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

CONFERENCE REPORT: ‘Scandal and sociability: New perspectives on the Burney family’.

On September 1st, Cardiff University hosted the international symposium, ‘Scandal and Sociability: New Perspectives on the Burney Family’. Organizing this event was a high point of my first year in post at Cardiff. For years, I’ve been fascinated with Frances Burney, one of the most successful and influential novelists of the eighteenth century and a central figure in my doctoral research. But ever since I was lucky enough to spend a month in Montreal researching at McGill’s Burney Centre in the second year of my PhD, I’ve also been fascinated with her brilliant, sociable, polymathic and oddly secretive family circle. Between them, the Burneys published dozens of novels, scores of reviews, books on music and naval exploration, and political tracts. They wrote plays, drew popular prints and composed countless pieces of music. They travelled across the world, and knew or corresponded with most British luminaries of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries working in the fields of literature, art, music, politics, botany, exploration, and court and Church circles. Continue reading

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

Visiting Speaker, 24 Feb 2015: Holly Luhning on Eliza Haywood and the literary marketplace

Holly Luhning (University of Surrey) will be presenting her paper, ‘Eliza Haywood: Cultural and Corporeal Adaptation’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 24 February 2015. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48.

Abstract
Eliza Haywood carefully crafted her public debut with the publication of Love in Excess (1719); as her career progressed she became an important innovator in the development of the novel. This talk will consider how Haywood first emerged in the literary marketplace, and move on to examine her often-neglected, but formally innovative mid-career, with particular focus on Adventures of Eovaai, and her translation of Crebillon’s Le Sopha. These two texts exemplify the depth and range of Haywood’s activities as a innovator of narrative and the novel, and of how her work as a translator (and also position of translatee) contributed not only to the rise of the novel, but also the spread of the novel. Haywood’s career, when considered as a whole, reveal her to be an a much more important cultural player in terms of the development of the novel than many ‘stories’ of the novel may suggest. Continue reading

Next event—Cambrian CRECS: Nation, Region, Place in the Long 18th Century, 17 Feb 2015

Gripped by Six Nations fever? Wondering which team will walk triumphant from the grassy field of combat in March? And can Wales recoup last week’s loss against England and secure their favoured status once again?

Well, CRECS can’t provide the answers to these questions, but we can certainly offer an interesting and enjoyable evening of discussion and debate on Wales, in which four speakers will offer a variety of perspectives on the nation’s relationship to the Romantic period. While exhaustive work has been done on the role played by Ireland and Scotland in shaping Romantic writing, far less critical attention has been paid to Wales, despite its significant presence during the period. Indeed, during the Romantic period, Wales was seen as the heart of sensibility by some, the home of the picturesque by others and the source of enduring myths about ‘native’ British culture by many. Continue reading

Jane Austen changed my life

by Carl Phelpstead

phelpstead-carl-web(Prompted by our launch event, CRECS Fight Club, last Tuesday, Cardiff’s own Professor Carl Phelpstead reveals the transformative role Jane Austen played in shaping his future career.)

Jane Austen changed my life.

In the course of heaping deserved praise on my learned and witty colleagues for their knock-out performances at the CRECS Fight Club last Tuesday I found myself revealing to them that Austen is the one contender that night who has played an essential part in making me who I am. It was reading Sense and Sensibility for pleasure after I had started A-levels in Physics, Maths and German that made me realise what I was missing and led me to drop the Physics and Maths and take English Literature and Music instead. So if it weren’t for Austen I might now be a quantum physicist or astronomer …

Instead, I went on to study English at university and, eventually, to end up as a professor of the subject at Cardiff. (At a time when Cardiff Council is planning cuts to its library service it’s perhaps worth noting that the life-changing copy of Sense and Sensibility that I read was borrowed from my local public library.)

Of course, Austen cannot be held responsible for the fact that I became a specialist in medieval literature: that’s the doing of a certain Geoffrey Chaucer. But that’s a whole other story …

Visiting Speaker, 10 Feb 2015: Freya Johnston on editing Thomas Love Peacock

Freya Johnston (University of Oxford) will be presenting her paper, ‘Medieval Graffiti: Editing Thomas Love Peacock’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 10 February 2015. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48.

Abstract
This paper reflects on the challenges and rewards of editing a writer whose works have routinely been described as ‘inaccessible’. Even if his comic fictions abound, like Jane Austen’s, with clever, good-looking women and with sparkling dialogue that culminates in marriage, Peacock’s repartee can be hard to follow. This is partly because he does not aspire to the portrayal of interiority—perhaps the most cherished aspect of Austen’s novels. Rather, his characters, both male and female, exist primarily in order to share, voice, and test the limits of their ideas. His fictions, rebuffing intimacy, are inescapably political and intellectual. This paper will show that to approach the nineteenth-century novel via Peacock is to see it as an outward-facing genre indebted to philosophical tracts, lectures, classical dialogues and the rhythms of parliamentary debate. Continue reading