Five Questions: Sharon Ruston on Romantic Science

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Sharon Ruston - Creating Romanticism

Professor Sharon Ruston has recently joined the University of Lancaster, having previously held appointments at the University of Salford, Keele University and the University of Wales, Bangor.  She has published widely on literature, science and medicine in the Romantic period, and, among many other activities, has served as academic co-ordinator for the LitSciMed doctoral training programme and co-edited (with David Higgins) a useful collection on Teaching Romanticism, which draws on the survey of Romantic-period teaching which she completed for BARS in 2006.  Her latest book, Creating Romanticism: Case Studies in the Literature, Science and Medicine of the 1790s, came out earlier this year; below, we discuss the process of writing this book and its relation to her current project: co-editing, with Professor Tim Fulford, The Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy and his Circle.

1) How did you come to decide that this was the next book you wanted to write?

After Shelley and Vitality (my first monograph that came from my PhD), I wanted to move outwards to think about Romanticism and Science as a whole.  I have been keeping little notes and ideas since my PhD and hoped that these would be the basis for my ‘big’ second book.  I guess that these things never quite go as planned.  The next book that I wrote was the Continuum guide to Romanticism, which encompassed the whole period – though I was able to do a chapter on science and medicine – and then after that there were edited collections of essays, Literature and Science and Teaching Romanticism.  In the back of my mind was always the idea of the big book and this is my attempt at it without having the twenty years to dedicate to it that I really would have wished for.

2) The four chapters of your book examine the relationship between the discourses we would now call science and literature through the lenses of four particular cases. What led you to choose this structure, and how did you select these particular examples?

The case studies approach was pragmatic foremost; it allowed me to look at four different authors/topics in a discrete manner but also to use these to build up a larger argument.  My ambitious ‘big book’ plans were reduced to thinking about instances at the beginnings of the Romantic period – mostly in the 1790s – when literature and science, or literature and medicine, came together in some fruitful and interesting way.  I argue that these moments are formative for the creation of what we now anachronistically call ‘Romanticism’.  The examples were chosen because these were the ones that fascinated me most and which seemed the most significant.

3) How has your work on Romantic science changed the ways that you present the period to undergraduates and postgraduates?

Many of my lectures and seminars are now inflected with ideas from Romantic-period science and medicine; for example, lectures on sensibility take into account the physical symptoms and medical discourse of this ‘disease’.  I have also taught a number of specialised modules that are led by my research, such as Monstrous Bodies, which examines Wordsworth’s labouring and mad bodies, Keats’s sensual bodies, Wollstonecraft’s idea of the female body, and others.

4) How did your work collecting and editing Humphry Davy’s letters influence the writing of Creating Romanticism (and visa versa)?

One of the four chapters of the book is on Davy and he really is important to the book in many ways.  He appears in other chapters too, as a friend of Godwin’s and Coleridge’s, for example, and I argue in the conclusion that if we are going to be using outdated terms such as ‘Romanticism’, they should be culturally-inclusive.  Davy is as much a Romantic as Wordsworth.  Working on the letters while writing this book helped me to get to grips with Davy’s polymorphic interests: his chemistry, his poetry, his politics, and his social network.  It made me realise just how central he was to Romantic-period culture and helped me to define just what it meant to be ‘Romantic’.

5) What are your future plans for the Davy edition?

We have an OUP contract for a four-volume print edition, which is to be submitted at the end of 2017.  After that date, unfortunately, the website on which you can read each new letter found and transcribed will disappear ( so I urge people to explore the letters before that happens!

Five Questions: Angela Wright on Britain, France and the Gothic

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 Angela Wright - Britain, France and the Gothic

We on the BARS Executive are still sad that Dr Angela Wright has recently left our number in order to become a Dark Empress (OK, co-President…) of the International Gothic Association.  When not reigning, she is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield and has published widely on Romantic and Gothic topics.  Below, we discuss her latest book, Britain, France and the Gothic, 1764-1820: The Import of Terror, which was published by Cambridge University Press earlier this year.

1) What was the genesis of Britain, France and the Gothic, 1764-1820?

