Romantic Circles Blog

What are you teaching? (Laura Mandell)

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Since we were online with Laura Mandell yesterday, we asked her the question: What are you teaching?

I am currently teaching a course called "Early British Romantic Writers," ranging roughly from 1789 to 1815:

http://www.users.muohio.edu/mandellc/eng339/eng339asyllabus.htm

Every year I teach the course with a different theme, and this time, it is the politics of form. Of course we have been reading and interrogating the usual suspects on this question--Lyrical Ballads and Jacobin novels--but we also spent a lot of time thinking about the ballad and sonnet revivals. I must say I was able to do this by taking the plunge: after ten years of teaching Romanticism survey courses, early and late, I finally gave myself permission to stop using anthologies. A Riverside edition of Lyrical Ballads has a great section on the ballad revival, and Feldman and Robinson have a beautiful new book out about Romantic-era sonnets. We just stepped into political allegory: after reading Coleridge's "Letter to Famine" and Barbauld's "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven," we are about to launch into Sydney Owenson's The Missionary. I have one of the most enthusiastic groups of students, in person, but I haven't been able to get them to use their blog--I have to think more about that!

At the risk of going on too long, I wanted to mention that I am also teaching a course that I received a grant to develop called Technology and the Humanities:

http://www.muohio.edu/technologyandhumanities/

It isn't technically a Romanticism course, although Neil's post this week makes me think that it really is--I'll have to read Coyne's Technoromanticism. We just finished Frankenstein and yesterday saw Kenneth Branaugh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which, I believe, poses the wonderful paradox that only the screen can give us a sense of the physical brutality of death feeding Victor's passion to create life.

Best,
Laura Mandell

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What are you teaching? (Neil Fraistat)

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Today I turned (virtually) to my co-editor, Neil Fraistat, and asked, "what are you teaching?"

This semester, I’ve been teaching a graduate seminar entitled “Technoromanticism,” which is exploring the extent to which the ideological formations of Romanticism both underlie and resist the way technology is imagined in contemporary culture through poetry, fiction, film, MOOs, and computer gaming. I derived the title of the course from Richard Coyne's Technoromanticism, which argues that contemporary understandings of the computer, “with its promises of interconnectivity, subversion of hierarchy, restoration of the tribe, revitalism of democracy, and new holism”--all have their historical roots in Enlightenment and Romantic thought.

While I rarely agreed with Coyne, especially in his understanding of Romanticism as such, his bold thesis and provocative title sparked my own thinking on the subject, which was further stimulated by the recent publication of Jay Clayton's wonderful book, Charles Dickens in Cyberspace.

As I finally conceived it, the course is concerned with Romanticism as a discourse about cultural change; about monstrosity and the body; about art as technology; about the necessity for and the impossibility of making art or technology that isn’t always already co-opted; about abjected, alienated, resistant subjects at the mercy of phallic power structures; about the gendering of technology; about textual and sexual reproduction; about Luddite and eco- resistance to technology; about utopian imaginings and dystopian worlds; and about the world itself as a consensual illusion.

To that end, I decided to structure the course through strategic pairings that would stage readings of Romantic era work through the lens of writing contemporary to us. So, for instance, we’ve used Neo-luddite texts as a way of thinking about the Luddites themselves; used theory about hacking to read Blake’s [First] Book of Urizen; used The Matrix films and Baudrillard to read Godwin’s Caleb Williams; used Harraway’s "Cyborg Manifesto" to read Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman; and used Patchwork Girl and several films to think about Frankenstein.

To date, my students have been extremely enthusiastic and engaged. Some of their thinking on the subject can be found on the course blog. I’m very much looking forward to upcoming classes on the “Prosthetics of the Imagination,” in which we'll read new media theory as a means of considering DeQuincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, Coleridge’s Biographia and Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry.” The course will conclude with a segment on the “Prosthetics of Memory,” which will use the film Memento and Willaim Gibson’s “Agrippa” to read various poems by Wordsworth about inscription and memory.

