Visiting Speaker, 16 Feb 2016: Dale Townshend on Horace Walpole’s Enchanted Castles

Dale Townshend (University of Stirling) will be presenting his paper, ‘Horace Walpole’s Enchanted Castles’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 16 February 2016. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 4.43, and will be followed by a wine reception.

Abstract
2015.04.townshendEver since Horace Walpole in the second edition of The Castle of Otranto (1765) disclosed his authorship of his ‘Gothic Story’, it has been assumed that the ‘real’ and ‘particular’ castle to which he, in his guise as the ‘translator’ William Marshal, referred in the Preface to the first edition of the novel was Strawberry Hill, the ‘little Gothic castle’ in Twickenham that he had set about ‘Gothicizing’ since the late 1740s.  As I seek to demonstrate in this paper, however, this is really only half of the story, for while the castle at Otranto certainly, as Walpole would later phrase it, ‘puts one in mind’ of Strawberry Hill, it also looks to the architectural formations of ‘ancient’ or ‘Gothic’ romance for its structure, its effects, and even its eventual disappearance. More specifically, I argue, Manfred’s castle at Otranto is, in a number of respects, a reworking of the trope of the enchanted castle that featured so prominently in the epic romances of Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, Edmund Spenser, and others. And if The Castle of Otranto is, indeed, closely linked to Strawberry Hill, I argue that this is not simply because Walpole ‘writes’ his home into his novel, but because both fiction and house looked to the architectural structures of medieval romance as their ultimate point of inspiration. Having explored the trope of the enchanted castle as it figures in The Castle of Otranto and Walpole’s correspondence around Strawberry Hill, I conclude by tracing its uptake in the later Gothic dramas and fictions of Miles Peter Andrews, Clara Reeve, Anna Laetitia Aikin and Ann Radcliffe. Continue reading

Valentine CRECS: How romantic were the Romantics? 8 Feb 2016

How romantic were writers of the Romantic age?  What can literary men and women of the period teach us about courtship, marriage, sex and love?  Can they tell us how to be a good husband or a good wife?  Or offer examples of how not to be? And what of same-sex partnerships?  In the week of St Valentine’s Day, husband-and-wife team, Professor John Strachan (Romantic scholar and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Bath Spa University) and Dr Jane Moore (Reader in Romanticism at Cardiff University), discuss these questions, and others, with reference to writers of the Romantic age.

  • John will represent the views of the male poets, including Byron, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley.
  • On the distaff side, Jane will focus on writers including Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft as well as the poets, Felicia Hemans, ‘L.E.L.’ (Letitia Elizabeth Landon) and Mary Lamb.
  • As usual, there will be plenty of time for plenty of discussion about the issues raised after the presentations.
  • The evening will finish with a drinks and snacks reception.

Join us on 8 February 2016, in Lecture Theatre 0.36 in the John Percival Building. The event will start at 5.15pm and will be followed by refreshments, as usual.

Visiting Speaker, 1 Dec 2015: Jennie Batchelor on The Lady’s Magazine

Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent) will be presenting her paper, ‘“The world is a large volume”: The Lady’s Magazine and Romantic Print Culture’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 1 December 2015. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.01, and will be followed by a wine reception.

Abstract

2015.03.batchelorThis talk examines the position of the Lady’s Magazine: or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex (1770–1832) in Romantic-era print culture and the scholarship surrounding it. Aside from the periodical’s extraordinary popularity and longevity, a number of ambitious claims have been made for the Lady’s Magazine’s historical and literary importance. Chief amongst these is Edward Copeland’s 1995 claim that the Lady’s Magazine defined women’s engagement with the world in the Romantic period. This argument is as seductive as it is unsubstantiated. Eighteenth-century periodicalists commonly overlook the title, which emerges after the often lamented if somewhat exaggerated demise of the essay-periodical epitomised by The Tatler and The Spectator. Romanticists, meanwhile, have tended to privilege the self-professedly ‘literary’ magazines of the turn of the century, in which writers such as Hazlitt and Scott, well known for their work in other more canonical genres, were involved.

This paper seeks to address this oversight by explicating how the magazine self-consciously and strategically positioned itself in relationship to the wider and highly competitive literary marketplace in which it thrived against the odds. In making these claims, I draw on initial research findings from our two-year Leverhulme-funded Research Project Grant: ‘The Lady’s Magazine (1770–1818): Understanding the Emergence of a Genre’. The project offers a detailed bibliographical, statistical and literary-critical analysis of one of the first recognisably modern magazines for women from its inception in 1770. In its three-pronged book history/literary critical/digital humanities approach, the project, like this talk, aims to answer two main research questions: 1) What made the Lady’s Magazine one of the most popular and enduring titles of its day?; 2) What effects might an understanding of the magazine’s content, production and circulation have upon own conceptions of Romantic-era print culture, a field still struggling fully to emerge from the shadows of canonical figures and genres?

Continue reading

Romantic Landscapes: Geography and Travel, 23 Nov 2015

Our second CRECS event will focus on the centrality of travel, topography and landscape in the Romantic period. Landscape is perhaps the paradigmatic conceit of the Romantic moment, permeating every aspect of the literature, art and music of the era. It features as more than just a setting, but conveys a complex set of ideas, moods and associations that are underpinned by a distinct philosophical perspective. Landscape comes to register the expansive imagination in a multitude of works, ranging from the sublime gothic landscape to the picturesque haunts of sentimental writers, from the famous peregrinations of Jane Austen’s heroines to the rustic pathways of the Lake Poets.

Travel can be multinational and globetrotting, echoing the significance of the Grand Tour as an essential part of an elite education, bringing together nature and culture in complex and didactic ways. It can also be rather more delimited, so that the highways and byways of village life come to trace the circulatory system of a domestic ideology that enshrined, for the first time, a meaningful conception of ‘Britishness’ in the context of the Napoleonic wars. Continue reading

First event—Shadows and Sandmen: Or, Things that Go CRECS in the Night, 26 Oct 2015

Our first CRECS event will celebrate Halloween week in spooktacular style. We’ll be kicking the 2015/16 programme off with an exploration of the nineteenth-century gothic literature and music. The Romantic period saw the emergence of the first wave of gothic writing, a turning away form the austere and ordered neoclassicism of the Augustan age. In Britain, there was a new appetite for native forms of art that eschewed system and structure, instead celebrating the ambiguities and uncertainties of the more irrational and imaginative aspects of human experience. This was the age that generated many iconic representations of the supernatural and fantastical, among them Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and his Creature; the emergence of turbulent ‘Byronic’ heroes such as Manfred and the Giaour; and Keats’s ‘Eve of St Agnes’.

Gothic and the supernatural provided inspiration for more than simply literature, acting as a transgeneric form that ranged across art, architecture, literature and music, forms which often spoke to and influenced each other in complex and interesting ways. Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare (1781), which is our featured image, was one of the most popular and reproduced paintings of the period, capturing and inspiring gothic currents in literature. Music such as Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (1830) drew upon artistic experiences of drug addiction in order to present a kaleidoscopic fantasy that dizzied listeners with its vertiginous and exotic orchestrations. The work of Sir Walter Scott, the best-selling novelist of the 19th century, provided inspiration for both musicians and artists alike, not least Gaetano Donizetti’s tragic opera Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), which drew upon the gothic elements of Scott’s historical novel, The Bride of Lammermoor (1819). Continue reading