At Cardiff University, we run a module for taught postgraduates entitled ‘Narrative and Nation: Politics, Gender and History, 1780-1830’. This course invites students to examine the key prose genres that dominated the Romantic period, with a close eye on those three thematic clusters: gender, politics and history. We look at authors such as Jane Austen, Frances Burney, Olaudah Equiano, William Godwin, Lady Morgan, Ann Radcliffe, Walter Scott, Horace Walpole and Mary Wollstonecraft (to name a few!). During the Romantic period, the idea of the ‘nation’ came under intense scrutiny, and this module allows students to explore how this was reflected in British literature and culture. MA students taking this module are often members of CRECS, attending the talks and writing on the authors that CRECS celebrates. Read more about studying for an MA in English Literature at Cardiff here.
On 13 December 2019, the 2019-20 cohort of postgraduates and the module leader Anna Mercer went on a day trip to explore the city of Bath. It is well-established that a walking tour of this city is highly recommended for those interested in Austen – but we sought out some other literary sites/sights along the way that are perhaps less famous. Here’s some photos of our very successful trip, that also included a visit to No. 1 Royal Crescent, a stunning museum delivering a unique insight into Georgian spaces.
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The South Parade, where Frances Burney lived, and a plaque marks her lodgings. On 7 April 1780 she wrote of Bath: ‘this beautiful City, – which I really admire more than I did, if possible, when I first saw it. The Houses are so elegant, the streets are so beautiful, the Prospects so enchanting!’
The new plaque to Mary Shelley by Bath Abbey. We often think of Mary Shelley being in Geneva when writing her literary masterpiece and debut novel, Frankenstein (1818), but on her return from mainland Europe Mary Shelley took lodgings in Bath in a spot that is now part of the Pump Room extension. Although supposedly the idea for Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley on one stormy night in Switzerland, the manuscript of the novel required much revision and editing (with some assistance from her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley). Some of this literary labour took place in Bath.
The Frances Burney Memorial at Walcot Church (now: St Swithin’s Walcot). Hidden away up a hill away from the main tourist zones, you would be forgiven for walking past this modest memorial and not even noticing it. As Margaret Doody wrote: ‘Walcot Church was not, and is not in the fashionable area of Bath […] the other memorial [to Burney] is a street called d’Arblay Street in Soho, London, near the site of the old Burney residence in Poland Street. Walcot and Soho – Burney did not in death make an entrance into the fashionable world’.
We also spent time seeking out several key streets that appear in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion (1818), the final text on our course, including Camden Crescent (for spectacular views: also where Sir Walter takes lodgings in the novel), Milsom Street (where Anne Elliot meets the Admiral), the Westgate Buildings (lodgings of Mrs Smith) and Bath Street (where Mrs Clay and Mr Elliot are spotted together).
We had an excellent lunch at Ponte Vecchio and ended up in the museum on the Royal Crescent…
Really bringing Georgian culture to life!
You can read about a previous MA Narrative and Nation trip to Bath in 2016 here.