are perhaps closer to what we would today consider ‘career’ historians: for example, Sharon Turner, Henry Hallam, Francis Palgrave, and John Lingard. If I had centred those historians, the book might have looked very different. It could, for instance, have been structured around more traditional historical sub-categories, such as constitutional history, military history, ecclesiastical history, and so forth. As I started to focus on feeling, however, it became important to me to look primarily at writers who either produced multigenre corpuses or who were directly engaged with the relationship between history and fiction. Within this particular set of histories, a number of alternative thematic categories emerged, such as historical experience, character, and style. I decided to include a final chapter on periodical reviews because it allowed me to think more fully about questions of occupational identity (particularly the distinction between ‘amateurs’ and ‘professionals’) and reception (including the gendering of reception). Even here, however, had I not focused on organs of higher journalism, the chapter would have looked very different since other, less elite types of journals promoted more popular and accessible forms of history.

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I’ve finally left historiography behind (I think!) and I’m currently finishing a book called Southern Settler Fiction and the Transcolonial Imaginary, 1820-1890. This book posits that the nineteenth-century settler novel, far from being a generic and belated version of metropolitan fiction, can assist us in understanding complex, transitionary modes of settler and migrant cultural identification across and between multiple spaces, thereby disrupting understandings of Angloworld migration as a single long ship voyage from Europe or America. It examines the kind of ‘mobile fiction’ that depicts transient and short-term movement, primarily between colonial Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa but also between the South Pacific, India, Africa, China, and Southeast Asia. Its central premise is that novels that foreground border-crossing or mobility between spaces can enable us to think about how national canons have marginalised mobile communities and naturalised the nation-state itself. My focus in the book is on two themes: first, the ways in which settler novels encode specifically regional spatial imaginaries (Australasia, Trans-Tasman, Oceania etc); and second, representations in settler fiction of imagined noncommunities, marginalised or precarious political subjects, and the historically punishable bodies of convicts, indentured labourers, servants, non-European diasporas, Indigenous peoples, and mixed-race peoples.

New BARS Postgraduate and Early Career Representatives

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After reviewing a range of very strong candidates, the BARS Executive Committee is delighted to announce two new BARS Postgraduate Representatives:

  • Cleo O’Callaghan Yeoman (Stirling/Glasgow)
  • Yu-Hung Tien (Edinburgh)

The BARS Executive Committee would like to thank the outgoing Postgraduate Representatives Amanda Blake Davis and Colette Davies, and the Early Career Representative Paul Stephens, for all their excellent work.

We wish Colette and Paul all the best with their future careers and are immensely grateful for their work on a multitude of projects, not least the BARS PG/ECR Conferences.

Amanda Blake Davis will now be stepping into the Early Career Representative role.

The BARS Review, No. 57 (Autumn 2021)

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Seascape with a French cargo vessel sailing on a choppy sea at centre, fishing boats beyond, a Dutch coast seen in distance; proof before lettering; before retouchings in the sky (Gerrit van Groenewegen, 1793). © The Trustees of the British Museum. Reproduction used under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

We are glad to announce the publication of the most recent issue of The BARS Review (No. 57, Autumn 2021). The issue contains a total of eight reviews of recent scholarly work within the field of Romanticism, broadly conceived, covering twelve works. Five of the reviews compromise a ‘spotlight’ section on ‘Repositioning Romantic Perspectives’.

The individual reviews are detailed below; as always, all reviews are openly available in html and .pdf through The BARS Review website, and a compilation of all the reviews in the number can be downloaded as a .pdf.

If you have comments on the new number, or on the Review in general, we’d be very grateful for any feedback that would allow us to improve the site or its content. Mark Sandy would also be very happy to hear from people who would like to review for BARS.

Editor: Mark Sandy (Durham University)
General Editor: Anthony Mandal (Cardiff University)
Technical Editor: Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow)


1) Ashley Cross on Gillian Russell, The Ephemeral Eighteenth Century: Print, Sociability, and the Cultures of Collecting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
2) Christine Kenyon Jones on Jane Spencer, Writing about Animals in the Age of Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.
3) Anna Fancett on Caroline McCracken-Flesher and Matthew Wickman, eds., Walter Scott at 250: Looking Forward. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021 and Daniel Cook, Walter Scott and Short Fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021.
4) Charlotte May on Tim Fulford, ed., The Life of Nelson, by Robert Southey. Abingdon: Routledge, 2021.

