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

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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

Kirsty McHugh, ‘Manuscript Travel Accounts of Scotland and Wales’

Kirsty McHugh is a first-year doctoral research student at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh & Celtic Studies. She is part of the AHRC Curious Travellers project. Here, she adapts her paper from the inaugural CRECS Conference for our blog.

My research focuses on manuscript journals, diaries and letters recording the experiences of individuals and groups travelling in Scotland and Wales in the Romantic period. Since beginning my research degree in October 2015 I’ve become aware of the unique opportunities that exploring this topic affords, but also its challenges—in part, due to the nature of travel writing, but also because existing research has been largely based on published travel writing. Here I offer a brief overview of where my research has led me thus far. Continue reading

Report on ‘Romantic Landscapes: Geography and Travel’, 23 Nov 2015

Our second CRECS event of the year was ‘Romantic Landscapes: Geography and Travel’, where we gathered to discuss the centrality of travel, topography and landscape in the Romantic period.

Jamie CastellJamie Castell, of Cardiff’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy, began by announcing that his intention, and hope, for the evening’s discussion was that it would persuade us all to do some of our own Romantic wandering.

To illustrate the concept of the Romantic wanderer, Jamie turned to Caspar David Fredrick’s Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818). It portrays a classic Romantic scene of a lone male, facing outward into a swirling cloud of mist that partly obscures the mountain range. Jamie suggested that there are several important considerations we might bring to an image such as this. Firstly, that it might serve as an archetype for a certain type of liberty: the freedom of walking in the mountains juxtaposed with the state of surveillance that the aftermath of the French Revolution brought to Britain. Secondly, that the mind is just as important an aspect as the physicality of the landscape: classic Romantic outward looking leads to inward revelation. It was at this point that Jamie indulged us all with a delightful pun—all Romantic wandering is also a’wondering. A humorous addition it may have been, but nevertheless an important contemplation when considering Romantic poetry. Continue reading

Romantic Landscapes: Geography and Travel, 23 Nov 2015

Our second CRECS event will focus on the centrality of travel, topography and landscape in the Romantic period. Landscape is perhaps the paradigmatic conceit of the Romantic moment, permeating every aspect of the literature, art and music of the era. It features as more than just a setting, but conveys a complex set of ideas, moods and associations that are underpinned by a distinct philosophical perspective. Landscape comes to register the expansive imagination in a multitude of works, ranging from the sublime gothic landscape to the picturesque haunts of sentimental writers, from the famous peregrinations of Jane Austen’s heroines to the rustic pathways of the Lake Poets.

Travel can be multinational and globetrotting, echoing the significance of the Grand Tour as an essential part of an elite education, bringing together nature and culture in complex and didactic ways. It can also be rather more delimited, so that the highways and byways of village life come to trace the circulatory system of a domestic ideology that enshrined, for the first time, a meaningful conception of ‘Britishness’ in the context of the Napoleonic wars. Continue reading