I have had a long-standing fascination with the relationship between Britain and France.  This fascination first started when I took my BA in English and French, and continued when I chose to do my doctorate between an English and a French department, with supervisors in both.  I have always enjoyed the best of both nations, and spent several extended periods of my twenties on and off working or studying in France.  When I spent a year in France at the age of 21, for example, I was intrigued by heated debates that I would get into with French students regarding the respective merits and shortcomings of Britain and France.  The persistence of Anglo/French rivalry surprised me, and I was also taken aback by how defensive I became during these debates.  These experiences fed into my later intellectual work.

Britain, France and the Gothic focuses upon the contexts of the Seven Years War when Britain and France were at war, Anglo-French hostilities and reciprocity, translation and the Gothic.  I began working upon these intersections in the Romantic period around 2005.  It has taken me roughly seven years to write this book.

2) Your book argues convincingly that ‘the Gothic is specifically indebted to a French tradition of writing, and is often either appropriated, translated or adapted from French authors in the long eighteenth century’. How does the return of this largely repressed heritage reconfigure our understanding of the particularity of British Gothic writing?

‘Gothic’, as Horace Walpole uses it, is a term of proud, British patriotism that is invoked in the wake of Voltaire’s attacks upon Shakespeare during the Seven Years War.  However, as I argue in the book, Walpole’s appendage of that title to the second edition of his The Castle of Otranto is pragmatic, as is his attack upon Voltaire.  There is considerable evidence of Horace Walpole’s Francophilia.  If you look more widely in the Gothic, this evidence persists in the strain of Gothic writing produced in the 1790s by Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis, but they too masked their literary admiration of France with great care.

The reasons for this lie in the contexts of the suspensions of habeas corpus during the Pitt government in the 1790s, and the escalation of anti-French propaganda.  It is clear, however, that British Gothic writing is considerably indebted to French literature, through the realms of adaptation and translation.  It has, however, masked this indebtedness due to the political climate in the Romantic period.

3) Your chapters proceed broadly chronologically, examining Horace Walpole; Clara Reeve, Charlotte Smith and Sophia Lee; the complexities of terror in the 1790s; Ann Radcliffe; and Matthew Lewis. Was this your plan from an early stage, or were there alternative arrangements or subjects that were altered or cut as you shaped your arguments?

Broadly, this was my plan, although the chapter upon Horace Walpole originally formed part of my Introduction.  The material became too voluminous and unwieldy to be contained within the Introduction, so Walpole justifiably got a chapter to himself.  I became intrigued, and somewhat sidetracked, I must confess, by the identity of Horace Walpole’s fictional translator William Marshal in The Castle of Otranto

4) How has the process of researching and writing this book changed your approaches to teaching Gothic fictions?

If anything, it has made me love and admire the Gothic more, as I discovered how Gothic fiction during the Romantic period generally refused to capitulate to the anti-Jacobin francophobia of the time.  That is not to say that all of it resisted this atmosphere.  Recent and very valuable work has been undertaken upon Loyalist Gothic by James Watt, and Royalist Gothic by Dale Townshend, and their research points to a number of authors who embraced the possibilities of the Gothic for a range of other reasons.  These counter-examples demonstrate the sheer diversity of Gothic fiction during the Romantic period.  At this moment, a huge number of authors and Gothic works from the Romantic period remain to be researched in more detail, works which were read widely, sold widely, and that have fallen out of our contemporaneous conceptions of the Romantic period.

Recently, I have written an essay upon Translation and France for The Gothic World (eds. Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend), and I have begun to consider how the British Gothic genre was more widely embraced in France than French literature was in Britain.  This continues to be the case, in my view, with France stealing the march by filming and distributing a version of Matthew Lewis’s 1796 novel The Monk last year (dir. Dominik Moll).

5) What’s next for you?

I have just completed a co-edited collection of essays on Ann Radcliffe, Romanticism and the Gothic (eds. Dale Townshend and Angela Wright), and that will come out from Cambridge University Press in February 2014.  We’re holding a major conference upon Ann Radcliffe in June 2014 to launch the collection, and to celebrate Radcliffe’s 250th birthday (ED: CfP deadline coming up on November 30th for those of you interested in submitting…).  I am also putting the finishing touches to a single-author study upon Mary Shelley, which will come out from the University of Wales Press later in 2014.  After wrapping these projects up and taking a really good vacation this summer, I am going to begin researching for a project which carries the tentative title ‘Fostering Romanticism’.  I am just putting proposals in place for this at present, and am really exicted about its possibilities.  More upon this anon!  And always, I retain an ongoing love and fascination with Scottish Romanticism.

