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


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.


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.


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.

What do you think? Add your thoughts to the comments below, tweet us, or find us on Facebook – we want to hear your views!

Report on How to Keep Your (Georgian) Man, 17 Mar 2015

Fifty Shades of CRECSThere was an excellent turn out to this hotly awaited addition to the CRECS programme, which set out to explore the (fifty?) shades of grey that existed in eighteenth century attitudes to sex, gender and domesticity.

Participants gathered around the tables in Special Collections and Archives, upon which were scattered extracts from the texts for discussion. First, we heard from Melanie Bigold, introducing Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina; or Love in a Maze (1725). A radical rewrite of the typical ‘persecuted maiden’ tale, Haywood attributes sexual desire, cunning and power to her female protagonist. Our heroine, an upper-class lady from the provinces, newly arrived in London, decides to impersonate a prostitute, upon observing the relaxed, easy conversation they seem able to hold with men. In this guise, she successfully engages the rakish Beauplaisir in conversation, an encounter which ends in her rape. Melanie Bigold reading from Fantomina.Undefeated, yet concerned for her reputation, she creates a false identity, ‘Fantomina’, and continues to pursue Beauplaisir. He quickly tires of her, and in response to this inconstancy, Fantomina turns once more to her dressing up box. She dons a series of disguises in order to engineer multiple seductions of Beauplaisir, posing as different women. There is no mention of Fantomina’s hope or need for marriage; she is solely motivated by desire, and possibly the power-play and revenge implicit in routinely tricking Beauplaisir into sex. Participants took turns reading sections of Fantomina aloud, to fully immerse themselves in Haywood’s prose style. Continue reading

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

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