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)
Join 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.
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
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
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.
This 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
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.
To 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.
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.
Ever 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
All was silent in the Arts and Social Studies Library … until this year’s first CRECS event, ‘Shadows & Sandmen: Things that go CRECS in the night’, brought Gothic Romanticism into the, thankfully brightly lit, room. Continue reading
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
We’re delighted to announce the new CRECS programme for the forthcoming session. Below, you’ll find details of the Autumn 2015 session: the Spring 2016 session will follow in due course. All events take places in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR), in the basement of the Arts and Social Studies Library. Continue reading