New Issue of RaVoN – Coleridge and his Circle: New Perspectives

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A new issue of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net (No. 61) has just been published, guest-edited by Tim Fulford and focusing on Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  The issue includes the following essays:

Anya Taylor – Catherine the Great: Coleridge, Byron, and Erotic Politics on the Eastern Front

Alan Bewell – Coleridge and Communication

Julia S. Carlson – Measuring Distance, Pointing Address: The Textual Geography of the ‘Poem to Coleridge’ and ‘To W. Wordsworth’

Alan Vardy – Coleridge on Broad Stand

Tim Fulford – Coleridge’s Visions of 1816: the Political Unconscious and the Poetic Fragment

Matthew Sangster – “You have not advertised out of it”: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Francis Jeffrey on Authorship, Networks and Personalities

Tom Duggett – Southey’s “New System”: the monitorial controversy and the making of the “entire man of letters”

Nicholas Halmi – Coleridge’s Ecumenical Spinoza

Five Questions: Jane Darcy on Melancholy and Literary Biography

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Jane Darcy - Melancholy and Literary Biography

Dr Jane Darcy is currently a teaching fellow in the Department of English at University College London, where she was previously a British Academy postdoctoral fellow.  Prior to that, she completed her doctorate at King’s College London.  Below, we discuss her first monograph, Melancholy and Literary Biography, 1640-1816, which developed in unexpected directions from her thesis and which was published by Palgrave earlier this year.

1) You write in your introduction that your initial interest was in aesthetic representations of melancholy. How did your project evolve towards focusing specifically on biographies?

Like most people, I imagine, I’m drawn to what is minor key and elegiac in art and literature.  And I’m always fascinated by details of the lives of writers, so many of whom seem to have suffered profoundly.  In my thesis I looked at a range of writers from Dr Johnson to Thomas Carlyle and tried to trace evolving medical ideas of melancholy (or hypochondria, as it was often termed) by looking at what their first biographers made of the condition.

2) The book’s two sections focus on periods of distinctly different lengths, the first examining the years 1640-1791 and the second the years around 1800. How did this particular division emerge during the course of your research?

Turning the thesis into a book was a longer and more complex business than I’d imagined (it took a total of four years).  I found myself thinking more about literary biography and asking myself different questions.  When did it emerge as a distinct genre?  And which writers particularly shaped the practice?  I realised I needed to go back to the seventeenth century for this, and this in turn necessitated a radical restructure.  The first half of the book then took the idea of which biographies Johnson would have known when he complained of the paucity of well-written literary lives.  Most books about biography tend to jump from Boswell to Elizabeth Gaskell, so I decided to make the focus of the second half four biographies written around 1800 (i.e. before a consensus developed about the familiar Victorian life-and-letters model).  My PhD chapters on Coleridge and Carlyle didn’t make the cut, but I added in Wollstonecraft, which proved really interesting.

3) To what extent were the biographers you examine drawing on generic understandings of melancholy, and to what extent were they remaking it through the prisms of their particular subjects?

Most of my biographers were self-confessed melancholics and so had both intellectual and personal reasons for exploring this strain in their subjects.  The only one who wasn’t seemed to be William Godwin.  I checked this with one of the great Godwin experts, Pamela Clemit, and she agreed he was just was unusual in not appeared to suffer too much.  I was curious, too, to see that Wollstonecraft herself uses the term ‘melancholy’ many times in her Letters from a Short Residence, but in her personal letters, which are steeped in misery, she rarely used it.

4) Are there particular works from among the biographies you’ve examined that you think deserve to be more widely read or which you think could be usefully added to undergraduate or postgraduate syllabi?

The truth is, not really.  Godwin’s Memoirs of Wollstonecraft has joined the canon alongside Boswell’s Life of Johnson, but Hayley’s Cowper and Currie’s Burns are more interesting for the debates they sparked off than for their own sakes.