Spotlight: Repositioning Romantic Perspectives

5) Peter Francev on Bethan Roberts, Charlotte Smith and the Sonnet: Form, Place, and Tradition in the Late Eighteenth Century. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019.
6) Jessica Fay on Eliza Borkowska, The Presence of God in the Works of William Wordsworth. Abingdon: Routledge, 2021 and Eliza Borkowska, The Absent God in the Works of William Wordsworth. Abingdon: Routledge, 2021.
7) Eric Lindstrom on Bysshe Inigo Coffey, Shelley’s Broken World: Fractured Materiality and Intermitted Song. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2021 and Merrilees Roberts, Shelley’s Poetics of Reticence: Shelley’s Shame. Abingdon: Routledge, 2020.
8) Jake Phipps on Ian Brown and Gerard Carruthers, eds., Performing Robert Burns: Enactments and Representations of the ‘National Bard’. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021 and Adam White, John Clare’s Romanticism. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Romantic Circles/K-SAA Anti-Racist Pedagogies Colloquium Fellowship

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RC Pedagogies and K-SAA see the work of discovering, gathering, developing, and elaborating anti-racist pedagogies as essential to the work of scholars and teachers, not to mention to the viability and relevance of the Romantic period more generally. Since systemic racism has long affected not only what texts are considered canonical, but also how, where, and to whom Romantic-era materials are taught, RC Pedagogies and K-SAA hope to provide support for scholars in expanding access to Romantic-era pedagogy, including resources for teaching in underserved communities and carceral facilities. Such an undertaking must be a collaborative, sustained, and rigorous research project to include bibliographies of available material, articles discussing best classroom practices, contextual materials, and syllabi, compiled into a readily usable/accessible set of pages to be maintained over time.

A joint team of K-SAA and RC scholars seek to appoint a team of 4 Pedagogies Fellows tasked with adding to a permanent yet expanding set of anti-racist pedagogy web links and resources begun by last year’s amazing Fellows (Mahasweta Baxipatra, Conny Cassity, Hilary Fezzy, Lenora Hanson, Indu Ohri, and Erin Saladin). The Colloquium to be held over Zoom during several meetings over four weeks during July-August 2022. Fellows would receive a $500 honorarium, and specific dates for the colloquium will be crowd-sourced by the fellows and convener. Over the course of that month, Fellows would, together and independently, locate helpful contextual sources, syllabi, articles, and techniques for anti-racist pedagogy in the Romantic period, as well as organize and annotate these items into accesible webcontent for teachers of high school, undergraduate, graduate students, and other learners.

Throughout the colloquium, Fellows will be encouraged (but not required) to share their work through online social fora like Twitter and HASTAC. At the month’s end, the group will identify future work for the participants of this colloquium and colloquia to come, which may include blogging for the K-SAA Blog, a series of short essays for RC, a conference panel, a special issue, or another form of work. (This colloquium is the second in a series of continuing work.)

Fellows will have the opportunity to build a cohort and a virtual space for discussion of anti-racist pedagogy and its intellectual work. They will also receive mentoring via senior scholar-teachers in the field via guests and speakers as well as other members of the K-SAA/RC Pedagogies team. Fellows can thus expect to become part of a widening professional network of Romantic scholars, digital humanists, and teachers, especially in their unique relationship to Romantic Circles and K-SAA as organizations with journals and other scholarly events. Additionally, Fellows will gain exposure to journal, organization, and advisory board projects.

Applicants of any rank are invited to submit a one-page letter of intent to by June 15th, which discusses specific interests and experience in anti-racist pedagogy, including discussion/description of courses taught or proposed as well as scholarly research/interests and public humanities work.

