Romantic Circles Blog

_A Monster's Notes_: More Romantic-era monster lit

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Laurie Schecks _A Monsters Notes_

The Romantic period is proving to be fertile ground for one of this year's chicest fictional genres: monster lit. The newest offering, Laurie Scheck's A Monster's Notes, attempts to take the genre to a new level, jettisoning zombies for a love story between a Frankenstein's monster and an eight-year-old Mary Shelley. According to its publisher's description and word around the Web, the novel promises to offer a metacommentary upon both the original novel it draws from and the burgeoning genre that has given rise to hideous progeny like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (see previous post). One NPR commentator described A Monster's Notes as a novel  "for people who care about the Pride and Prejudice side of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

Taking Frankenstein as its Ur-text, the novel asks a serious of tantalizing "what ifs":

What if Mary Shelley had not invented Frankenstein’s monster but had met him when she was a girl of eight, sitting by her mother’s grave, and he came to her unbidden? What if their secret bond left her forever changed, obsessed with the strange being whom she had discovered at a time of need? What if he were still alive in the twenty-first century?

It appears the novel shares some affinities with Shelley Jackson's classic hypertext Patchwork Girl, both of which imagine face-to-face meetings between the creature and Mary Shelley and which project the creature into a postmodern world. Described by the publisher as a "genre bending book," a monster's tale purports to blend historical fiction, science fiction, romance, and monster lit into "a meditation on creativity and technology, on alienation and otherness, on ugliness and beauty, and on our need to be understood." Certainly, like Jackson's hypertext, hybridity promises to be a key theme.

A Monster's Notes hits bookshelves June 23.

See also our previous post on John Kessel’s “Pride and Prometheus,” a nominee for the best novelette category at this year's Hugo Awards (science fiction). It chronicles a meeting between Pride and Prejudice's bookish Mary Bennet and Frankenstein’s namesake.

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Romantic pleasure ushers in slow death of pain

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An article in today's Boston Globe online suggests that Romantic era science helped establish modern medicine's conception of pain. But perhaps emblematically, it wasn't until a slightly later moment that medical researchers--and the culture at large--realized that what could increase pleasure could also curtail pain. Citing a watershed experiment with nitrous oxide at Massachussets General Hospital in 1846 as the turning point in society's perception of pain management, author Mike Jay flashes back to the experiments of Thomas Beddoes and his Pneumatic Institute at the turn of the nineteenth century, describing them as near misses  in the realization of nitrous oxide's anesthetic potential. The problem, it seems, is that the men Beddoes tapped to huff the gas--among them Coleridge, Southey, and Humphry Davy--were more interested in the high:

The experiments, as they unfolded, led the researchers away from any notion they might have had about pain relief. Most of the subjects responded not by losing consciousness, but by leaping around the lab, dancing, shouting, and possessed by poetic epiphanies.

Still, writes Jay, even this rage for pleasure would eventually lead to a new outlook on pain:

The Pneumatic Institution's curiosity about the mind-altering properties of the gas, and particularly its "sublime" effects on the imagination, were emblematic of the Romantic sensibility of its participants, and their search for a language to map their inner worlds. This sensibility, as it spread, would play an important role in transforming attitudes to pain, but its early adopters still held the social attitudes of their time. Davy believed that "a firm mind might endure in silence any degree of pain," and regarded his frequent cuts, burns, and laboratory misadventures as heroic badges of pride. Coleridge, by contrast, was acutely and often morbidly sensitive to pain, but he perceived this sensitivity as a moral weakness and blamed it for his shameful and agonizing dependency on opium.

Ultimately, writes Jay, the "new sensibilities" of a "more genteel and compassionate society" (read: Victorian) would turn the focus from pleasure and guilt to the amelioration of pain. Presumably adapted from Jay's recent book, The Atmosphere of Heaven (Yale UP, 2009), the article goes on to discuss in detail the changing cultural and medicinal viewpoints on pain, charting a general trajectory from a religious notion of pain as a necessary for the preservation of life to a more secular fascination with pain management as a marvel of medical technology. Given that the centerpiece of Jay's book is the intellectual circle surrounding Beddoes and his Pneumatic Institute, one might expect it to offer an even more nuanced take on the beginning of the end for pain.

Read the full article here.