5) What’s next for you?

After a long time on melancholy, I’ve turned my attention to comedy.  I’m co-editing a book of essays with Louise Lee at Roehampton on Victorian comedy.  I’m also writing a non-academic book about the extraordinary popularity of the Isle of Wight with Romantic and Victorian writers.

Romantic Connections deadline

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The deadline for next year’s Romantic Connections conference in Tokyo, which BARS is supporting, is coming up at the end of the month.  More information from the organisers below, including the exciting lineup of plenary speakers:

“Romantic Connections” (University of Tokyo, June 13-15, 2014).

NASSR supernumerary conference, supported by BARS, GER, JAER, RSAA.

Deadline for submissions: November 30th, 2013

Plenary speakers:

Christoph Bode (LMU Munich)
James Chandler (University of Chicago)

Angela Esterhammer (University of Toronto)

Peter Kitson (University of East Anglia)

Jonathan Lamb (Vanderbilt University)

Kiyoshi Nishiyama (Waseda University)

Over the last two decades, there has been sustained scholarly interest in the connections between European Romanticism and the peoples, and literatures of the rest of the world. In addition to discussing representations of the “East” by Romantic authors, there has been a growing trend towards viewing Romanticism itself in a global context, as a movement shaped by wider eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century forces of trade, migration, material circulation, intellectual exchange, slavery, and colonialism.

While our approach will be informed by the legacy of Saidian “Orientalism,” we are particularly interested in models of intercultural connection which refine or challenge totalizing models of domination and subordination. We welcome papers that shed light upon the question of Romantic “connection” from the broadest range of perspectives: imaginative, linguistic, material, social, sexual, scientific, economic, and political.

For more information, visit our website:

We look forward to welcoming you to Tokyo next year!


Five Questions: Daniel Cook on Chatterton

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Daniel Cook - Thomas Chatterton and Neglected Genius

Dr Daniel Cook is currently Lecturer in English at the University of Dundee and has previously worked at the University of Bristol and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His first monograph, Thomas Chatterton and Neglected Genius, 1760-1830was recently published by Palgrave.  He kindly answered the following five questions on his work on the Marvellous Boy.

1) How did you first get interested in Chatterton and his afterlives?

Well, I’ve been reading Chatterton’s poems since I was a teenager, before university.  Nick Groom — still my favourite Romanticist — published and edited some of the key modern Chatterton criticism in the late 90s, which I read at school and then as an undergraduate in the noughties.  Keats was always my poet, though, and so when I began to see some verbal echoes of Chatterton’s works (particularly Aella and the Saxon epics) in Keats’ own, it seemed like something I wanted to know more about.  I wrote an undergraduate dissertation on Keats and Chatterton, and, I think, another for my taught postgraduate.  When I started my PhD it seemed sensible to take it further still, and I certainly remember mentioning Coleridge and Shelley in my proposal.  In fact, I spent the first month or two in graduate school reading every bit of secondary criticism on Coleridge that I could find on the assumption that he’d be as prominent a figure in my thesis as Chatterton or Keats.  When, a few months further in, I began to spend a lot of time in the rare books room at Cambridge, poring over the various newspapers and periodicals of the 1770s, 1780s — I mean, the Gentleman’s Magazine and The Monthly Review and the like — it became increasingly obvious that I should be focusing on Chatterton’s critical reception rather than on his influence on other poets.  After all, there have been a (perhaps surprisingly) large amount of excellent studies of Keats and Chatterton — by the great Robert Gittings, among others — and Clare and Chatterton, and even more so on Coleridge and Chatterton.  No one had really considered the scholars’ interest in the poet, though.  I’m thinking of scholars such as Thomas Warton, Thomas Tyrwhitt, Edmond Malone, William Hazlitt and a whole host of the most influential literary critics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Even Dr Johnson had his say.

2) In what ways did Chatterton’s legacies differ from your initial expectations?

