Romantic Circles Blog

Turner's Death Mask Stolen

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The Royal Academy now says a cast of painter J.M.W. Turner's death mask, which has been missing since the mid 1980s, may well have been stolen.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3343383.stm

Turner was of course famous as a colorist of sublime landscapes and seascapes--and for creating a stir at his own R.A. exhibits and lectures, where he was a member from 1802. Digital images of some of his works can be seen at various sites on the Web--here at the BBC site, for example, which also contains general information on the artist.

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Brian Wilkie (Mary Lynn Johnson)

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This notice from Mary Lynn Johnson came to our attention this morning.

I am sad to relay news of the death yesterday [December 14] of Professor Brian Wilkie of the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville), formerly of the University of Illinois, Dartmouth College, and the University of Wisconsin. Brian will be remembered by many as a thoughtful critic and as a brilliant and beloved teacher. I was lucky to be on the same faculty with him at Illinois in the 1960s, when we were both wrestling for the first time with Blake as we taught concurrent courses in the Romantics. He loved teaching and had no plans for retirement. He co-edited Literature of the Western World, 2 vols., the fifth edition of which was published in 2001 and was the author of Blake's Thel and Oothoon (English Literary Studies, 1990), Romantic Poets and Epic Tradition (Wisconsin, 1965) and co-author of Blake's 'Four Zoas': The Design of a Dream (Harvard, 1978), and numerous articles and reviews. He leaves his wife Ann and three adult sons and grandchildren.

Mary Lynn Johnson

[Formal notice on the University of Arkansas Website.]

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Keeping Shelley MSS together at the Bodleian

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Dr. B. C. Barker-Benfield of the Bodleian Library at Oxford sends the following good news about keeping Mary Shelley's manuscripts together under one roof.

December 10, 2003
The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford has been awarded £3 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund towards the purchase of the Abinger Papers, an archive of major literary significance which includes the surviving manuscripts of Mary Shelley’s famous novel Frankenstein. It is the largest grant ever received by the Library towards a single purchase. [cont'd]

The Abinger Papers are the most important collection of Shelley family papers remaining in private hands. The papers include the Frankenstein original draft manuscript of 1816–17, which reveals the novel in its process of conception. The draft contains many autograph corrections by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and so provides unique evidence for the much disputed question: how far did Percy Shelley influence his wife’s masterpiece?

The Abinger Papers form one third of the Shelley family papers, including letters and papers of Mary Shelley’s parents, Mary Wollstonecraft (the ground-breaking feminist writer) and William Godwin (a major intellectual figure of the period). Two thirds already belong outright to the Bodleian Library through gifts from the family. The remaining third, the Abinger section, has been deposited on loan at the Library since 1974 for the benefit of scholars, but is now offered for sale.

The Bodleian Library is launching an appeal to raise the remaining funds needed to purchase the collection. Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, said: "Thanks to the Fund’s outstandingly generous grant, and other donations already received of almost £350,000, the Library now has until March 2004 to raise the remaining £500,000 to buy the collection and so prevent its dispersal at auction. Researchers from all over the world have visited Oxford until now to study the combined collections of Shelley materials. By purchasing the Abinger collection, we aim to ensure that the Shelley family papers remain united in one location."

Stephen Johnson, Head of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: "The Abinger Papers are exactly the kind of Great British heritage that the National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up to save. Few things are more precious than the Shelleys’ personal notes and Mary’s autograph draft of Frankenstein. This grant will open up this internationally acclaimed collection for everyone to enjoy in the unique surroundings of the Bodleian Library."

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Journey to Goslar (Duncan Wu in The Guardian)

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With the big snowstorms up and down the east coast of the U.S. this week, it was perfect timing for Saturday's article in the Guardian, by Duncan Wu, of St. Catherine's College, Oxford, on the Wordsworths' trip to Germany in the winter of 1798.

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Messolonghi Byron Society

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The Byron Society shares with us this new URL from Greece and the Messolonghi Byron Society, which is "devoted to promoting scholarly and general understanding of Lord Byron's life and poetry as well as cultivating appreciation for other historical figures in the 19th-century international Philhellenic movement."

http://wiz.cath.vt.edu/byron/index.html

Be sure to see the photo gallery.

