Registration now open for ‘Scandal and sociability: New perspectives on the Burney family’

Registration is now open for ‘Scandal and sociability: New perspectives on the Burney family 1750-1850’, an international symposium to be held at Cardiff University on 1 September 2015. Registration (which is free for postgraduate students) closes on 30 July. All information about the programme and registration process can be found here: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/encap/newsandevents/events/conferences/burney/index.html

In recent years, much scholarly interest has moved beyond the novels of Frances Burney to encompass the influence and activities of the rest of her family, including: her father Charles (historian of music and man of letters) her sister Susan (musician and critic), her brother James (rear-admiral who sailed with Captain Cook and acted as interpreter for the famous Tahitian Omai), her brother Charles (bibliophile, collector and schoolmaster), her half-sister Sarah Harriet (author of seven novels 1796–1839), her stepsister Elizabeth (better known as ‘Mrs. Meeke’, the author of twenty-six novels 1795–1823), and her cousin Edward Francisco Burney (artist and illustrator). Between them, the Burneys knew most British luminaries of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries working in the fields of literature, art, music, politics, botany, exploration, and court and Church circles. However, no conference or publication has specifically considered the Burney family as a composite whole, asking how their sociable network and often tumultuous internal dynamics influenced the remarkable spate of cultural and sociable activity carried out by its polymathic members. This interdisciplinary symposium will do so. Featuring thirteen speakers drawn from several disciplines and universities across the world, it will set exciting new directions for Burney studies and will be of wider interest to literary scholars, historians, art historians, musicologists and philosophers whose research addresses eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.

Report on CRECS Sound and Vision, 28 Apr 2015

CRECS Sound & VisionThis year’s final CRECS event departed from the traditional written text, instead exploring the world of popular entertainment, in both public and domestic spheres.

Sophie Coulombeau started off the proceedings with a talk titled ‘Life is a Magic Lanthorn’. Magic lantern, or phantasmagoria, shows were the forerunners of slide shows, cinema (and PowerPoint). They projected images printed or painted on to glass slides onto a transcluent screen, which could be pushed to and fro to make the image loom closer to the audience or recede into the back of the stage. Later developments attempted to generate animation so that the phantasmagoria images appeared to move, anticipating pre-filmic experiments in making still pictures approximate moving life, such as the zoetrope of the 1830s. 18th-century magic lantern shows were used for public entertainment, family shows at home, and sometimes for polemical reasons, such as anti-French and anti-Catholic propaganda. Many phantasmagoric moving images are gathered at http://dickbalzer.tumblr.com.

MagicLantern

Opening out the discussion to consider the broader cultural discourse to which these new media were applied, Sophie considered Hester Thrale Piozzi’s statement:  ‘Life is a Magic Lanthorn, certainly, and I think more so to Women, than to Men’, and discussed how the disjunctive, fragmented life of women under coverture resembled the disjointed images of Magic Lanthorn shows.

Melanie

Our second speaker, Melanie Bigold introduced her talk about ballet and the vocabulary of dance, which dates to the 16th century. She suggested that dance draws on a dialogue between two traditions: disciplinary courtly dance and populist forms of pantomime and commedia dell’arte. While the former focused on the ascension of the dancer away from the sublunary corruptions of the mundane world, the latter offered an opportunity to performers to interact in class-defying ways.

Ballet

We watched clips from the Ballet Evolved YouTube channel, including this useful introduction to the first four centuries of dance, as well as this dedicated piece on Marie Taglioni (1804–84), who reintroduced aristocratic daintiness to ballet. The fascinating clips also demonstrated the increasing push towards exaggerated formalism in the display of the ballerina.

AudienceThe event ended with some reflection on the CRECS ‘experiment’ and an appeal for feedback from our attendees, who continue to include a healthy mix of undergraduates, postgraduates and staff. Attendees felt sessions had been varied, and contained new and unusual subject matter, while occasionally overlapping usefully with course content. It was felt that sessions were pitched correctly: neither dumbed down, nor overly specialist. The provision of short, concise talks helped retain interest and ensure there was something for everyone. The events were praised for their ‘informality, energy, enthusiasm and excitement’.

The question was raised: how long can we draw on our own specialisms while keeping content fresh? The potential to introduce external speakers, or shorts talk from PhD researchers was discussed, as well as mixing up the format with occasional film screenings. In addition, events could be opened up to involve colleagues from other humanities disciplines, such as Welsh, history, music and gender studies.

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