The syllabus for Technoromanticism can be found at http://www.rc.umd.edu/nfraistat/courses/738/738A_Syllabus.html.

Neil Fraistat

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Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Centenary Events in Rome

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We were grateful to receive today this detailed dispatch from Nora Crook on last week's events in Rome.

It is a hundred years since the two American writers who lodged at Piazza di Spagna 26, where Keats had died in February 1821, alerted the American and British community in Rome to an imminent threat: the decrepit house was due to be demolished to make way for a hotel. The result was the formation of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association and an international fund-raising campaign to purchase and to preserve the house. It finally opened in 1909 as the Keats-Shelley Museum. The centenary also coincides with the refurbishment of the Museum, which has undergone major repairs and redecoration under the curatorship of the energetic Catherine Payling and the direction of the architect Roberto Einaudi. The familiar sugar-almond pink of the exterior is now a warm apricot, close to the original colour.

[For pictures, see]:

http://homepage.mac.com/stevenjones1/Keats/PhotoAlbum15.html

[cont'd]

The first gala event, on the evening of 29 October, was hosted by the British Ambassador, Sir Ivor Roberts, at the British Embassy, Villa Wolkonsky, not far from San Giovanni Laterano. (The Villa had been the HQ of the German High Command but was presented to the British by the Italians after World War II; a Roman aqueduct runs through the gardens and there is a swimming pool built for the use of Hitler.) In the splendid ballroom we were entertained by “A Paradise for Exiles” and “Life is But a Day,” two short dramas on Shelley and Keats respectively written by Angus Graham-Campbell, editor of the Keats-Shelley Review. Using the poets’ own words as much as possible, they were performed with brio by a cast of talented young professionals. As Claire Tomalin (who was present with Michael Frayn) observed, the emphasis on youth and humour – particularly marked in the Keats play – was an especially pleasurable feature of these evocations. Among others present were Harriet Cullen, chair of the KSMA, James Kidd, editor of its newsletter, Robert and Pamela Woof of the Wordsworth Trust, Duncan Wu, Tim Burnett of the British Library and his wife Jeannie.

The next morning we were lucky enough to be able to join one of the special tours of the Keats-Shelley Museum, where Catherine Payling and her hardworking support team unveiled the new interior layout. No aficionado of the old museum will feel a jolt; it struck all those present as a triumphant yet tactful renovation. There they still are: letters from Keats, Severn, the Shelleys; Keats’s death-mask, Byron’s carnival mask, the urn containing Shelley’s skull fragments … but the new cases enable everything to be seen afresh and the 8000 books are arranged in a more logical manner. Visitors to the Wordsworth Museum at Dove Cottage will sense something familiar – not surprisingly; Stephen Hebron was seconded from the Wordsworth Trust and his typographical skills may be seen in the elegant explanatory cards. Perhaps the most striking change involves the room where Keats died. It now contains a bed, of the right dimensions and period, a last-minute find, Catherine Payling told us, at a furniture restorer’s near Campo dei Fiori. Of course it could not possibly be Keats’s actual bed, but simply to have a bed at all makes an astonishing difference to the atmosphere of the narrow little room. It faces the window out of which Keats threw the nasty dinner sent in by his landlady. This particular tour ended with Anthony Hecht’s reading of some of his poems about old age, Keatsian in their craftsmanship and sensuous autumnal melancholy. As his beautiful, venerable voice reverberated through the library, many of us felt how appropriately they accorded with the reflections on mortality that the house as a shrine as well as an active museum provokes.

The evening event was at the Palazzo Barberini, where earlier that day we had paid our respects to the famous “Portrait Not by Guido Reni of a Girl Who Is Not Beatrice Cenci,” trying vainly to discern the pale composure, swollen eyes, and yellow strings of hair that Shelley so vividly described in the belief that it was indeed a portrait of La Cenci. Tri-nationalism was to the fore; the emphasis was on the co-operation between Italy, the United States and Britain – and on John Keats. Among those present were William Buice, representing the Keats-Shelley Association of America, Stuart Curran, Alan Christiansen of John Cabot University in Rome, Lilla Crisafulli and Keir Elam of the University of Bologna.

