Cardiff FrankenFest: Celebrating 200 Years of Frankenstein

When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision, —I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.—Mary Shelley, Introduction to Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (1831 edn)

FrankenFestJoin CRECS in celebrating the bicentenary of the publication of Frankenstein, as we host a festival of events later this month that explore various aspects of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic. A collaboration between the School of English, Communication & Philosophy and Special Collections at Cardiff University, and directed by Prof. Anthony Mandal, Cardiff Frankenfest is part of the global Frankenreads initiative—a celebration of the novel’s anniversary by over 400 partners around the world, taking place in the lead-up to Halloween 2018.

We are delighted to be hosting four convivial, interactive events later this month, to which fans of the novel are warmly invited. Unless otherwise noted, events take place in the Special Collections of Cardiff University’s Arts and Social Studies Library.

  • A Stormy Night of Ghost-Telling: Fantasmagoriana and the Villa Diodati (22 Oct 2018, 5.30–7pm): In this seminar, Dr Maximiliaan van Woudenberg (Cambridge) will explore Fantasmagoriana, the collection of ghost stories in French read by Byron and the Shelleys during a summer stay in Switzerland. It was these tales that inspired the infamous ghost-storytelling completion, resulting in Mary’s creation of Frankenstein. The seminar will consist of a talk, followed by a hands-on discussion based on close readings of two short stories from Fantasmagoriana. This event is co-organised by CRECS and the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research.
  • ‘Of What A Strange Nature Is Knowledge’: Interdisciplinary Approaches To Frankenstein (24 Oct 2018, 5–7pm): This event explores the novel through various modes of analysis, led by Cardiff University researchers. Dr James Castell will discuss the ways in which Frankenstein anticipates key concerns of the environmental humanities; Barbara Hughes-Moore considers the relationship between legal culpability and the Creature’s status as a non-human; Prof. Keir Waddington examines how the laboratory space features in the novel. Each speaker will talk for about 15 minutes, with plenty of time for discussion.
  • Mary Shelley (29 Oct 2018, 6–9pm): A screening of Haifaa al-Mansoor’s 2017 biopic, starring Elle Fanning. The movie will be followed by a discussion of its representation of Mary’s life and love by Dr Anna Mercer (Cardiff/Keats House), whose work draws on her extensive research into the Shelley family manuscripts. This event is co-hosted by Cardiff BookTalk, and takes place in Cardiff University’s Optometry Building. 
  • ‘My Hideous Progeny’: Your Favourite Readings of Frankenstein and the FrankenQuiz (31 Oct 2018, 4–7pm): Start your Halloween celebrations by coming along to read and discuss your favourite passages from Frankenstein, at an event hosted by Rob Lloyd. The evening, and Festival, will conclude with a FrankenQuiz, in which you can prove your knowledge of all things Frankenstein—there will be suitably monstrous prizes for the winning team. For more information about readings, please contact Robert at LloydRS2@cardiff.ac.uk.

All events are free and everyone is welcome to attend. Refreshments will be available. However, please register using the Eventbrite link below so that we can plan accordingly: cardiff-frankenfest.eventbrite.co.uk.

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Report from CRECS Workshop 2018

On January 18th 2018, the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar held a Workshop on PGR Recruitment, Cultures, and Training including with colleagues from a range of other institutions including the University of Bristol, the University Of Reading, Bath Spa University, the University of Exeter and Dongguk University Korea.

Following discussion of research interests and PhD supervision, there was considerable discussion about strategies for PhD Recruitment and Student Training. We also began to plan a conference to be held in the summer in Cardiff for undergraduate and MA students from each of the partner institutions. We’ll post an update on this blog soon!

Excursion Report: CRECS Goes Gothic at Strawberry Hill House, 16 May 2017

Horace Walpole, painted by John Giles Eccardt in 1754.

On 1 March, 2015 the Walpole Trust reopened Strawberry Hill House to the public. As the former home of Horace Walpole, famed (and famously eccentric) author of the first Gothic novel, the house has been a popular tourist destination since it was first built up in 1749.

At noon on 16 May 2017, twenty-three students and scholars from Cardiff University stepped blinking into the parking lot of Strawberry Hill House, out of the darkened bus that had carried them from rainy Wales. The weather in Twickenham was hardly Gothic-appropriate, but since the tour of the house had been arranged for the late afternoon, we had several hours to eat our bag lunches, stretch our legs in Strawberry Hill’s gardens, and snag a leisurely drink along the sunny banks of the Thames. By the time we returned to the House at 4pm, the group was happy, slightly sunburnt and ready to be thrilled, amazed and educated about Walpole’s ‘little Gothic castle’. Continue reading

Gothic Revival: CRECS Tours Strawberry Hill House, 16 May 2017

Join the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS) on 16 May 2017 for an exciting excursion, as we visit the Gothic Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, a modern architectural marvel. With its arches and turrets, its elaborate windows and gables, and its bone-white exterior, Strawberry Hill is a bizarre cross between a Gothic castle and a Disney one. Until 1797, it was also the home of the Gothic novelist Horace Walpole.

