Stephen Copley Research Report: Charlotte Vallis on Women in Power and Kings’ Letter Books

By Amy Wilcockson

With the help of the Stephen Copley Award, I was able to spend several days in London, at the National Archives in Kew. This had a positive impact on my research in multiple different ways, some more obvious than others! My PhD, which I am undertaking part-time, focuses on Russia in the eighteenth century, analysing the reigns of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, 1741-1761 and Empress Catherine II, 1762-1796. I am exploring what it meant for the two to be women in power: how they both incorporated masculinities into their rules; what Catherine owed to Elizabeth’s example and how the two were viewed both within and outside of Russia. Unsurprisingly, it is a real challenge to access relevant sources for this topic at the moment, thus the trip to the National Archives was especially helpful.

Previously, I have spent very little time in archives, so from a practical sense, I really learnt and experienced a lot simply by being able to go. From little things like reading room opening times, to the practicalities of ordering documents, I really felt that I benefited from just the experience of being physically in an archive. I also learnt that whilst my suitcase seems like it fits …read more


Keats Euphoria: Punk Folk Album Inspired by Keats’s Life and Poems

By Amy Wilcockson

On February 23, Tom Anderson is releasing his album “Keats Euphoria” with eleven punk-folk songs inspired by Keats life and poems. It’s a homage to Keats, with some direct lifts and interpretations of some of his most famous poems, “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” “Lamia,” “Eve of St. Agnes,” “Isabella and the Pot of Basil.” There are deeper, more personal songs that pick up ideas from “Bright Star”, “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” The opening song, with Keats singing to Fanny Brawne from his grave in Rome, used the title of Keats’ epitaph, “Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ in Water.” There are two songs that fictionalize some real events and people in Keats life – one that imagines he had a thing for Mary Shelley, one that imagines a break-up song to his married love-interest, Isabella Jones. The final song, “A Little More,” a lament by Keats, for his brother George, his fiancé Fanny Brawne, his health, his poetic aspirations.

Artwork used with permission ©Cynthia White

Tom noted: “I’ve always been enamored of Keats and his poetry, and studied his work in depth in college (along with chemistry). I started writing songs ten years …read more


CfP: Devils and Justified Sinners

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By Amy Wilcockson

An ONLINE conference on 24th and 25th August 2024 marking the 200th anniversary of James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

The conference is entirely online and is open to scholars and experts from around the world.

In 1824, the Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg, wrote his The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Its intricate narrative structure, complex interrogation of theological extremism, and unforgettable depiction of the demonic made it a pivotal novel in the development of the British Gothic and a distinct Scottish Gothic tradition. This year’s conference seeks to mark the anniversary of the novel’s publication with a conference exploring three key themes:

1) The theological in the Gothic and horror
2) The demonic in literature, folklore and film
3) Scottish Gothic and horror traditions

We welcome papers focusing on demonic and theological traditions globally. We are particularly interested in increasing the number of papers by speakers from the Global South. We define theology broadly in relation to all religious, spiritual and belief systems across the globe. We also welcome approaches which explore practices merging different religious traditions and elements. We particularly encourage papers which engage with historic theologies, religions and spiritual practices. The demonic should, similarly, be understood …read more


BARS Digital Event: Gothic Monstrosity and Romanticism

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By Amy Wilcockson

Thursday, April 11 · 5 – 6:30pm GMT+1

Get your tickets at the link:

To what extent are Romanticism and monstrosity intertwined? In Romanticism and the Gothic, Michael Gamer points out that “the late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century writers we now associate with ‘romanticism’ exploited the vogues for gothic fiction and drama in vexed and complex ways” (2). Gamer’s research has pointed to the fallacy of dividing the Gothic mode and the Romantic movement. Just as Romantic frameworks can be found in texts published after the mid-nineteenth century, so too can the Gothic. Both carry a new appreciation of space, selfhood, and sublimity. Gamer’s choice of language here, of the “vexed” and “complex” relationship between Romantic poetics and Gothic fiction, speaks to the theme of this panel on monstrosity.

Although the role of terror in aesthetic experiences is a commonplace in Romantic criticism, the problematic nature of monstrosity itself beyond narratives of anxiety remains to be explored systematically. This panel considers the intersections between the emergence of monster literature proper – through figures such as Lord Ruthven in John Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ (1819) and the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) – and the ways in which monstrous constructions inform the Romantic Gothic. …read more


Call for Essays: Slavery, Abolitionism and Poetic Form

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By Rosie Whitcombe

One of the first decisions made by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade when it was established in 1787 was to commission new works of poetry from three writers: William Cowper, Hannah More, and William Roscoe. Abolitionist poetry was already a fledgling genre, but the success of those ‘official’ poems led to an explosion in antislavery verse across the latter years of the eighteenth century and well past the Slave Trade act of 1807. Poetry played a major role both in communicating and formulating abolitionist ideas and arguments, but the sheer popularity of abolitionist verse also made it potentially lucrative. What began as a critique of commercial culture rapidly led to the commodification of antislavery forms.