Claire Tomalin’s opening address reminded us of two other pilgrims to Rome: Samuel Pepys’s nephew and Thomas Hardy. After a sumptuous buffet supper, C. K. Williams, Valerio Magrelli and Tony Harrison, again representative of the three nations chiefly involved in the foundation of the associations, read a selection of their lovely poems. Winding up the proceedings, Sir Bob Geldof spoke with heart-felt eloquence of his long-standing passion for Keats’s poetry and with contempt for those who had castigated Keats as effeminate, instead of recognising in his works “the linguistic androgyny that we all inhabit” – memorable speech that many of us will remember. He proposed a birthday toast (just a few minutes prematurely: it was a quarter to midnight) to “John Keats, the greatest modern poet” and sent us out happy into a warm Roman autumn night with a half-moon in the sky.

As usual with an event of this kind, there were for us unexpected and serendipitous extra happenings. We shall treasure our first visit to the glorious Galleria Doria-Pamphilj, one of the few major museums open on Mondays in Rome and still in the hands of the original family; the engaging and informative audio guide is written by its present head, Prince Jonathan, who was also present at the Villa Wolkonsky event. Professor Rosy Colombo of the Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, University of Rome “La Sapienza,” organized a post-graduate drama seminar, at which Stuart Curran gave a stimulating paper on Hannah Cowley. And we shall remember going to the Protestant Cemetery (Cimetero Acattolico) on All Souls’ Day. The “one keen pyramid with wedge sublime” was a little dulled by the overcast sky, but there were fresh chrysanthemums on the famous tombstones. As we stood by that of Keats, a young philosophy student from La Sapienza came and laid a bunch of marguerites on the grave.

Of course this is not the end of the celebrations, but only the first of an ongoing series which will continue to 2009. So those who missed last week’s junketings will still be able to join in. For more details of KSMA and the history of the Keats- Shelley Museum see the newly opened (September 2003) website: http://www.keats-shelley.com and http://www.keats-shelley-house.org.

Nora Crook

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Nicholas Roe to Lecture at Byron Centre, Nottingham

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On November 13, Nicholas Roe will be giving a lecture at the University of Nottingham, sponsored by the Centre for Byron Studies and the School of English Studies at the University, on "Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt and Some Contemporaries, 1816." The flyer below contains further details, but note that anyone who is planning to attend is asked to RSVP as soon as possible to rebecca.peck@nottingham.ac.uk .

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John Keats b. 31 Oct. 1795

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Today is anniversary of Keats's birth, so we thought we'd use the opportunity to direct attention to some materials on the Web from the British Library exhibit of a few years back:

http://www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/keats.html

Besides a few facsimiles and mini-essays, you'll find audio files (in Real Audio format) including a brief clip of the song of the European nightingale.

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Wat Tyler production in NY

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This afternoon we received the following note from a member of the cast of an upcoming theatrical production in New York: a staging of Robert Southey’s famous (and famously-pirated) 1817 drama about the leader of the Peasants' Rebellion of 1381, Wat Tyler.

I wanted you know about a great theatrical matinee in New York City on Sunday afternoon, November 16, titled "Ethics Is A Living Thing!" This dramatic presentation on Robert Southey's Wat Tyler includes a performance of the play in its entirety, and stirring discussion of its history and meaning for people today.

The matinee is based on a 1970 lecture given by Eli Siegel, founder of the philosophy, Aesthetic Realism. It will take place at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation--a not-for-profit educational foundation in the SoHo section of New York.

I want you to know too that the presentation includes Eli Siegel's new, tremendously kind comprehension of Robert Southey—about the torment he had, including about the publication of Wat Tyler.

Here is a link to an online flyer for the event in PDF format--I thought you might like to post the link on your site, so readers could know about it:

http://www.aestheticrealism.org/Wat-Tyler.pdf

Sincerely,
Bennett Cooperman

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Keats House voted "top poetry landmark"

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A recent poll conducted by the British Poetry Society (according to a story we noticed in The Telegraph for October 11) has named Keats House in Hampstead the "top poetry landmark" in Great Britain. The poll was conducted as part of the general festivities commemorating the tenth annual National Poetry Day.