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"Crossing the Channel" in New York

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Back on September 8, 2003, we posted a report from Andrew Elfenbein on an exhibit in Minneapolis, Crossing the Channel. The exhibit has since moved to New York’s Metropolitan Museum, and we’re pleased to have received this firsthand review of the exhibit by Karl Kroeber of Columbia University.

Any Romanticists passing through New York en route to Bayonne or New London would be well rewarded by taking time to visit the Metropolitan Museum exhibition CROSSING THE CHANNEL: BRITISH AND FRENCH PAINTING IN THE AGE OF ROMANTICISM. No blockbuster, this exhibition even lacks sharp focus, but the blurriness is appropriate to the strange fashion in which Britain and France in the visual arts (as in other cultural areas) in the first years of the nineteenth century intersected and even interacted in a manner that only dramatized their differences--caught with deadly satiric accuracy in Carle Vernet's watercolor of English visitors in Paris after Waterloo.

One enters the exhibit to be smashed in the face by Gericault's huge RAFT OF THE MEDUSA, studding even in the form of this Victorianized 1859 copy by Guillermet and Ronjat. Alongside is Turner's DISASTER AT SEA and Danby's striking but less celebrated SUNSET AT SEA AFTER SNOWSTORM)—which epitomizes the distinctive national styles--Gericault all people suffering, Turner all waves in action. One of the best thing in the show is the variety of works by Gericault, including studies of truncated limbs and severed heads, and two of his terrific MONOMANIA portraits, as well as examples of his LONDON lithographs, with wonderful rendering not of race horses but working Clydesdales. A variety of splendid Boningtons, both oils and watercolors, may be the prize on the British side. But Turner is well represented (once dramatized by juxtaposition with John Martin's darkness-invisible DELUGE), most notably by CROSSING THE BROOK (but what the hell is the dog carrying in its mouth?), as is Constable by the lovely ON THE STOUR and the WHITE HORSE, each worth the price of admission for those who don't live near the Frick Museum. Among the French whom Constable directly influenced, Huet is the best (his HARVEST distinguished by a top-hatted scarecrow and an intrusive smoke stack signaling the advent of industrialism)--especially his watercolor CANNES.

French artists' unreciprocated illustrations of British literature are represented by three Giaours and a raft of scenes from Scott--including a weird Delacroix LUCY ASHTON'S BRIDAL NIGHT. Deservedly more famous is his GREECE ON THE RUINS OF MISSOLONGHI here with Greece's cleavage splendidly highlighted. But for many Romanticists much of the show's interest will lie in the variety of less celebrated works, among which I note only Wilkie's VILLAGE HOLIDAY, the first painting purchased for the National Gallery from a living artist, but here outclassed by the sharper-sighted and more dramatic French MOVING DAY alongside by Louis Boilly. Even more stunning is Ingres’ ENTRY OF THE DAUPHIN, a superbly painted archaizing of the troubadour style, the kind of thing only a true master can casually toss off. Something of the same virtuosity in reverse appears in Varley's amazing SUBURBS OF AN ANCIENT CITY--Poussin in watercolor, by God!

Karl Kroeber

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NASSR 2004 in Colorado

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We're happy to pass along this announcement from Jeff Cox about the upcoming NASSR conference in Boulder, CO.

I and the rest of the crew of Colorado Romanticists (David Ferris, Jill Heydt-Stevenson, and Jeffrey Robinson at Boulder, Brad Mudge in Denver, Susan Taylor in Colorado Springs, William Davis  at Colorado College,  Celestine Woo at Fort Lewis College and our graduate assistant, Terry Robinson) are looking forward to having everyone in Boulder next September for NASSR 2004, "Romantic Cosmopolitanism."

