Romantic Discipline – Seminar leader: Thora Brylowe. What might literary studies be if we stopped organizing around the author? How would such a reorganization restructure discussions about decolonization, genre, archives, collections, textual scholarship or mediation in the Romantic period? How would it change the way we teach Romanticism, traditionally organized around six authors and their circles? These broad and open-ended questions are designed to spark thought experiments, conversations and friendly debate.
Participants will submit (by 1 July 2019) 1000- to 1500-word position/speculation papers for pre-circulation. Please come with a ready question for at least one of your fellow participants.
Literature and Science in the Romantic Era – Seminar leader: Tim Fulford. It is not just the 2016 bicentenary of the ‘year without a summer’ and the 2018 bicentenary of Frankenstein, setting into sharp relief today’s era of climate change, cloning and cyborgisation, that make Romantic science of pressing interest. New editions of Erasmus Darwin and Humphry Davy offer telling perspectives on the origins of the technologized manufacture and agriculture that has led to today’s globalized exploitation of the earth. New critical books suggest that the separation and institutionalization of disciplines—the very existence, as defined, professionalized fields, of ‘Literature’, and ‘Natural Science’—first came about through the lecturing institutions that sprang up in the early nineteenth century. Studies of the 1780s and 90s, meanwhile, have emphasized a communal, pre-disciplinary ‘culture of enquiry’ in which nature was experimentally investigated in poetry as well as prose, and outdoors as well as in the laboratory. Priestley and Barbauld formed one such culture, Beddoes, Coleridge, Southey and Davy another. At the same time, the era featured the rise of a global network for scientific exploration and exchange of plants, minerals and animals that drew upon, and in turn fostered, Britain’s new colonial empire. This empire, as Alan Bewell has shown, led not only to the spread of flora and fauna across the world, but also to that of disease—globalizing pandemics.
I welcome 1500-word position papers dealing with any of these topics—or indeed other aspects of Romantic science. These should be submitted by 1 July 2019 for pre-circulation. Response to the work of Bewell, Jon Klancher, Jim Secord, Simon Shaffer are most welcome; scholarship on Darwin, Davy, Faraday, Banks, Lovelace, Marcet, Somerville, Babbage is invited; so too are studies on the cultures and impact of geology, chemistry, botany, astronomy, engineering and medicine.
Romanticism and the Industrial Revolution: Literature, Bodies, and Machines, 1780-1840 – Seminar leader: Jon Mee. The early period of the British ‘industrial revolution,’ roughly speaking, for our purposes, 1780-1840, usually figures in literary studies, if at all, as the negative pole against which the creativity of romanticism is defined. Equally, key provincial towns such as Manchester are rarely mentioned in romantic-period literary geography. But the physician-poet John Aikin’s Description of the country for Thirty to Forty Miles around Manchester (1795) saw in Manchester the ‘beating heart’ of a new kind of body politic. For Aikin and his peers, ‘genius’ was an attribute equally applicable to the inventions of engineers and poets.
This seminar will investigate the appetite for ‘improvement’ as literary, scientific, and technical innovation across the period. It particularly invites consideration of the development of Aikin’s brand of materialism in other areas and in later instantiations, such as, for instance, James Phillips Kay’s idea of the ‘social body’ in his The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Class Employed in the Cotton Manufacture (1832).
The key proposition to be tested in this seminar is that romantic ideas of ‘invention’ and ‘imagination’ ought not to be thought of only as a critique from outside these formations but also as a product of a materialist dialectic of enlightenment that produced new forms of discipline, shaped in part by the machine, and new ideas of human emancipation.
Participants submit a 1000-word statement for pre-circulation by 1 July 2019.
Article Writing Workshop – Seminar leader: Jonathan Mulrooney. This seminar will workshop the opening sections of participants’ journal articles-in-progress. Participants will submit the first 1000-1500 words of an article by 1 July 2019 to be pre-circulated. Session may include specific feedback as well as more general discussion of writing and publishing strategies.
Romanticism from the outside in – Seminar leader: Padma Rangarajan. The 2018 NASSR had over 100 papers with titles that indicated a focus on one of the traditional “Big Six” authors (plus the indispensables, Jane Austen and Mary Shelley). Some 60 other paper titles identified lesser known English authors, while fewer than 40 paper titles indicated a colonial, transatlantic, continental, or otherwise non-English author or topic. (Around 85 paper titles could not be classified within these parameters.) Although Romanticism as a discipline has expanded greatly in recent years, for those of us who work primarily in and around hemispheric, transatlantic, imperial, and archipelagic studies, it is clear that such approaches remain on the margins.
This session doesn’t call for a rejection of Romanticism’s traditional subjects, but it does argue that the field remains in thrall to a center-periphery model. There are powerful pedagogical, practical, and institutional barriers to change, but one of the goals of the session will be to collectively map out compelling counter-models (for conference-session organizing, job search language, survey courses, etc.) of a more truly global Romanticism.
It has been 65 years since M.H. Abrams identified the orientalist, poet, and legal scholar William Jones as one of Romanticism’s progenitors, yet Jones remains a largely neglected figure. We will read Jones’s 1777 essay “On the Poetry of the Eastern Nations,” which anticipates Romantic aesthetics—not unproblematically— through its comparative analysis of Eastern poetry. We will also read the Introduction to Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism (2004) for its critique of Romanticism’s anglocentrism, and as a model of a transnational critical methodology.
Alongside or in lieu of a 1500-word response paper (submitted for pre-circulation by 1 July 2019), interested participants are welcome to present course syllabi, cfps, conference models, etc. The main purpose of this session is to discuss the challenges of and arguments for working on Romanticism from the outside in.
More seminars coming soon. All seminars will be capped at 12 participants; there will be an opportunity to sign up (first come, first serve) at registration.