The most surprising thing would have been the sheer volume of material.  Each of the monthly issues of the 1777, 1778 Gentleman’s Magazine features at least a short letter, but more often than not a lengthy essay or three, on Chatterton and the Rowley poems.  There are clear peaks of interest, most of which coincide with the publication of a new edition of his works or a contentious revelation, to be sure, but the interest in Chatterton never really waned, at least not until the twentieth century.  Scores of biographies, literary-critical and philological essays, editions, anthologies, imitations, abridgements and such things flooded the print culture of the long eighteenth century.  Dozens and dozens of odes, elegies and monodies were written in his memory.  In the end, I had to focus far less on Keats, Wordsworth and the various other prominent Chatterton acolytes and more on the scholars and critics.  I had planned to have at least one fairly detailed chapter on the Victorian responses to Chatterton.  Browning, Rossetti, Wilde, and others took an interest in the youngster both as a writer and a literary phenomenon.  Fortunately, it turns out, the Victorian Chatterton has been addressed fairly comprehensively by modern scholars in the last ten years or so.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin with modern treatments of Chatterton.  Peter Ackroyd’s counterfactual novel Chatterton would have to feature; but each year sees a new production or engagement with the life and works of the marvellous boy.  In Sydney last year a young librettist performed a one-act piece, for example.  So I’m glad that I attended to might seem pretty traditional a topic: the Romantic cult of Chatterton.  It’s traditional but still under-furrowed ground, I hasten to add.

3) This project began as your doctoral thesis. How did you approach the process of turning this into your book?

In hindsight I was very fortunate insofar as I managed to get a bit of distance between my doctoral project and my new work on Jonathan Swift.  There’s a lot of pressure on early career scholars to turn the thesis into a book, often before they’ve even secured a permanent post — certainly in the middle of a REF cycle.  But the Swift project led to a Leverhulme Early Career fellowship at Bristol during which I planned to study the legacy of Swift, Pope and others in the nineteenth century and beyond (a sort of commingling of my doctoral and postdoctoral interests).  When I turned back to my thesis I had a better sense of both how unique Chatterton’s case was (as a poet much read in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but relatively unknown today) and how much it intersected with developments in scholarship and criticism in the period.  The main challenge when turning a thesis into a book, I think, is opening it up a bit more, making it far less narrow in its scope without losing its details.  A doctoral thesis is by definition deeply focused whereas a book should feed into further research for others to pursue, often tangentially.  I was tempted, and strongly encouraged, to turn the project into a series of case studies, of which Chatterton would be but one, but a number of publishers were actually keen on Chatterton — Palgrave, in particular, as they’d already published a chapter of mine, and Groom’s Chatterton collection, of course.  It’s quite common to add a chapter or two when revising a dissertation, but in my case I had to cut quite substantially — from something like 100,000 or 110,000 words to around 85,000 — in order to confirm as closely as possible to the publisher’s scope.  I pretty much started the Bibliography from scratch, limiting myself to works cited rather than consulted.  Most of the rewriting centred on the introductory chapters (a brief Introduction proper and a sort of theory chapter), a couple of duff chapters — it’s difficult writing about sensibility as a movement, I find — and the Afterword.  Two or three chapters remained substantially the same but I worked hard to improve the prose.  We’re encouraged to think of the book as a very distinct thing from a doctoral thesis, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true.  They’re perhaps different versions of a common document, if you like, a repackaging of your central findings or new readings.  Is it a rewriting or a rebooting?  Depends on your project, I think.  Publishers prefer to see a completed book typescript from a first-time author, of course, rather than a warmed-up dissertation, or at least a clear indication of where you’ll be working it over.  Certainly it’s difficult to know where to slash or what to remove, or what to add and where to expand.  But it’s important to go through each chapter — assuming you retain the same or a similar structure — and cross out any bits that seem ‘thesisy’ not only in the diction but in scope and arrangement.  You need to retain some semblance of the literary review but you can afford to — indeed, you should — jettison much of the bibliographical work needed in a thesis.  It’s hard to press the delete key — I used to print out every draft, but this became impractical when moving across the country (and even the Atlantic) in pursuit of a job.  Now I have the habit of versioning dozens of very similar documents in my Dropbox.  My final typescript included such files as “ch3 version 36” (77 is as high as I got, I think).  Publishers favour short, purposeful proposals (ideally with very short chapter abstracts).  If you can’t sell the book in 200 words or fewer, then neither can they.  A dissertation supervisor will keep asking you, ‘so what?’  A publisher will ask, ‘for whom?’