What followed for poetry was formal experimentation and innovation. Poets with genuine political and ethical agendas sought ever new ways to outpace the commodification of abolitionist forms. The hegemony of the heroic couplet, which had lasted some 150 years, gave way to the flourishing of formal types we associate with Romanticism: sonnets, songs, ballads, blank verse, odes, eclogues, hymns. The shift from a monolithic culture …read more


Call for Papers: Depicting the Eighteenth Century in Media Entertainment

By Isabelle Murray

From BBC dramas and Netflix series to luxurious cinematic blockbusters and Bollywood period films, public audiences continue to engage with fascinating eighteenth-century figures, both real and fictional. Such depictions are often the first encounter many will have with the eighteenth century. While some eighteenth-century enthusiasts’ recoil at historical inaccuracies, many see this as an opportunity to engage public audiences, supplying an entrance into discussions of the eighteenth century. Indeed, media entertainment in itself can be a vehicle to both explore and imagine gaps surviving historical documentation cannot fill. As discussed by Richard V. Francaviglia (2007: viii), who focused his study on historical film, ‘… film’s power to emotionalize by engaging the viewer offers the potential to tell stories–that is, interpret the historical record–in new and exciting ways like no other medium.’ The same can be said of television dramas, musicals, novels, plays, trade books and a myriad of other media entertainment that permits the interpreter the opportunity to go beyond evidence and into the realm of imagination.

What new ideas and discoveries emerge from such interpretations? Is there a best practice standard for researchers and media entertainment professionals working together? If not, what steps can be taken to establish such practices? …read more


Five Questions: James Armstrong on Romantic Actors, Romantic Dramas

By Matthew Sangster

James Armstrong is an adjunct assistant professor at City College of the City University of New York. He has published extensively on drama in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, contributing articles to journals including European Stages, Theatre Notebook, Shaw, The Keats-Shelley Journal and Dickens Quarterly. He is a practicing playwright and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. His first monograph, Romantic Actors, Romantic Dramas: British Tragedy on the Regency Stage, which we discuss below, was published by Palgrave in 2022.

1) How did you first become interested in Romantic-period theatre?

I was familiar with the story of Shelley’s The Cenci through Antonin Artaud’s adaptation of the play, which he staged in 1935, shocking Parisian audiences. I initially wasn’t very interested in Shelley’s version, though, since I had heard it described as a closet drama. One day, I was browsing the stacks at the New York Public Library, and I saw Shelley’s work up there on the shelf, and I decided to give it a try. As I read the play, it didn’t feel like a closet drama at all. It’s filled with action, and seems imminently playable. I got to …read more


A Rehearsed Reading of Joanna Baillie’s The Tryal

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By Rosie Whitcombe

By Chris Bundock

In October 2024, I’m planning to host a rehearsed reading of Joanna Baillie’s The Tryal at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds. At this time, I am inviting anyone interested in contributing to this event to come forward.

By “contributing to the event”, I mean anything from discussing the play and Romantic theatre more broadly to attending the event as an audience member to auditioning to read a part. Depending on the level of interest, my thought is to hold 2-3 Zoom meetings with members of the working group in the lead-up to October. The aim of these meetings would be to help shape the event into something interesting and attractive and useful for both scholars and members of the general public. (While anyone, globally, is welcome to join the group, it is not clear whether the event itself will be hybrid; it would be great to record it—even if merely the audio—but this is something yet to be sorted.)

I have British Academy funding to hire the venue for two nights: 23 and 24 October have been agreed with the Theatre Royal. (NB: tickets to attend would be free for all). I am also …read more


Ralph Hoyte on Christabel Released

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By Rosie Whitcombe

In Greek tragedy, ‘hubris’ is defined as “excessive pride towards or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis(Oxford Languages). I have had much the same sort of feeling since I decided – well, ‘decided’ sounds too, er, decisive (?), when what really happened was that my resistance to ‘taking on Coleridge’ was gradually chipped away, seemingly by some hand other than my own, until that fateful day during a residency with the Quantocks AONB more than 10 years ago on which it became evident to me that I was ‘going to finish Christabel’, the great man – the epitome of a non-completer-finisher (Porlock!) – never having managed to do so himself.

Yes, ‘hubris’ – who, or what was I calling out? The literature on Coleridge (and his Romantic poet companion wanderers in halcyon landscapes) is probably enough to sink hundreds of Titanics multiple times over. Every work, every sentence, every word, every comma, every obscure reference in Greek, Latin – or Coleridgean – has been pored over by people who have invested their lives in The Quest … then along comes some Bristol poet or the other who ‘finishes’ one of Coleridge’s opuses: Christabel. Derision is to be expected. Praise, …read more


Stephen Copley Research Report: Will Sherwood on the Romantic Echoes in the Manuscripts of J.R.R Tolkien

By Isabelle Murray

As I write this, the smoothly carved Oxfordshire countryside ripples by, the deep green grass ablaze under the gleaming sun after what has been a rather moody winter in Oxford. Over the past week I have been slowly losing my eyesight deciphering J.R.R. Tolkien’s (1892-1973) handwriting at the Bodleian. The last time I consulted his unpublished manuscripts was in 2019 for my Masters by Research on Tolkien and John Keats. This time, I sought to broaden my scope to excavate Tolkien’s inclusion of the Romantics into his essays, lectures, and notes. Prompted by my initial research in 2019, there were already a couple of manuscripts and books that I intended to peruse more thoroughly. Unsurprisingly, I soon had a list of further references, comments, and criticisms of the Romantics across a vast set of texts.

Figure 1: Outside the Weston Library, the home of Tolkien’s manuscripts

Dominant narratives and impressions surrounding Tolkien have traditionally centred on either his Medievalism or Roman Catholicism. However, twenty-first century scholarship has branched out to include his reading and familiarity with post-Medieval authors and texts. This is where my work comes in; British Romanticism has been of peripheral interest to Tolkien scholarship and Tolkien has been (at …read more