CFP: The Routledge Handbook to Global Literature and Culture in the Romantic Era

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Edited by Arif Camoglu, Bakary Diaby, Omar F. Miranda, Gaura Narayan, and Kate Singer

How might we re-envision and extend the “Romantic period” through an archive of texts and forms of expression from multiple communities across the planet during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? The Routledge Handbook to Global Literature and Culture in the Romantic Era aims to redefine the contours of the literary and political imaginations of the period by attending to the cultural, linguistic, temporal, and archival differences that constitute our world. Resisting the master narratives of canonical Anglo-European Romanticisms, the volume will offer new readings, including cross-cultural, trans-regional, and transnational analyses, that will highlight aesthetic and political concerns around the globe. It will also expand the linguistic and cultural texts of the period and foreground new sites of knowledge and anti-racist methodologies. We seek chapter proposals that will contribute to the volume’s broad geographical and cultural reach, including but not limited to engagements with Black, Asian, Latinx, and indigenous peoples across the globe and spaces such as the Caribbean, the Americas, Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Oceania. We are interested in reconsidering how we put language to “revolutions and social change” and how we might necessarily redraw the temporal boundaries, ongoing legacies, and other paradigms of the period with more diverse archives and geographies. Contributions from scholars in the Global South are especially welcome. 

Essay proposals might consider the following subjects:

• race, indigeneity, gender
• migration, circulation, and translation
• affects, relations, communities
• aesthetics, genre, media, and objects
• oral histories & visual and material cultures
• narratives of rebellion, abolition, and other emancipatory and activist expressions
• the ecological as an important site of knowledge
• reimagining temporal boundaries and legacies of the period

Send 500-word abstracts, CV, and author bio to by August 1, 2022; decisions will be made no later than September 30, 2022, and 6,000-word essays will be due by August 2023. This volume is under contract.

BARS/BAVS Nineteenth-Century Matters Event

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In the 125th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the event aims to reframe and reclaim 19th-century narratives of vampires, from John Polidori’s 1819 ‘The Vampyre’ to Stoker’s fin-de-siecle novel, by reassessing vampires as figures of recovery, community building, and regeneration. See website below, and event poster attached.

See here for details of the event and CFP.

BARS Digital Events: The Visual Life of Romantic Theatre Recording

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Watch the latest BARS Digital Event below!

This BARS roundtable showcased some of the innovative work being undertaken for The Visual Life of Romantic Theatre, 1780-1830 (forthcoming, U Michigan Press), which offers a sustained examination of the dynamism and vibrancy—what we call “life”—of theatrical spectacle and its impact on society and culture, bringing it from the periphery to the centre in Romantic scholarship. Our speakers include Diane Piccitto (Mount Saint Vincent University), Terry F. Robinson (University of Toronto), Susan Brown (University of Prince Edward Island), Uri Erman (Shalem College), Danny O’Quinn (University of Guelph), Deven Parker (Queen Mary University of London), and Dana Van Kooy (Michigan Technological University).

Five Questions: Madeleine Callaghan on Eternity in British Romantic Poetry

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Madeleine Callaghan is a Senior Lecturer in Romantic Literature at the University of Sheffield. Her work focuses on poetry, poetics, culture and philosophy, with a particular focus on Romantic-period writing. Her book-length publications include Shelley’s Living Artistry: Letters, Poems, Plays (Liverpool University Press, 2017), The Poet-Hero in the Work of Byron and Shelley (Anthem, 2019), Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry: Hardy to Mahon (co-edited with Michael O’Neill; Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) and The Romantic Poetry Handbook (co-authored with Michael O’Neill; Wiley 2017). Her new monograph, Eternity in British Romantic Poetry (Liverpool University Press, 2022), will be released on June 1st; we discuss this book below.

1) How did you first become interested in the relationship between the mortal and the eternal in Romantic poetry?

I think it’d always been there in the way I read poetry, and perhaps it explains my enduring love of Shelley, whose work is so often that of a poet balancing the claims of the visible and invisible world. I think it sharpened into an actual idea when the more I read Romantic period poetry, the more I saw that tension or negotiation between the mortal and the eternal playing out across the entire period. I decided to write an article on Shelley and eternity (published by Essays in Criticism in 2018), and then found that I wasn’t finished thinking about it! I miss writing this book because it was a fantastic opportunity to think about a question that animated all of these poets (and so many others that I just couldn’t fit into the parameters of the study) and seemed to unite them and yet reveal the very real differences between them. Now, to get my fix, I teach a module for our finalists, ‘Life After Death: Romantic Poets and Writing the Afterlife’, and the students sometimes get as obsessed as me!