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CFP: No Place Like Home: Localism and Regionalism in British Literature and Culture, 1660-1830

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Recent literary studies have generally assumed that regionalism emerged around the turn of the nineteenth century in response to the consolidation of the modern nation-state, imperial expansion, and industrialization, all of which tended to efface cultural, and to some extent geographical, differences among sub-national communities. Yet during the long eighteenth century, various literary and cultural developments—from newspapers, novels, dictionaries, and poems, to antiquarianism, topography, travel writings, and statistical surveys— reflected, and arguably participated in creating, local and regional forms of community. No Place Like Home will explore the idea that regionalism and localism— or, more generally, the aesthetic expressions of sub-national cultural, political, or geographic identities —may have preceded, or at least accompanied, the rise of the nation-state. Our proposed collection aims to challenge “rise of the nation” narratives by exploring forms of regional and local affiliation in British literature and culture in the 150 years preceding the nation-state’s emergence as the paradigmatic form of community in Western Europe. We are therefore soliciting contributions that investigate any of the following topics as they relate to British literature and culture between 1660 and 1830:

-- the emergence of regionalism as an aesthetic, cultural, and/ or political category
-- the development of the concept of the local (especially in contradistinction to the competing claims of the national and the global or cosmopolitan)
-- the evolution of discourses of "rootedness," "aboriginality" or other forms of sub-national belonging, identification, or community

Please send 500-word abstracts for essays of 5,000 to 7,000 words, along with brief academic CVs, to Evan Gottlieb (evan.gottlieb[at]oregonstate.edu) and Juliet Shields (js37[at]u.washington.edu) by September 1, 2009 .

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CFP: Four Dimensions: Spatio-Temporal Shifts Reflected in Nineteenth-Century Literature

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Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
(conference 4/2010; abstract due 9/30/09)
contact email:
lfash[at]brandeis.edu

Four Dimensions: Spatio-Temporal Shifts Reflected in Nineteenth-Century Literature (panel name)

Indisputably, the categories of space and time shift massively in the nineteenth-century; technology speeds experience just as urban growth and land acquisition distort space. In 1750 it took 3 days to travel from Manchester to London; by 1850, it took 6 hours. In 1866 one could even send a message almost instantly from Ireland to Canada across Cyrus Field’s transatlantic cable. The quickening of experiential time was also tied to the spatial developments which required travel technology and created new proximities: between 1810 and 1860, while the country acquired huge tracks of western land, the urban population in the United States increased from 6% to 20%, and by 1861 London, the largest city in the world, reached almost 3 million people. This panel will consider these spatial and temporal developments and their effect on nineteenth-century English language literature on both sides of the Atlantic. How are changing experiences of time and space represented in literary descriptions or emplotment? How do spatio-temporal concerns relate to literary markets and publishing trends such as serialization—that stretching of a story across time in a certain allotted space? Can we graft these notions of changing space and time onto actual events represented in literature? Those who fought or witnessed the Civil War knew they were experiencing a historical moment, one out of time, as they were within it. How do these spatio-temporal concerns relate to imperialism? How do they play out for immigrants, displaced persons, or colonized subjects? Papers focusing on any result of the manner in which time and space experientially alter within the nineteenth-century are welcome. Please send 300 – 500 word abstracts, brief biographical statements, and contact information (postal address, email address, and phone number) for 15 – 20 minute presentations to Lydia Fash (lfash[at]brandeis.edu). Deadline is September 30, 2009.

About the Conference

41st Anniversary Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 7-11, 2010
Montreal, Quebec - Hilton Bonaventure

The 41st Annual Convention will feature approximately 350 sessions, as well as dynamic speakers and cultural events. Details and the complete Call for Papers for the 2010 Convention will be posted in June: www.nemla.org.

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable. Please note that A/V use comes with a $10 fee.

Travel to Canada now requires a passport for U.S. citizens. Please get your passport application in early.

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CFP: Death Resentenced (British Nineteenth Century)

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Northeast Modern Language Association Conference April 7-11, 2010.

41st Anniversary Northeast Modern Language Association Conference. April 7-11 2009 in Montreal Quebec. 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of Garrett Stewart’s important study of the manner in which nineteenth and twentieth-century British authors represented death. In the quarter decade since Death Sentences, how do we now conceive of nineteenth-century British writers’ efforts to iterate death? And how do we readers respond to nineteenth-century portrayals of death? Especially welcome will be papers with specific, argumentative theses and close readings. Please submit 250-500 word abstracts and brief CVs (as attachments) by September 30, 2009 to Bianca Tredennick at tredenbp[at]oneonta.edu. The 41st Annual NeMLA Convention will feature approximately 350 sessions, as well as dynamic speakers and cultural events. Details and the complete Call for Papers for the 2010 Convention will be posted in June: www.nemla.org. Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable. Travel to Canada now requires a passport for U.S. citizens. Please get your passport application in early.

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CFP: Theatricality and the Performative in the Long Nineteenth Century

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31st Annual Conference of the Nineteenth Century Studies Association

The University of Tampa, March 11-13, 2010, Tampa, Florida

Dramatic expression and self-conscious performances marked almost every aspect of nineteenth century life and artistic culture, as theatrical turns and performative mindsets introduced in the 17th-18th centuries expanded in the 1780s through the beginning of World War One. We invite paper and panel proposals that explore these themes and subjects in the long Nineteenth Century (1780-1914). Papers might address the theatrical shows—whether serious drama, circus displays, vaudeville, operas, or Shakespearean revivals—that appeared in cities and towns on both sides of the Atlantic (as well as in more distant lands). Or they might investigate how politics, social events, military engagements, domestic affairs, public trials, crime reports, religious rituals, architectural spaces, sculptural moments, exhibition halls, artistic and musical compositions, and the early moving pictures of the cinema, assumed a theatrical sensibility. Welcome also are proposals for papers and panels that bring scholarly and theoretical interests in performativity to bear on concepts of identity, individuality, and audience in the given era.