Constructed in stages between 1749 and 1776, Strawberry Hill has the distinction of being the first house built in the medieval style without using any old materials—a self-conscious work of Gothic fakery. This makes it the perfect match for Walpole, its original architect. Victorian scholar Thomas Macaulay famously called Walpole ‘the most eccentric, the most artificial, the most fastidious, the most capricious, of men’. Walpole was inspired to make multiple, wild renovations to Strawberry Hill during his lifetime, and the house inspired his writing in return: most famously, The Castle of Otranto (1764). Continue reading

Second Annual CRECS Conference, 17 May 2017

The Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth Century Seminar (CRECS) invites you to join us for our second Annual Conference on Wednesday, 17 May 2017.

CRECS exists to support and stimulate interest and discussion in Romantic and Eighteenth Century Studies at Cardiff University. On Wednesday 17 May 2017, we will be holding an exciting daylong event in Cardiff’s Special Collections and Archives to showcase the interesting work that takes place at Cardiff and to consider a few different approaches to the period. Continue reading

Review of Francesca Saggini’s CRECS talk, ‘From The Vaults: Frances Burney and the Tragic Muse’, 13 Mar 2017

Many thanks to Jannat Ahmed (@PemberleyParade) for writing this review of our CRECS event, which took place on Monday 13 March 2017.

The Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar recently had the pleasure of welcoming Professor Francesca Saggini (Università della Tuscia, Visiting Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge), author of Backstage in the Novel: Frances Burney and the Theater Arts, to present her new (never-before-presented) research on Frances Burney and the Tragic Muse. Discussing the neglect of Burney and her fellow female tragedians in most anthologies of eighteenth-century plays/drama, Saggini drew our attention to the contexts of Burney’s tragedies, and issued a call to take them more seriously. Continue reading

Monday 13 March 2017: Francesca Saggini, ‘From the Vaults: Frances Burney and the Tragic Muse’

 

Frances Burney is often best known as the writer of pioneering novels of manners that inspired Jane Austen, such as Evelina, or: The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778). But she was also a playwright, who drew upon a rich tradition of tragic drama to reflect on her experiences at the court of George III and, more broadly, the ideological constraints that women faced in eighteenth-century society. In this talk, Francesca Saggini will discuss Burney’s ‘Tragic Muse’, and will more broadly reflect on the way that critical reception inflects our treatment of Burney and other late eighteenth-century dramatists.

Francesca Saggini is a Professor of English Literature at the Università della Tuscia and a Visiting Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She has published extensively on Gothic fiction and the stage, the house in literature, and the fiction and drama of Frances Burney. Her most recent book is The Gothic Novel and the Stage. Romantic Appropriations (Pickering and Chatto-Routledge, 2015), which was awarded an Honourable Mention at the European Society for the Study of English Book Awards in 2016.

Please join us in Cardiff University’s Special Collections, in the basement of the Arts and Social Studies Library. The event starts at 5.30pm on Monday 13 March 2017. As usual, refreshments will follow after the presentations and discussion.

Attendance is free, but we would be grateful if you could register using our EventBrite link:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/monday-13-march-2017-francesca-saggini-from-the-vaults-frances-burney-and-the-tragic-muse-tickets-32616646267

Revisiting ‘How Green Were the Romantics?’ with Professor Ralph Pite, 30 Jan 2017

For decades, scholars have argued that Romantic literature and thought anticipates many of the concerns of contemporary environmentalism. Some critics have even suggested that the Romantics might help us to think and to act in a world facing serious ecological challenges. But is there a danger that we misrepresent the Romantic period in making it so relevant to the issues of our own time? Is it useful for us to turn to a different age that experienced very different problems to those that threaten our ecosystems and ways of life?

Over twenty years ago, Ralph Pite published an influential article that aimed to test the extent to which ‘Romantic poetry seems often to express an ecological point-of-view’ by asking the question ‘How Green were the Romantics?’ [1] For the first CRECS event of 2017, we’re asking him to revisit this territory and to consider how the answer to this question might have changed since 1996. Continue reading

‘[T]his beautiful city’: ‘Narrative and Nation’’s Field Trip to Bath

 

Blog post by Jannat Ahmed (@PemberleyParade). Photo credits to Caitlin Coxon (@CoxonCaitlin), Jo Daniel (@JFDMID), Anthony Mandal (@CardiffBookHistory) and Sophie Coulombeau (@SMCoulombeau). We are very grateful to the School of English, Communication and Philosophy’s Teaching Enhancement Fund for meeting the costs of this trip and ensuring an accessible learning experience for all students on the module.

This year, the MA Narrative and Nation cohort, led by Dr Sophie Coulombeau and Professor Anthony Mandal, had the wonderful opportunity and pleasure to go on a field trip to Bath. Our psychogeographic exploration of the town sought to consolidate the project of the module: to understand the relationship between narrative and nationhood. But, as it happens, we managed to achieve much more!