2) To what extent would you see Romantic poets as engaging with older ideas regarding eternity, and to what extent did their practices represent a break with previous traditions?

Eternity and the relationship between poetry, theology, and religion, gained a new urgency in the Romantic period. Andrew Bowie writes that ‘between the end of the eighteenth and the end of the nineteenth century the relationship between art and the rest of philosophy undergoes a radical transformation’, and I think poetry registers and even spearheads this transformation. I see Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Hemans as inheriting the philosophy, the theology, and the imaginative visions of their predecessors and then pushing them into new complexity in their demanding poetry. I also had to deal with how a philosopher that might be central for one poet hardly seemed to register for another. Bernard M. G. Reardon refers to the state of ideas in the period as ‘a treasure-house in disorder’, and I think that’s a great description, where each of these poets wants to discover a treasure, or perhaps more accurately, decide on whether their predecessors offer them trash or treasure. In the Romantic period, there is such a rich and multifaceted picture of religious belief, and these differences license serious poetic exploration.

3) For all the poets you examine, you write that eternity is ‘vitally important for providing a spur to the imagination, a source for their yearning, or as an inhuman abyss to avoid’.  However, you also stress that each poet has particular approaches of their own.  What for you are some of the most interesting commonalities and dissonances your analysis traces between its subjects?

I had hoped, as I always do, to find some sort of common thread that would make for a bold theory that would bring everything together perfectly (I was as optimistic as Edward Casaubon). But I quickly realised that would have meant a complete distortion of what each of these poets actually does. I found the commonalities lay in that each of the poets, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Hemans, felt that they had to deal with the question of eternity. For each of them, it wasn’t so simple that you could just ignore it completely. Even Byron, that grand scoffer, swithers between versions of eternity, and he tests and plays with new ideas in almost every poem. I loved how far Keats defied eternity, always remaining fascinated with that which is mortal and warm with human touch. Hemans, the quiet radical Romantic, scrutinises what it is to think about a female eternity. Writing about Records of Woman via the idea of eternity made me realise how innovative she is, where she takes up a stance so counter to but in touch with the work of her male peers. I see the way they write as a dialogue, or, to borrow from Coleridge’s ‘The Nightingale’, they seem like ‘So many Nightingales’ (56) that ‘answer and provoke each other’s songs’ (58).

4) Which poems did you find it most rewarding to write about in the context of this book?

I was stunned by how much poetry seemed to be bound up with the question of eternity, so nothing felt like pulling teeth! Wordsworth’s The Excursion, Coleridge’s The Wanderings of Cain,along with Keats’s ‘This Living Hand’, were an absolute pleasure to write about, and Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell was another type of fun. I really enjoyed reading Byron’s Beppo through a new lens, and Hemans’s poetry, especially Properzia Rossi, was so rewarding in that her ambiguities and real mastery over her subject matter made me strive to do her as much justice as I could. Obviously, for me, Shelley was a delight throughout. I only wish I’d had more pages available to try to speak to the scope of his achievement. I always long for more words!

5) What new projects are you currently working on?

I’m thinking about a few editing projects and articles, but also I’m at the very beginning of starting a new monograph, Such Liars: Romantic Period Poets and the Truth, which aims to work on a number of Anglophone poets working in America, Ireland, and England. The notion of truth was of particular philosophical and material significance in the Romantic period.  As if to spite Wordsworth, who calls himself and Coleridge ‘Prophets of Nature’, Byron laughingly, or snarlingly, calls poets ‘such liars’. But the insult suggests how the idea of truth nags at Romantic period poets, even as they might seem to thumb their noses at it. This project explores poetry’s engagement with truth and related ethical concepts in poetry in the Romantic period by tracing how poetry was a platform for debate around questions of aesthetics, politics, gender, and race. I want to challenge understandings of poetry’s relationship with truth, and think through poets as different as Thomas Moore and Phillis Wheatley and their approach to truth. It’ll take a while before I start writing, but so far, I’m enthralled with the poets I’m reading, and hope to be able to write something, anything, before too long!