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

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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.

Jannat Ahmed, ‘The Men of Regency Romance’

Jannat Ahmed, a third-year English Literature undergraduate at Cardiff University, adapts her paper from the inaugural CRECS Conference for the CRECS blog.

Jeffrey Weeks in his book, Sex, Politics and Society (2012: 49), writes:

From the 1860s there was a new cult of masculinity in the public schools. Thomas Arnold’s emphasis on spiritual autonomy and intellectual maturity in the first half of the century was increasingly replaced by a new stress on physical characteristics, on the demonstration of pure willpower. […] The model of the early public school was the monastery. The model of the later public school was definitely military. While women were increasingly associated with weakness and emotion, by 1860 men no longer dared embrace in public or shed tears, precisely because it was a mark of femininity. A variety of male clubs sprang up which emphasised the elements of male bonding. And with the new stress on games and militaristic training came transparent chimes of imperialism. Sexuality, race and empire were inextricably bound together.

In light of Weeks’ distinction between the judgement of men pre- and post-1860, I read Jane Austen, a lauded novelist of the long eighteenth century against Georgette Heyer, an overlooked novelist of the twentieth century.

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Fig. 1. Jane Austen (1775–1817)

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Fig. 2. Georgette Heyer (1902–1974)

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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

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

Children of CRECS: Contesting Childhood in the Romantic Era, 7 Dec 2015

The study of childhood has long been crucial to interdisciplinary study of the Romantic period. Historians of the family have pinpointed the eighteenth century as crucial for the emergence of our modern understanding of the concept, from Philippe Ariés’ controversial claim that the very idea of childhood developed in Western Europe only around this time to Lawrence Stone’s equally fiercely contested account of the ‘closed domesticated nuclear family’. These arguments about broad social forces have been accompanied by a surge of critical interest in pioneering educational theory, particularly in the ideas of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and their resonance throughout political, scientific and literary discourses. Scores of novelists, poets and essayists absorbed these ideas, and a deep interest in the nature of childhood and education runs throughout the imaginative literature of the Romantic period . Writers such as Anna Barbauld and Maria Edgeworth wrote not only educational treatises but also innovative tales and poetry specifically marketed towards children. Novels by writers including Mary Hays and Walter Scott featured protagonists whose childhood reading fosters tragic flaws later in life. And Romantic poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Thelwall became deeply preoccupied with the potential of the cradle song to articulate the relationship between domestic, ‘private’ relations and political, ‘public’ concerns. Continue reading