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

Visiting Speaker, 8 Nov 2016: Emily Rohrbach on voice and dispossession in ‘gothic’ literatures

Emily Rohrbach (University of Manchester) will be presenting her paper, ‘Voice and Dispossession: A Comparative Poetics’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 8 November 2016. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.03, and will be followed by a wine reception.

Abstract
2016-02-rohrbachThis talk draws from her current work on voice and dispossession in ‘Gothic’ literatures from Britain and Europe to the Americas, which examines not only to plot elements and themes of dispossessed voices but also aspects of narrative voice that dramatise self-reflexively its own otherness. That otherness concerns less the transcendence or divine quality of poetic inspiration than the imagination of textual circulation and influence in the Romantic period and the nineteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic. Continue reading

2016/17 CRECS Programme now available

We are delighted to announce our programme for the forthcoming academic year, 2016-2017. Events are usually held on Mondays, begin at 5.15pm, take place in Cardiff University’s Special Collections or the John Percival building and are followed by a drinks reception. Information about each event will be publicized on the CRECS blog in advance. All are welcome, but we warmly encourage undergraduates and MA students to attend in order to learn more about our research into the eighteenth century and Romantic period .

Founding members of CRECS are Dr Melanie Bigold, Dr James Castell, Dr Sophie Coulombeau, Alison HarveyProf. Anthony Mandal, Dr Jane Moore and Prof. Garthine Walker. You can contact any of us with questions about the programme.

We are currently looking for under- and postgraduate students from Cardiff University to join the CRECS team, assist with organising events and help us to manage our blog and social media. Please get in touch with one of us if you would like to be involved! Continue reading

First event for 2016/17—Pain and Prejudice: Women and Science in the Romantic Era, 17 Oct 2016

Over the past decade, scholars have become increasingly interested in interfaces between scientific and literary discourses during the Romantic period. How did ideas about cutting-edge science inflect and shape literary productions? How did novels, poetry and life writing mould scientific discourse? And, in an era when women were officially excluded from public institutions of science such as the Royal Society, how did they access, develop and perpetuate scientific knowledge through literary activity?

On the evening of the 17th of October, three members of the CRECS team will explore intersections between scientific discourse, literary innovation and gender in the writings of two of the period’s most important novelists. Continue reading

Film screening, 30 June 2016: Frankenstein (1931)

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.

Mary Shelley’s recollection of her moment of inspiration for Frankenstein is every bit as gothic as the immortal scene of unnatural creation found within the pages of the novel itself.  When it appeared in 1818, Shelley’s debut novel was a sensation, leading reviewers both to celebrate it as a work of ‘originality’ and ‘extreme interest’ and to denounce it as ‘an uncouth story, in the taste of the German novelists, trenching in some degree on delicacy, setting probability at defiance’. The germ of this gothic tale is to be found in an evening of reading French ghost stories by the Byron–Shelley circle, who were sojourning during the summer of 1816 in the Villa Diodati near Generva. So entertained were the companions that they agreed to a ghost-story competition of their own. While Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and John Polidori conjured their own quite chilling spectres, they were eclipsed by the dark and brooding tale written by Percy’s 18-year-old mistress, Mary Godwin, which has gained a monumental, unnatural life of its own over the past two centuries.

Frankenstein1To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novel’s composition this June, we are delighted to offer another innovation of the BookTalk formula: a screening of Universal Pictures’ iconic 1931 film adaptation of the novel, directed by James Whale.  Unlike the articulate and philosophical Creature of the novel, Boris Karloff’s monster is a mute, shambling being that is by turns destructive and sympathetic. More than any other adaptation—perhaps even more than the novel—it is this version of the story that dominates our popular consciousness today, inspiring numerous later adaptations and countless Halloween costumes.

As well as the screening, this evening’s BookTalk will feature four speakers who explore a number of different aspects of the Frankenstein myth:

  • Dr Anthony Mandal (Cardiff University), will introduce the screening by briefly talking about the novel’s composition and the film’s history.
  • Following the screening (and a short break), Dr Maximilaan van Woudenberg (Sheridan College, Canada) will discuss the curious history of the ghost stories that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.
  • Dr Lisa Stead (University of Exeter) will turn to the film, and how it fits in with genre, audiences and the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s.
  • Finally, Megen de Bruin-Molé (Cardiff University) will explore the legacy of Frankenstein, which continues to haunt popular literature and media to the present day.

The main event (6.30pm) will be preceded by a reception with tea, coffee and biscuits at 6pm in Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Maindy Road, Cardiff CF24 4HQ. This event is jointly hosted with the Cardiff BookTalk.

All welcome! Book your tickets via Eventbrite by clicking here.

Report on first Annual CRECS Conference, 17 May 2016

On Tuesday 17 May 2016, Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) opened its doors to welcome the attendees of the first annual CRECS student conference.

After partaking in a welcome hot beverage—at a safe distance from the special collections of course!—the morning was devoted to student papers. These papers were delivered by a wide array of students from second year undergraduates to third year postgraduate researchers. The atmosphere was splendid, everyone delivered fantastically confident and supremely interesting papers on topics from counterfeiting coinage to memory in Wordsworth. For myself, what struck me as a common theme of all the papers was a demonstration of the richness of eighteenth-century language, and the complexities it yields. From the emotive rhetoric of court cases to the poetics of Ann Yearsley, Hannah More and William Wordsworth, from the complex doubleness of gothic rhetoric to the voice of the traveller in Welsh and Scottish tours, the presentations captured the richness and diversity of the period. For many student delegates, it was their first experience delivering a conference paper and you could not have asked for a more supportive and engaged audience. All the students have been invited to publish their papers on this blog so watch this space! Continue reading

First Annual CRECS Conference: Programme

All events take place on 17 May 2016, in the Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) at Cardiff University unless otherwise noted. 

09.00–09.25 Registration and Coffee
09.25–9.30 Welcome
09.30–10.20 Student Panel 1
(Four 10–minute papers with 10 minutes of discussion)
Kathryn Barlow, Ella Morrish, Anwen Pembery, Thomas Tyrrell
10.30–11.20 Student Panel 2
(Four 10–minute papers with 10 minutes of discussion)
India Cole, Natalie Cox, Poppy Jennings, Emma Tranter
11.20–11.40 Coffee Break
11.40–12.30 Student Panel 3
(Four 10–minute papers with 10 minutes of discussion)
Stephanie Clayton, Anna Field, Abby Johns, Kirsty McHugh
12.35–13.15 Student Panel 4
(Three 10–minute papers with 10 minutes of discussion)
Jannat Ahmad, Angharad Jenkins Wendon, Anna Sharrard
13.15–14.00 Lunch
(Refectory, John Percival Building)
14.00–15.00 Workshop 1 
Dr Mary-Ann Constantine and Dr Liz Edwards (Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies) on 18th-century and Romantic Welsh tours
15.15–16.15 Workshop 2
Dr Jennie Batchelor, Dr Koenraad Claes, and Dr Jenny DiPlacidi (University of Kent) on The Lady’s Magazine
16.30–17.30 Workshop 3
Professor Tim Stretton (St Mary’s University, Nova Scotia) on ‘Married Women and the Law: “The True Case of the Lady Lawley” (1731)’
17.30–18.30 Closing Remarks followed by a Wine Reception
(John Percival Building, Room 2.47)