After passing multiple heritage plaques within minutes of arriving, our exploration proper began at South Parade, on the River Avon, where we were treated to a reading by Sophie of Frances Burney’s letter describing the very house we were stood beside.

 

15319185_10211391688936288_3505660210449507354_nThe house, occupied by the Thrales, was home to Burney for her time there. We learnt that Burney occupied one of the rooms overlooking the river and, in the surreal manner that psychogeography anticipates, we could see her very view across the water. Of the writers we considered, she was one of the most sympathetic towards and most enchanted by Bath, especially in contrast to Horace Walpole. However, we also learnt her trip was cut short due to the Gordon riots, which was intriguing because it gives a lively, political history to a now more statically preserved town.

Next, we were guided to the resting place of Frances Burney. Her grave, and a memorial commemorating Reverend George Austen, Jane Austen’s father, share a graveyard at Walcot Church. Situated in the middle of a busy intersection, the sobering knowledge that Burney’s memorial had been moved so that her body was lost under our feet led to a fruitful conversation about the bodies and resting places of other long eighteenth-century writers, namely Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

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We then soldiered on to the Museum of Bath Architecture whose administrator extraordinaire had kindly opened the museum for us. The museum was also the Countess of Huntington’s chapel. This chapel, we learnt, was a site where abolitionists and freed slaves spoke to congregations. Unsurprisingly, in terms of architecture, the museum itself was abundantly useful! To see the amount of skill and craft that went into the construction of a typical Bath house, its exteriors and its interiors, was invaluable. The choices of finish and style, the wallpaper, the plasterwork, and even the doors, were ample. Learning of the stress put on the nature of furnishings and function in the long eighteenth century helped make Elizabeth Elliot’s anxiety about refraining ‘from new-furnishing the drawing-room’ in Austen’s Persuasion more understandable, if not any less amusing.

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Following this, we made our way to a coffee shop where, pertinently for Cardiff University’s eighteenth-century enthusiasts, we talked politics and power and learnt that we would briefly be meeting Dr Stephen Gregg from Bath Spa University. This meeting was my personal highlight of the trip because, in true literature-student fashion, we had an impromptu reading of Smollett’s The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Stephen outside the Assembly Rooms. He later pointed out the location of the easily-missed circulating library on Milsom Street, which is also the street where Anne encounters Admiral Croft.

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After a quick view of the situation of Westgate Buildings, the home of Anne Elliot’s friend, Mrs Smith, and an education on the lay of the land suggesting rank, (because the higher parts of Bath were furthest away from the river where there really was ‘foul air’ as Sir Walter Elliot puts it) we made our way to Bath Street and the site of what was once White Hart Inn. Bath Street, the place where William Elliot is seen with Mrs Clay, was notorious for unseemly liaisons and would have been recognised by Austen’s readership as such. We then paused at Hall & Woodhouse for lunch.

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After lunch, we spent an hour or so seeing Bath on our own. In this time, Caitlin and I visited Bath Abbey, Sally Lunn’s, the Christmas Markets (unavoidable, of course, as they were right beside the Abbey), and bookshops. We then all made our way to The Crescent to see a candlelit and festive No. 1 Royal Crescent which was absolutely fascinating. In fact, we might have stayed longer there if we could. Our interest was focused on the day-to-day lives of a Georgian household, and it was rather eye-opening. We learnt about Georgian custom and convention in the dining room: the Georgians used nutmeg graters at the table; while in the parlour, we learnt about the luxury of carpets; and in the bedrooms, the changing fashion of its inhabitants due to the hair powder tax. Our final stop No. 1 Royal Crescent’s kitchen which was perhaps the most delightful, refreshing part of the trip because we learnt that maggot-ridden, stale and otherwise decaying food was the norm, hence the need for nutmeg graters to disguise the taste. Our trip ended here with a group photo.

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Our walking tour through the town of Bath exemplified the rich materiality, the politics and the broad nature of eighteenth-century notions of nation. In all the bustle of Bath, the field trip asserted the importance and uniqueness of place in constructions of nation in narrative and above all, its physical reality. Bath’s preservation is best experienced in person, because as Burney says, Bath holds ‘more luxury for the Eye’ than I could hope to illustrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNACKS & SOCIABILITY: A CRECS MIXER (Monday 21 November, 5.30pm)

SNACKS & SOCIABILITY: A CRECS MIXER 
*An evening of chit-chat*
Monday 21 November
5.30pm-7pm
Room 0.43, John Percival Building, Cardiff University
 
Please join us for a CRECS social mixer, designed to generate communication and foster collaboration across different disciplines and levels of study at Cardiff University and beyond. We welcome staff and students – at any level – who  have an interest in literature, history, philosophy, politics or music of the period 1680-1840. We also welcome staff and students from other higher education institutions who are interested in working closely with the CRECS community on projects of any kind. Over wine, soft drinks and snacks we will facilitate informal discussions about the work we are currently undertaking, and consider how we might work together over coming years to strengthen our research and teaching community. No preparation is necessary.
 

If you are intending to attend, we would be grateful if you could register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/snacks-sociability-a-crecs-mixer-tickets-29380497860