(Thanks to Wordsworth's famous sonnet, another London site, Westminster Bridge, was voted the second favorite poetic landmark.)

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New Romantic Circles Bibliography (Kyle Grimes)

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Romantic Circles is happy to announce the publication of a redesigned and updated Publications page. At the heart of the page is a new Romantic Circles Bibliography, which offers tables of contents from selected Romanticism journals and, more important, annual listings of books likely to be of interest to Romanticists. The RCB is intended as a "browser's bibliography." While it does (or soon will) offer a limited search capability, it is not intended to compete with or replace the more robust research databases that are available from most university libraries. Instead, the RCB offers a convenient listing of recent books, complete (where possible) with links to publishers’ Websites and to online reviews--either on Romantic Circles itself or elsewhere on the web.

A note about the principles of selection: It is, as students of the period well know, impossible to define with any precision exactly what books might be relevant to the study of Romanticism. The book lists provided in this first edition of the RCB are the result of various library, publisher, and database searches on the key persons and historical topics that are most central to the study of British Romantic-period writing. Inevitably, important books will be omitted from such a list. Readers who are aware of books that should be included are invited to click the "Make Submission" button at the top of each book listing page. The editor will compile such submissions and include them in quarterly updates of the RCB. In theory, the RCB will develop by this process as a kind of reading list attuned specifically to the needs and interests of the Romantic Circles community.

The URL for the new Romantic Circles Publications page is

http://www.rc.umd.edu/publications/index.html

Questions, complaints, and comments can be addressed me at kgrimes@uab.edu.

Kyle Grimes

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Forthcoming at RC Praxis (Orrin Wang)

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Orrin Wang, Editor of the Romantic Circles Praxis series, which publishes peer-reviewed collections of original critical essays, writes with this preview of some volumes we can expect in the near future.

One of the most exciting sessions at the 2003 NASSR conference at Fordham in NYC was "Romantic Libraries," with papers by Ina Ferris, Heather Jackson, and Deirdre Lynch. I'm delighted to feature that session as a forthcoming volume on Romantic Circles Praxis, not simply because of the high quality of the essays (though there is that!) but also because it seems quite appropriate in this day and age to present the study of bibliomania in electronic form.

Two other RCP volumes coming out this year also deal with the mixing, or combining, of media. Ron Broglio is editing a volume on digital studies of Blake, which explores the possibilities generated by studying Blake in this medium, as well as how much the art and textual forms of Blake encourage such a method. And Gillen D'Arcy Wood is editing a volume for us on Romanticism and opera, which not only looks at opera during the Romantic era, but also considers how much Romantic writing is an operatic experience.

It makes quite nice sense to me to showcase all this diverse, but overlapping scholarship on media on a Website devoted to Romantic literature. Perhaps one day we'll do a volume on comparing the habits (as Jerome Christensen might put it) of the Romantic bibliophile and the twenty-first century Web user . . . .

Orrin Wang

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Bate Biography of John Clare

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Jonathan Bate’s biography of the “peasant poet,” John Clare, has just been published (by Picador):

http://www.panmacmillan.com/books/october/johnclare/default.html

It was reviewed on October 10 by Simon Kovesi of Oxford Brookes University. Here’s the review, in The Independent:

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/books/reviews/story.jsp?story=451687

Kovesi also publishes the John Clare page (hosted by Nottingham Trent University), which contains lots of Clare materials including some useful information on the copyright dispute surrounding his texts:

http://human.ntu.ac.uk/clare

Another review essay, by Christopher Caldwell and containing links to a good number of excerpts from the poems, appeared in Slate magazine yesterday:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2089950/

[NOTE: additional late sighting (October 21)--a review by John Lanchester in The New Yorker. Read it online at: http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/?031027crbo_books.]

SJ

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