4) Chatterton is a figure who’s often more read about than read. Which works would you recommend to scholars wanting to dip into his oeuvre, and are there any of his poems that you think could be taught profitably as part of undergraduate or Masters-level courses?

I’ve always tried to smuggle Chatterton’s works into various courses.  Until I got my position at Dundee I’d taught widely on other people’s modules, mainly period surveys.  Even if there wasn’t a set curriculum of eighteenth-century or Romantic-period texts, there wasn’t any room for him, really: he falls between most versions of the period surveys, such as between the early modern (up to 1750, say) and Romanticism, which still seems to begin (perhaps out of convenience) with Blake or Wordsworth.  It’s also difficult to justify library expenditure on even the handful of Chatterton sources available.  Now that I’ve settled at Dundee we’re building up a bank of texts, so I feel more comfortable asking students both to read and write about Chatterton.  I’ve been evolving a third-year undergraduate module (one that I inherited from a former colleague) on Romantic and Gothic Literature.  Chatterton happens to fit in really well here both chronologically and thematically.  The module begins with Horace Walpole (an infamous figure in Chatterton’s reception, it turns out) and then considers Equiano and Coleridge as writers on race, among other things.  I’ve added Chatterton’s African Eclogues in there (‘Heccar and Gaira’, ‘Elinoure and Juga’, and ‘The Death of Nicou’) but haven’t yet added his more famous works (The Battle of Hastings, Aella, An Excelente Balade of Charitie).  His Ossianic works would profitably be taught alongside Macpherson and his followers.  Chatterton’s satires on hack writers — in the style of Pope and Churchill — would work well in many modules.  Much of Chatterton’s works can be found online or in the standard critical edition: Donald Taylor’s Collected Works for the Clarendon Press.  You can also find a decent selection of Chatterton in some of the major teaching anthologies — Lonsdale, Wu, McGann or Fairer — but not the Norton, as far as I can recall.

5) What’s next for you?

Miscellaneous bits and bobs, really, now that I’ve settled into my teaching.  After my PhD, as a postdoc, I joined the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift, and since then I’ve been invited to write various chapters on him, particularly on his late poems, early critical reception and the first, posthumous biographies.  Old Swift interests me as much as young Chatterton, it seems.  Now that I live and teach in Scotland I’ve been reading lots of Burns and Scott.  (Scott, as an aside, took an interest in Chatterton).  Next semester I’ve put together a new module on Scottish Literature before 1900.  A logical next step in my research would be to look more closely at the relationship between Scottish and English literary ballads.  Chatterton, like Scott, Wordsworth and others, was a keen student of Percy’s Reliques and the ballad revival of the eighteenth century.  Like them he sought to polish and modernise old ballads.  In the past two or three years I’ve written about the vexed issue of literary property — and authorial proprietorship — in the long eighteenth century.  I’m hoping to tie it all together as a book.  I’ve also written a couple of commissioned essays on Wordsworth.  But I haven’t forgotten about Chatterton.  As we speak I’m writing up a piece on Wordsworth’s use of Chatterton’s works, particularly in the early years of his career.  Its a topic much alluded to but little discussed.  I certainly didn’t have room for it in my book.

Five Questions: Introduction

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The best moments at conferences are often opportunities to talk about projects and their implications in more convivial settings (traditionally, the pub).  In an attempt to bring something of this kind of discussion to the BARS blog, I’m going to be initiating a series of five-question email interviews with Romanticists and groups of Romanticists who’ve either just completed large projects or who are in the process of developing them.  Hopefully, these interviews will allow scholars to discuss their work in a less formal manner than in books, articles or publishers’ blurbs and will help to publicise some exciting new work in the field.

If you’d be interested in taking part in this series, or would like to suggest people from whom you’d like to hear, please email me on

Fashionable Diseases Conference

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Below, the CfP for the Fashionable Disease project’s international conference, which takes place in July next year.  More information can be found through the project’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account (@FashDisease).

