Dr Freya Johnston (University of Oxford)
Professor Simon Kövesi (Oxford Brookes University)
‘The present is an age of talkers, and not of doers’ (William Hazlitt)
‘Thus did I dream o’er joys & lie / Muttering dream songs of poesy’ (John Clare)
‘Coleridge came to the door. I startled him with my voice’ (Dorothy Wordsworth)
‘[Mary Wollstonecraft] is alive and active, she argues and experiments, we hear her voice and trace her influence even now among the living’ (Virginia Woolf)
Although the meditative insights of the “Greater Romantic Lyric” have often been considered to be the voice of Romanticism, this conference will also explore and uncover different types of voices in Romantic literature, ranging from the loud chatter emanating from coteries and coffee-houses, to the marginalised voices of the disabled and dispossessed. It will understand ‘voice’ from a variety of perspectives: as the sound of communication; as the oral and written word; as a mode that anticipates an audience, even if only that of an internal listener; as the fashioning of the self, and the forming of communal identities; as a tool for disseminating knowledge and political opinions publicly and privately. Topics likely to be discussed include:
- The self-constructed image of the poet as Bard
- The lyric form
- Dissenting voices
- The rise of the periodical press
- Voicing national and regional identities
- Disjunctions between the oral, written, and published word
- The politics of conversation and debate
- Forums of exchange – from intimate and close-knit communities to literary salons and public institutions
- Literary inheritance – the interplay between first- and second-generation Romantics, the impact of eighteenth-century voices on Romanticism, and the afterlife of Romantic thought
- Non-linguistic modes of communication, and their relation to aesthetics, sensibility, morality, and politics
- Reform debates and the relationship between literary and political representation
- Narrative voice
As well as thirty-two conference-style papers, and two plenaries, we have exciting seminars on ‘Voices and Visions of London’, ‘Southey and the Newspapers’, and ‘The Last Man: a Voice Without a Listener’. We are also hosting a public engagement workshop where delegates will be invited to begin considering how to turn their academic research toward the public sphere. Details of these events are below. Alongside the academic chatter there will be plenty of time to socialize and get to know your peers during coffee breaks, a lavish wine reception, and during dinner at the Turl Street Kitchen.
The full conference programme can be downloaded here: BARS Romantic Voices final final programme (updated 21st June). The conference begins at 10:30am on Wednesday 22nd June and concludes at 6pm on Thursday 23rd.
You can now register by downloading and completing the form below and returning it to firstname.lastname@example.org:
The deadline for registration was Wednesday June 15th.
To pay your registration fee, please use the PayPal links below (account not required; the second option on the page that the buttons link allows you to pay with any major credit card):
You may also email us at the conference address if you have any questions or concerns.
Public Engagement Workshop
Professor Nicola Watson (Open University), Dr Helen Stark (QMUL) and other researchers engaged in public engagement throughout the UK will lead targeted groups offering first-hand advice on how to turn your academic work toward the wider public. Participants will be asked to send a one-page description of their current research for inclusion in a pre-circulated workshop pack. The workshop will include:
o A discussion of the concept of ‘public engagement’ – why it’s important, what it is, what it’s not, and how it relates to ‘impact’.
o Various routes to public engagement will be considered: how to find a wider audience, whether ‘live’ or ‘online’, and ways of engaging with them when you have; the desirability of two-way engagement and how it might enhance your research.
o Discussion of potential public engagement partners and their priorities: museums, galleries, archives, collections, libraries, theatres, schools and other captive audiences, arts festivals, tourist boards, National Trust, English Heritage, literary societies, churches.
o Reflections on existing opportunities and how to identify them.
We’re offering three seminars responding to the conference theme of ‘voice’, led by early career scholars: Dr Ruth Scobie from the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), Dr Matthew Sangster from the University of Birmingham, and Dr Catherine Redford from Hertford College, Oxford.
1. Ruth Scobie, Oxford
Robert Southey, ‘Elinor’, and the Newspapers
Robert Southey’s first Botany-Eclogue, ‘Elinor’, made its first public appearance in newsprint. Anonymously printed in September 1794 in the reformist Morning Chronicle, it was rapidly picked up and reprinted in conservative papers, including the Star and Evening Advertiser. This seminar will read Southey’s poem as its first readers did: as a text embedded in the advertisements, news items, crime reports, political commentary and self-censorship of these London newspapers. It will ask how these sharply-opposed and politically-charged contexts might have shaped reception; and look for new interpretations of this famously elusive poem and its ambiguous presentation of a marginalised female voice speaking from an Australian convict colony by way of classical pastoral.