Please submit abstracts of approximately 500 words along with a brief (one page) c.v. to the Program Co-Chairs, Janice Simon (U of Georgia) and Regina Hewitt (U of South Florida) at the conference address ncsa2010[at]earthlink.net by Sept. 15, 2009. Speakers will be notified by or before Dec. 15.

Any graduate student whose proposal is accepted may at that point submit a full-length version of the paper in competition for a travel grant to help cover transportation and lodging expenses.

Conference sessions will be held at the University of Tampa, a campus with both the historic late-19th century Plant Hall (formerly the Tampa Bay Hotel) and a state-of-the-art conference center. Accommodations will be available at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tampa, a short walk from campus. For further information—available in midsummer—please visit the NCSA website or contact Elizabeth Winston, Local Arrangements Director (U of Tampa), at the conference address ncsa2010[at]earthlink.net.

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Romantic Circles as Online Community

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Lisa Spiro of the Digital Scholarship in the Humanities blog recently cited Romantic Circles as an exemplary "online community" for its long-standing devotion to diverse scholarly pursuits in a digital environment.  Her post addresses the relative dearth of collaborative work in the humanities as compared to the sciences but also points to the digital humanities as a rich source of  collaborative work, of which Romantic Circles is just one example.  Spiro's post is extensive and collects concrete examples of collaborative digital humanities projects--from crowdsourcing to content aggregation to gaming.

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Romantic Circles Reviews blog goes live

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We are very pleased to announce that the new Romantic Circles Reviews site has launched!  While the entirety of our reviews archive is of course accessible at this new url, we've changed the back end of our site along with the front end, allowing us to streamline the production process: our hope is to address scholarly conversations in as close to real-time as possible, publishing reviews of the books of today, rather than those of 2004.  Over the coming months, we'll be publishing very new reviews, as well as clearing out some of the older backlog of reviews -- it should be an exciting time!

Under the new editorship of Jasper Cragwall, we're publishing two fresh reviews: Julia Carlson, reviewing Ron Broglio's Technologies of the Picturesque: British Art, Poetry, and Instruments 1750-1830 (Bucknell UP, 2008); and Dennis Low, reviewing Peter Swaab's edition of Sara Coleridge's Collected Poems (Fyfield Books / Carcanet, 2007).  Please join us at /reviews-blog/.

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CFP: Romanticism and the City (International Conference on Romanticism @ CUNY)

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The fall 2009 meeting of the International Conference on Romanticism will convene in New York City from November 5 to November 8 to address the topic “Romanticism and the City.” The meeting will be jointly hosted by The City College and The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. Submissions engaging with some aspect of the general theme are welcome from all disciplines, including but not limited to literary studies, history, philosophy, and political science.

From Wordsworth’s description of Lyrical Ballads as a response to “the increasing accumulation of men in cities” to Baudelaire’s location of the impetus for his prose poetry in  “la fréquentation des villes énormes,” the history of Romanticism is bound up with a continuous and evolving response to the emergence of the modern city. As work in a range of areas in our own day leads us to reconsider how we think about such oppositions as nature and culture, the organic and the mechanical, wholeness and multiplicity, the urban text or sub-text of Romanticism presents itself not only as a comparatively neglected area of investigation but as a place to pursue this rethinking.

These observations are offered to prompt debate and, above all, to invite a broadened conception of the historical reach of Romanticism in the formulation of proposals. Proposals for individual papers should be limited to 500 words and emailed to icrnyc[at]ccny.cuny.edu no later than May 1, 2009. General proposals for special sessions should be also limited to 500 words, or 1000 words if comprising sub-proposals, and emailed to icrnyc[at]ccny.cuny.edu no later than March 1, 2009.

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Austen and Shelley at this year's Hugo Awards

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Apropos of our recent post on the zombified rewrite of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a selection for this year's prestigious Hugo Awards (science fiction) endeavors to write Frankenstein into Austen's novel--or vice versa. Up for the best novelette category, John Kessel's "Pride and Prometheus" chronicles a meeting between Pride's bookish Mary Bennet and Frankenstein's namesake. One short fan review/reading finds it a worthy selection for its deft metafictional play but has qualms about it's voice: "[Kessel's] pastiche rings hollow, emulating Austen's grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure but lacking the spark that imbued her writing with so much humor." Luckily, those who are interested can decide for themselves by downloading the pdf from the author's Web site.

The award winners will be announced in August at the 2009 World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in Montreal, Quebec.

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