We have a great line-up of keynoters (Ann Birmingham, Angela Esterhammer, and David Simpson) and a wide range of special sessions that take up everything from "Cosmopolitan Byron" to "Theatre as Cosmopolis," from "Anglo-Hispanic Romanticism" to "Philosophy, Nationality, and the Foreign."  There will be papers on poetry, music, philosophy, architecture, science, antiquities, theater, history, opera, "cosmobodies," and novels.  We already have a cosmopolitan line-up of participants, including scholars from Italy, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.  We are very excited about two distinctive features of this meeting.  First, there will be two pre-conference day-long workshops, one on the editing of Romantic texts and one on Romantic drama and theater.  Second, there will be one block of sessions during the conference devoted to workshops that will provide us all with an opportunity to discuss particular texts together.  All that and a dance planned after the banquet.  And, of course, the annual all-night party fondly known as "The Death March."

The conference will be held at the newly renovated Millenium Hotel, the grounds of which border on Boulder Creek.  There are also a number of other hotel options, ranging from cheaper motels to the historic Boulderado Hotel downtown.  Boulder and the surrounding mountains should be quite lovely in September, and we are relying upon our local walking expert, Jeffrey Robinson, to organize some informal hikes.  In addition to the natural splendor, Boulder offers our beautiful campus, fine restaurants, a fun downtown shopping area, and an interesting local art scene; we are also less than 45 minutes from downtown Denver.  Please be in touch if you have questions or suggestions; you can e-mail us at NASSR04@colorado.edu.

Jeffrey Cox

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What are you teaching? (Alan Richardson)

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Our thanks to Laura Mandell, who solicited this interesting response from Alan Richardson to the question, "What are you teaching?"

This semester I'm teaching an entirely new version of my course, "Romantic Writing." I've offered various incarnations of this course over the past 15 years, with anything from 15 to 40 students involved. When the class size is small enough (under 25), I ask for a good deal of journal writing instead of exams, and writing back to the Romantic-era texts becomes part of the "writing" promised by the course title. More centrally, though, I wanted "writing" to displace traditional associations between Romanticism and poetry and (to a lesser extent) between Romanticism and the novel (roman). So, all versions of the course involve a fairly democratic treatment of many different kinds of Romantic-era writing, including borderline "literary" cases (e.g. private letters, journals, polemical writing) as well as poetry, fiction, familiar essays, and autobiography. We explore how different genres involve different stakes, positions, aims, but also how certain discursive strategies or moves can cut across genres, often in unexpected ways.

This semester I was asked to give the course as an undergrad seminar, limited to 15 students and meeting once a week for 2 hours. The weekly meeting format inspired me to think of the course in an entirely new way, as a set of loosely interlinked modules (13 weeks, 12 modules) organized by topic. The web of connections among the various topics has proliferated so much, however, that I'm tempted to withdraw the "loosely" qualifier from the previous sentence. The topics include slavery and abolition, the French Revolution and British reaction, the rights of woman and changing notions of femininity, Romantic and un- or anti-Romantic representations of childhood, changing modes of self-representation, Orientalism, the Americas, nationalism(s) and British identity, incest and the crisis of the family, new versions of pastoral, and two modules on "avant-garde poetics." I added these two because I felt it important to stress the literary-cultural innovation of the times directly, "poetics" including iconoclastic discussions of the novel, of drama, and of women's poetry as well as expected literary-critical documents like the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads and the Defence of Poetry. I found most everything I wanted in the Mellor/Matlak anthology British Literature 1780-1830, except in relation to Orientalism. There, however, I found just the texts I wanted (The Giaour and "Murad the Unlucky") in a New Riverside volume, Three Oriental Tales, not surprisingly because I edited it myself! One of the pleasures of the course has involved taking more full advantage of Mellor/Matlak than I have in the past, drawing on the "Historical and Cultural Context" sections and referring students to these for additional reading.

Alan Richardson

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What are you working on? (Susan Wolfson)

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We asked: "What are you working on?" Susan Wolfson answered with this list:

1. Peter Manning and I are currently writing new introductions and
updating the Further Reading lists for two Penguin Byrons: our edition
of Selected Poems, and the Steffan/Pratt Don Juan.

2. I'm now general editor of the Longman Cultural Editions, and am
supervising various projects, in various stages of development, including
my own edition of John Keats (with a fresh editing of key letters from
holographs)

3. I'm embarrassed to say that I am almost done with Figures on the
Margins
, my long delayed study of Romanticism and gender, with chapters
on Hemans, Jewsbury, Byron, Keats, and lots of other figures coursing
through.

Cheers,
Susan

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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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