Fashionable Diseases: Medicine, Literature and Culture, ca. 1660-1832
The Cholic
An International Interdisciplinary Conference
Newcastle and Northumbria Universities
3rd – 5th July 2014
Between 1660 and 1832 books such as Cheyne’s English Malady and Adair’s Essays on Fashionable Diseases created a substantial debate on the relationship between fashion and sickness, linking melancholy, the vapours, nervousness, gout, consumption and many other conditions with the elite and superior sensibility. This conference aims to include voices from both within the social and medical elite and beyond, and to look at diseases that have not previously been examined in this context and at what can be learned from ‘unfashionable’ illnesses. It also aims to consider not only diseases associated with social prestige, but also with the medical critique of fashionable luxurious lifestyles, and the debate on ‘imaginary’ diseases. The role of culture in creating, framing and spreading conceptions of fashionable disease will also be considered.
Proposals for papers and three-person panels are welcome on topics related to fashionable diseases, including:
·                Patient experience
·                Consumer society and the ‘medical marketplace’
·                Culture (literature, music, etc) and fashionable disease
·                Geographical meanings – travel literature and spa culture
·                Morality, politics and medicine in critiques of fashionable lifestyles
·                Satire, stigma, fashion
·                ‘Imaginary’ diseases
·                Class, gender, race, religion, etc
·                Unfashionable diseases
We are also keen to receive proposals offering interdisciplinary and internationally comparative perspectives, or relating eighteenth-century to contemporary fashionable diseases.
Please submit abstracts (max. 250 words) and a brief biography (max 100 words) to by 31st December 2013.

Fellowships for Exchanges and Temporalities in the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Victorianism

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News of some exciting opportunities in Houston for the next academic year (from Alexander Regier):

The Humanities Research Center at Rice University is accepting applications for yearlong residential fellowships to participate in the 2014-15 Rice Seminar, “Exchanges and Temporalities in the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Victorianism.”  We are looking to appoint three external faculty members (any rank) and one postdoctoral fellow.  Fellows will participate in the Rice Seminar, a yearlong research seminar designed to study a broad topic from an interdisciplinary perspective.  The seminar will be directed by Helena Michie (English) and Alexander Regier (English).

Full details, including how to apply, can be found here.  The deadline for applications is December 1st.

Fashionable Diseases Workshops

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Below, details of two interesting workshops taking place this month at Northumbria as part of the Fashionable Diseases project.  More information on the project can be found on the project website and blog.

Disability and Fashionable Diseases in Literature and Culture

A Workshop for the Leverhulme Project ‘Fashionable Diseases: Medicine, Literature and Culture, 1660-1832’
14 November 2013, 11am-1:30pm
Boardroom 1, Sutherland Building Northumbria University
Michael Davidson
Professor of Literature, University of California, San Diego
Author of Concerto for the Left Hand; Disability and the Defamiliar Body
Stuart Murray
Professor of Literature, University of Leeds
Author of Representing Autism: Culture, Narrative, Fascination
How do the complicated and contested concepts and fields of disability and fashionable disease relate to each other, if at all?  How are they represented within the spheres of literature and cultural representation generally?  This workshop aims to begin an exploration of the subject with the help of two experts in the field of contemporary literature and disability studies.  The event is free to attend and a light lunch will be provided.  To reserve a place, please email
Fashion and Illness in Georgian Bath
A Workshop for the Leverhulme Project ‘Fashionable Diseases: Medicine, Literature and Culture, 1660-1832’
21 November 2013, 1-3pm
Boardroom 2, Sutherland Building
Northumbria University
Annick Cossic
Professor of English
Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France
Published at different times, Christopher Anstey’s The New Bath Guide (1766), Tobias Smollett’s The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771) and Jane Austen’s Persuasion(1818) all testify to the emergence of new forms of social interaction, particularly on display in spas. The role of illness as an agent of sociability in Bath has been variously apprehended by Anstey, Smollett and Austen, who all three share a first-hand knowledge of a city, ironically nicknamed “the hospital of the nation” or, more positively, “the Queen of Watering-Places.”  By offering a comparative study of these texts, this workshop will interrogate the representation of fashionable diseases in three literary genres, themselves highly fashionable, the satirical letter, the epistolary novel and the novel of sensibility.  The event is free to attend.  To reserve a place, please email