Report on Cambrian CRECS, 17 Feb 2015

by Jamie Castell and Alison Harvey

cambrian crecsCambrian CRECS: Nation, Region, Place in the Long 18th Century was the second event hosted by the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth Century Seminar, and as Six Nations fever gripped the country, we sought to consider the position of Wales within Romantic Studies. After a hugely successful launch event with Fight Club, the CRECS organisers were keen to maintain the momentum of the series. How better than to showcase the literature and history of Wales and the amazing resources available in our very own library at Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR)? We were tightly packed once more into a venue with standing room only: several members of academic staff were forced to balance themselves between bottles of wine and bowls of pretzels! So, the atmosphere was appropriately warm as four speakers offered four fresh perspectives on constructions of Welsh identity, landscape and art in the period. Continue reading

Killing the King with Porter: Freedom of expression in 1794

John Thelwall, one of the three reform society leaders tried for treason in 1794.

John Thelwall, one of the three reform society leaders tried for treason in 1794.

On Tuesday morning, I found myself sitting in a pub in London and repeatedly blowing the foam off a pot of porter while somebody filmed me and a gaggle of curious regulars looked on. Academia has often taken me to some rather unexpected places, but this was something of a new level. As I wiped the foam from my clothes for a second or third time, I wondered how I’d explain this to the English teacher at school who had such lofty hopes for my future career.

Well, there was method in the madness. Along with excellent director John and superb runner Rebecca, I was making a short film for BBC Arts as part of my participation in the BBC / AHRC New Generation Thinkers scheme. The scheme was established to find academics ‘with the ability to turn ground-breaking academic ideas into radio and television programmes’. After making two radio programmes and writing a couple of articles, this was the final stage of the scheme: I was to step into the shoes of Amanda Vickery or Lucy Worsley for a day, and try to convey the excitement and fascination of my research area—the literature and culture of late eighteenth-century Britain—to a public audience. Continue reading

Visiting Speaker, 24 Feb 2015: Holly Luhning on Eliza Haywood and the literary marketplace

Holly Luhning (University of Surrey) will be presenting her paper, ‘Eliza Haywood: Cultural and Corporeal Adaptation’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 24 February 2015. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48.

Eliza Haywood carefully crafted her public debut with the publication of Love in Excess (1719); as her career progressed she became an important innovator in the development of the novel. This talk will consider how Haywood first emerged in the literary marketplace, and move on to examine her often-neglected, but formally innovative mid-career, with particular focus on Adventures of Eovaai, and her translation of Crebillon’s Le Sopha. These two texts exemplify the depth and range of Haywood’s activities as a innovator of narrative and the novel, and of how her work as a translator (and also position of translatee) contributed not only to the rise of the novel, but also the spread of the novel. Haywood’s career, when considered as a whole, reveal her to be an a much more important cultural player in terms of the development of the novel than many ‘stories’ of the novel may suggest. Continue reading

Next event—Cambrian CRECS: Nation, Region, Place in the Long 18th Century, 17 Feb 2015

Gripped by Six Nations fever? Wondering which team will walk triumphant from the grassy field of combat in March? And can Wales recoup last week’s loss against England and secure their favoured status once again?

Well, CRECS can’t provide the answers to these questions, but we can certainly offer an interesting and enjoyable evening of discussion and debate on Wales, in which four speakers will offer a variety of perspectives on the nation’s relationship to the Romantic period. While exhaustive work has been done on the role played by Ireland and Scotland in shaping Romantic writing, far less critical attention has been paid to Wales, despite its significant presence during the period. Indeed, during the Romantic period, Wales was seen as the heart of sensibility by some, the home of the picturesque by others and the source of enduring myths about ‘native’ British culture by many. Continue reading

Jane Austen changed my life

by Carl Phelpstead

phelpstead-carl-web(Prompted by our launch event, CRECS Fight Club, last Tuesday, Cardiff’s own Professor Carl Phelpstead reveals the transformative role Jane Austen played in shaping his future career.)

Jane Austen changed my life.

In the course of heaping deserved praise on my learned and witty colleagues for their knock-out performances at the CRECS Fight Club last Tuesday I found myself revealing to them that Austen is the one contender that night who has played an essential part in making me who I am. It was reading Sense and Sensibility for pleasure after I had started A-levels in Physics, Maths and German that made me realise what I was missing and led me to drop the Physics and Maths and take English Literature and Music instead. So if it weren’t for Austen I might now be a quantum physicist or astronomer …

Instead, I went on to study English at university and, eventually, to end up as a professor of the subject at Cardiff. (At a time when Cardiff Council is planning cuts to its library service it’s perhaps worth noting that the life-changing copy of Sense and Sensibility that I read was borrowed from my local public library.)

Of course, Austen cannot be held responsible for the fact that I became a specialist in medieval literature: that’s the doing of a certain Geoffrey Chaucer. But that’s a whole other story …

Report on CRECS Fight Club, 3 Feb 2015

by Alison Harvey

Tuesday night saw the launch of the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth Century Seminar series, which kicked off in style with Fight Club: a no-holds-barred, trash-talking, dirty-fighting academic debate between six of English Literature’s finest. There was standing room only in Special Collections and Archives, with a superb turnout of over 60 undergraduates, postgraduates and staff. Each speaker had just 5 minutes to convince the audience that their chosen author was a true Romantic Genius.  Continue reading

Visiting Speaker, 10 Feb 2015: Freya Johnston on editing Thomas Love Peacock

Freya Johnston (University of Oxford) will be presenting her paper, ‘Medieval Graffiti: Editing Thomas Love Peacock’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 10 February 2015. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48.

This paper reflects on the challenges and rewards of editing a writer whose works have routinely been described as ‘inaccessible’. Even if his comic fictions abound, like Jane Austen’s, with clever, good-looking women and with sparkling dialogue that culminates in marriage, Peacock’s repartee can be hard to follow. This is partly because he does not aspire to the portrayal of interiority—perhaps the most cherished aspect of Austen’s novels. Rather, his characters, both male and female, exist primarily in order to share, voice, and test the limits of their ideas. His fictions, rebuffing intimacy, are inescapably political and intellectual. This paper will show that to approach the nineteenth-century novel via Peacock is to see it as an outward-facing genre indebted to philosophical tracts, lectures, classical dialogues and the rhythms of parliamentary debate. Continue reading