Morning Chronicle, 18 September 1794.
Star and Evening Advertiser, 25 September 1794.
2. Matthew Sangster, Birmingham
Voices and Visions of London
In 1992, Marilyn Butler, addressing what she characterises as a peculiar elision of London in much Romantic-period writing, wrote that ‘[i]t seems puzzling that London as an environment, a society, an idea, received so little attention at a time when the London printing industry and those who lived by it were fashioning themselves so successfully. A question of comparable interest is why, after so long in an imaginative void, the metropolis emerges, reinvented, in 1820.’ Taking these statements as its provocations, this seminar will discuss the ways in which London was represented (or occluded, shied away from, glorified or travestied) across a range of genres and media in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For the reading, I’ve suggested the seventh book of The Prelude (not available, of course, to most of Wordsworth’s contemporaries) and selections from Rudolph Ackermann’s lavishly-illustrated Microcosm of London (1808-10), but I’d be very keen to widen the discussion to other examples of Romantic-period London writing that people have encountered in the course of their research projects in order to test the truth of Butler’s assertions.
– William Wordsworth, The Prelude – Book VII: Residence in London. Read either the 1805 or the 1850 version – they vary quite a bit, so it would be interesting to have people in the discussion who’ve read different versions.
– Dip into Rudolph Ackermann, The Microcosm of London. All three volumes are available (in the 1904 reprint) on archive.org and Google Books. In terms of the text, I’d suggest looking particularly at the section on Bartholomew Fair (I, 52-62) as a contrast with Wordsworth’s vision of sensory overload. It may also be worth looking at the sections on Sadler’s Wells (III, 41-4) and Vauxhall (III, 204-7), which Wordsworth mentions, but pick sections based on your own interests. Please also take a look at the Auguste Pugin/Thomas Rowlandson illustrations (all available on http://www.romanticlondon.org).
– If you’d like to read Marilyn Butler’s essay in full, it’s ‘Hidden Metropolis: London in Sentimental and Romantic Writing’, in London – World City 1800-1840, ed. by Celina Fox (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1992), pp. 187-98.
3. Catherine Redford, Oxford
The Last Man: A Voice without a Listener
When Margaret Atwood published MaddAddam in 2013, she spoke in an interview of the difficulties involved in writing about the end of the world. ‘[Y]ou can’t actually wipe out the human race and then tell a story about it’, she observed, explaining that ‘There has to be somebody still alive through whom you can hear that story’. In imagining a final survivor figure who can relate the apocalypse, however, authors often find that they encounter another problem: to whom does the last human on earth speak? Who hears his voice in an empty world?
In this seminar, we will examine the voice of the Last Man, Lionel Verney, in Mary Shelley’s novel The Last Man (1826). Focusing on the final two chapters of the novel, we will consider to whom Lionel claims he is speaking, as well as exploring our own role as readers of this text. We will think about how Lionel’s desire to have a voice in a world devoid of listeners can be read as a response to the Romantic interest in posterity, and will look at how the novel’s frame narrative (set out in Mary Shelley’s Introduction to the novel) aids/complicates this. Finally, we will discuss how Lionel appropriates the voices of others in his manuscript, quoting from numerous literary works even as he seeks to voice his own, unique tale.
Over the course of the seminar, we will also look at some other Romantic responses to the Last Man theme, exploring how other writers at the time approached the challenge of creating a voice that, by definition, shouldn’t be heard.
Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826) – we’ll be focusing on the Introduction and the final two chapters of the novel (i.e. ch. 29-30 or Vol. III, ch. 9-10 depending on which edition you’re using), but please read as much of the novel as you can. You can find a free e-text here: https://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/mws/lastman/
Paley, Morton D., ‘Mary Shelley’s The Last Man: Apocalypse Without Millennium’, Keats-Shelley Review, 4 (1989: Autumn), 1-25.
Redford, Catherine, ‘The “Last Man on Earth” in Romantic Literature’,
Sambrook, A. J., ‘A Romantic Theme: The Last Man’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 2 (1966), 25-33.