Romanticisms: Canons, Values and Working on the Fringes

Simon KovesiMMUe

This panel explores Romantic-period writing in and from its less canonical fringes, in areas that remain relatively unexplored, and largely untaught. We will look at the inclusion of science writing and scientists; issues of class, gender and sexuality, nationality, ethnicity and race. The panel will consider both texts and ideas encountered through research, but also at the ways texts, contexts and the period itself, work in the classroom. Across the papers, we will open up to scrutiny this shortest of periods and we will necessarily encounter many of the continuing assumptions and privileges of canonical Romanticism, while also considering how Romantic-period based arguments and values might be relevant to, and informed by, current contemporary debates.

‘Love, Gender, Sexuality 1740–1824’ (Dr Caroline Gonda)

Fellow in English, St Catharine's College, Cambridge

In 2019–20, the English Faculty at Cambridge introduced a new final year undergraduate option entitled ‘Love, Gender, Sexuality 1740–1824’. Using the introduction and first iteration of this course as a starting point, this paper will discuss what it means to make official space for the study of sexuality in the undergraduate English curriculum. It will also address some of the challenges inherent in researching and teaching the history of sexuality in a period before the invention of sexual identity categories, and in particular how to think through ideas of queerness and same-sex desire in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Humphry Davy’s Notebooks (Prof Sharon Ruston)

Professor of Romanticism, Lancaster University

While Humphry Davy is a canonical figure in the History of Science, he is still a marginal figure in British Romanticism. I have attempted to show in a number of ways how central he was to key concepts and writers associated with Romanticism. Davy was a friend and critic of Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Byron, among others. In this talk I will explore Davy’s notebooks, which are themselves an under-considered form in literary studies. Davy slides from the scientific to the poetic in his notebooks. I will look at moments where his thoughts link and divide these ways of understanding the world.

#litPOC: On #Bigger7, #BIPOC18, and #POC19 Critical Antiracist Intervention (Dr Christine “Xine” Yao)

Lecturer in American Literature to 1900, University College London

How can we be critical about our scholarly practices in the long eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? In 2017 #Bigger6 was created to organize scholarly work and discussions committed to a more inclusive Romanticism. #BIPOC18 soon followed, calling to reframe eighteenth-century studies as a site of anticolonial refusal. In 2018 Jennifer James coined #POC19 in response to grassroots issues about scholars of color working in long nineteenth century America. These are a few of the grassroots movements that developed independently but are now in conversation under the umbrella term #litPOC which I named later in 2018. In my presentation, I will give an overview of these antiracist interventions through the neglected, underexamined, and suppressed writings of peoples of color in the archive in ways mindful of our own embodied positionalities as scholars dedicated to praxis informed by different configurations of critical race and ethnic studies, feminism, disability studies, and queer theory. By attending to archival absences we seek not only to recover these writings as evidence of their presences, but take seriously their work as critique. Our work in dialogue considers the temporal, affective politics of citation not only of the past but our active practices as critics anticipating, creating, opening a future. Finally, I will turn to how my project seeks to disrupt our understandings of affect studies and Adam Smith’s concept of sympathy through attending to the political and affective disaffection of peoples of colour.

Speaker: Simon Kövesi
Paper proposal: ‘The Class Acts of Romanticism’. The Romantic period was an even more stratified and socially immobile society than our own. By far the majority of the population across the period we now laughably know as Romantic, lived rurally, and in poverty. The literature of the period is often celebrated – and confidently celebrated itself – as being inclusive of ‘ordinary’ lives: of including in its poetic purview, at least, chimney-sweeping children, slaves, orphans, the grieving, the insane, and the otherwise marginalised or disenfranchised – alongside the more traditional literary heroics and dramas of the aristocracy and a swelling bourgeoisie. Yet writers themselves of impoverished or marginalised origins were not often warmly included in the literary adventure. And even when they were successful, they have largely been met since first publication with dismissal by the Romanticists of the academy. This paper wonders whether Romanticism is founded on exclusions; whether the term ‘Romantic’ is itself a middle-class construct of our own middle-class academy that inherently excludes; and whether the idea of a working-class tradition is an anachronism, or a palpable, meaningful thread, in the way we might understand some work of this period.

Fri 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm