Romantic Circles Blog

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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Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!

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It seems worth noting, in the vein of our recent Coraline post, some of the Romantic ties to Watchmen, the superhero movie that has been quite visible since its debut earlier this month. The film is based on the 1986 comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Its trailer is below:

Though familiar with the work in its comic book form, this blogger has not yet seen the film. Reviews are mixed. Roger Ebert spoke well of it, while The New York Times' A.O. Scott is somewhat more nonplussed. Alan Moore, the writer of the source comic book, has disowned the film sight unseen.

One of the story's central characters in both media is Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias. In his superhero incarnation, Ozymandias is a superior physical and mental specimen, having traced the path of Alexander the Great's conquest and learned the spiritual and physical disciplines native to those areas. After a law passed banning superheroes in the 1970s, Veidt publicly revealed his secret identity, and turned his alter ego into a successful line of products and services. As the murder mystery that launches the film unfolds (from here there are spoilers, for those so concerned), Veidt is exposed by the film's other heroes as the mastermind behind a vast conspiracy to simultaneously undermine the former superhero community and to unite a world on the brink of nuclear war around a common -- though manufactured -- enemy for the good of mankind.

In the comic book, Moore makes little reference to Shelley's eponymous poem until the end of the penultimate issue (titled "Look On My Works, Ye Mighty...") when Veidt's plot is revealed. In the final panel, the epigraph is a slightly longer quotation from Shelley that includes this post's title, with proper attribution. Much of the rest of the time, Ozymandias's Egyptian connections are given the spotlight, rather than Shelley, perhaps hoping to keep association with works that would cause despair latent in the reader's mind rather than explicit.

Tales of the Black Freighter

Elsewhere in the comic (and absent from the movie in its theatrical form, by all accounts) is the metatextual and fictional Tales of the Black Freighter comic book, which seems to be influenced by Coleridge's Ancient Mariner as much as by its acknowledged sources, 1950s EC comics and Brecht's pirate ship from Threepenny Opera. The panels of the comic-within-a-comic are interpolated such that the twin tragic endings come at much the same time. In the story, (much of which is told in the sixth issue, "Fearful Symmetry," which ends with a longer Blake epigraph) a sailor whose shipmates have been slaughtered by the pirate crew of the Black Freighter makes a raft of their bodies to try to get back to his hometown to warn them of the coming pirate plague. His time on the sea is punctuated by the killing and eating of a seagull, his hallucinated conversations with his dead crewmembers, and an encounter with a giant shark reminiscent of John Singleton Copley's Romantic-era Watson and the Shark. When he arrives, he finds to his horror that he's misunderstood; there has been no pirate invasion of his hometown, and he himself is the real monster.

Moore's work beyond Watchmen is no stranger to Romantic figures either: Blake is referenced in Moore's V for Vendetta, and appears as a character in his From Hell. Moore also wrote and performed a full length spoken-word piece about Blake at the Tate Gallery in 2001 called Angel Passage (it was released on CD in 2002, but is now out of print). Another spoken word piece, Highbury Working, features a mediation on a late-in-life Coleridge's opium dream of Sara Hutchinson (which is also on CD, and out of print).

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Last Call for the 2009 Summer Wordsworth Conference

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Monday 27 July to Thursday 6 August at Forest Side, Grasmere , Cumbria


Keynote Lecturers

Part 1 (27 July to 1 August)

Frances Ferguson, Paul H Fry, Stephen Gill, Claire Lamont, Nicholas Roe, Fiona Stafford

Part 2 (1 to 6 August)

Gillian Beer, Frederick Burwick, Richard Cronin, Yoko Ima-Izumi, Michael O'Neill, Ann Wroe

The Summer Conference is in two parts or 5 nights each, with a changeover day on 1 August. The registration fee of £185 (or £155 for one part only) includes all excursions.

Full Board hotel rates for 10 nights range from £550 to £740, and youth hostel rates are £165 (5 nights) or £330 (10 nights) with a discount for those electing to share a room. For full details please see the downloadable pdf prospectus on the conference website.

All participants must register for the whole of Part 1, or Part 2, or Both and should do so by 27 April 2009. Fees rise to £200 (both parts) and £170 (one part) on 28 April. Because both resident and non-resident places are limited, early registration is advised. Accommodation costs are payable in full by 25 May, after which date no refunds of fees or other costs can be guaranteed (participants are therefore advised to take out travel insurance).

Contributions may take the form of short papers (2750 words) which are scheduled at two papers to a session or workshops (short handout-based presentations leading into an hour or more of discussion).

There is no theme for the conference and papers may address any aspect of British Romantic Studies, including comparative studies, though papers acknowledging the bicentenary of Charles Darwin would be especially timely.

Proposals (250–500 words) will be considered by two members of the Board of Trustees, should incorporate a brief c.v. (no more than one side of A4) and should be submitted in a single email attachment to wordsworth_conferences@hotmail.co.uk by 23 March 2009.

13 Bursaries are available ranging in value from £250 to £300.

For full details please visit the conference website and download the PDF Prospectus

Dr Richard Gravil
Tirril Hall, Tirril, Penrith CA10 2JE richardgravil@hotmail.com

The Wordsworth Conference Foundation: Registered Charity No. 1124319
http://www.wordsworthconferences.org.uk

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_Milton_ copy B published at the Blake Archive

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An announcement from the editors at the Blake Archive:

The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of the electronic edition of Milton a Poem copy B.  There are only four copies of Milton, Blake's most personal epic. Copy B, from the Huntington Library and Art Gallery, joins copy A, from the British Museum, and copy C, from the New York Public Library, previously published in the Archive.

Blake etched forty-five plates for Milton in relief, with some full-page designs in white-line etching, between c. 1804 (the date on the title page) and c. 1810. Six additional plates (a-f) were probably etched in subsequent years up to 1818. No copy contains all fifty-one plates. The prose "Preface" (plate 2) appears only in copies A and B. Plates a-e appear only in copies C and D, plate f only in copy D. The first printing, late in 1810 or early in 1811, produced copies A-C, printed in black ink and finished in water colors. Blake retained copy C and added new plates and rearranged others at least twice; copy C was not finished until c. 1821. Copy D was printed in 1818 in orange ink and elaborately colored. The Archive will publish an electronic edition of copy D in the near future.

Like all the illuminated books in the Archive, the text and images of Milton copy B are fully searchable and are supported by our Inote and ImageSizer applications. With the Archive's Compare feature, users can easily juxtapose multiple impressions of any plate across the different copies of this or any of the other illuminated books. New protocols for transcription, which produce improved accuracy and fuller documentation in editors' notes, have been applied to all copies of Milton in the Archive.

With the publication of Milton copy B, the Archive now contains fully searchable and scalable electronic editions of sixty-eight copies of Blake's nineteen illuminated books in the context of full bibliographic information about each work, careful diplomatic transcriptions of all texts, detailed descriptions of all images, and extensive bibliographies. In addition to illuminated books, the Archive contains many important manuscripts and series of engravings, sketches, and water color drawings, including Blake's illustrations to Thomas Gray's Poems, water color and engraved illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy, the large color printed drawings of 1795 and c. 1805, the Linnell and Butts sets of the Book of Job water colors and the sketchbook containing drawings for the engraved illustrations to the Book of Job, the water color illustrations to Robert Blair's The Grave, and all nine of Blake's water color series illustrating the poetry of John Milton.

As always, the William Blake Archive is a free site, imposing no access restrictions and charging no subscription fees. The site is made possible by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the continuing support of the Library of Congress, and the cooperation of the international array of libraries and museums that have generously given us permission to reproduce works from their collections in the Archive.

Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, editors
Ashley Reed, project manager, William Shaw, technical editor
The William Blake Archive

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"Belle Dame" Revisited

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A new stop-motion animation film based on a story by Neil Gaiman offers a slightly more than passing allusion to Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." Directed by Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas), Coraline follows a young girl neglected and ignored by her parents into a parallel world (discovered through a small door in the old mansion into which they've recently moved) that contains a set of "other" parents, led by the mother, who have mastered the art of wish-fulfillment. The only difference between the real world and the alternate one: the characters in the latter have buttons sewn over their eyes, marking them as automota of a sort. As the "other mother" begins to ply Coraline with goodies and entertainments, it quickly becomes clear that the former has devious plans for Coraline. And it is not long before the "other mother" gives Coraline an ultimatum: to remain in this happy world, she must abandon her real parents and agree to have buttons sewn over her eyes, like the rest of the characters in the parallel world.

Coraline's immediate rejection of this proposal unmasks the "other mother" as the sinister, manipulative "Belle Dame" she is. The latter name is given the mother by the ghosts of three children she has previously goaded into her world and subsequently locked away for eternity. A sustained meditation of Keats' poem this movie is not. But it does contain an interesting take on the poem's themes of seduction,  economy of exchange (highlighted by the Merci / Mercy pun in the title), the danger of dreams, the abomination of  love, and, most importantly,  the enslavement of the seductress' victims in a state of perpetual, ghostly death-in-life.  Most conspicuously absent, as might be expected, is the theme of sexual seduction in Keats' poem; the abomination of love in the movie is of the motherly kind. Absent the sexual politics (that makes possible an empowered reading of the Belle Dame in Keats' poem), the "other mother" of the movie is thoroughly villainous. What's more, the dominating visual imagery of the film is that of dolls and puppetry, something Keats poem only addresses by analogy.

For reasons entirely other than its debts to Keats, the film has received mostly favorable reviews, and if that's not enough, it is projected in stereoscopic 3D! (But not, unfortunately, at this blogger's theater.)

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Pride and Prejudice--and Zombies?

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It seems Jane Austen-ites are abuzz with a new book, titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!, that turns Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, et al into zombie killers.  According to an article in today's Times, the novel retains about 85 percent of Austen's words, twisting them to fit the zany context. Hence Austen's famous first line reads, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

According to the publisher's description, the novel is a "delightful comedy of manners" accentuated with plenty of "bone-crunching zombie action":

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans.

The novel is slated to come out in April.

The book also got some play on the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me this week during the "Bluff the Listener" segment, in which a listener was tasked to choose which of three stories about classic works of literature being "improved" was true. Listen here.

This story is already all over the blogosphere, so here are just  a couple examples of what others are saying about this spoof:

Austenprose

A Bloggering Hole

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CFP: "Romanticism and the City" NYC November 5-8 2009

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(http://www.ccny.cuny.edu/icrnyc/)

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.

Plenary Speakers:
Alexander Gelley, University of California-Irvine
Marjorie Levinson, University of Michigan
Michael Moon, Emory University

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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The Intimate Portrait: drawings, miniatures and pastels from Ramsay to Lawrence

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Another exhibition, this time at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, chronicles one hundred years (1730-1830) of "intimate portraits," including portraits of Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

Sir Thomas Lawrence, Portrait of Mary Hamilton, 1789
This exhibition explores a fascinating but relatively unknown type of portraiture that flourished in Georgian and Regency Britain between the 1730s and 1830s.

It features intimate portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, John Downman, Richard Cosway, David Wilkie and many others, all drawn from the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland and the British Museum, many never exhibited before.

Portraits were displayed in public at the Royal Academy exhibitions but behind the scenes, in private sitting rooms, studies and bedrooms some of them served a more intimate role. Miniatures were often worn as jewellery to keep a loved one close; fragile pastels protected by glittering gilt frames were displayed on walls, while drawings were framed or mounted in albums to be shown to friends and family.

The exhibition features nearly 200 examples in a range of materials, from pencil, chalk, watercolours and pastels to miniatures on ivory. It includes many self-portraits as well as intimate portraits of the artists’ families and friends. Sitters vary from the merchant and middle classes to the aristocracy, actors and celebrities including Lady Hamilton, and political and literary figures such as Sir Walter Scott, the Duke of Wellington, Robert Burns and the young Queen Victoria.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery
25 October – 1 February 2009

British Museum
Prints and Drawings Gallery, Room 90
5 March – 31 May 2009

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Changing Landscapes: The Industrial Revolution and the British Banknote

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Here's what the British Museum has to say about an ongoing exhibition on currency and the industrial revolution:

An unissued five pound banknote engraved by W.H. Lizars
An extraordinary exhibition providing an insight into the economy and society of nineteenth century Britain.

The face of Britain changed beyond recognition in the nineteenth century following intense industrialization and urbanization, advances in agriculture and developments in international trade and finance. New private banks employed celebrated engravers to create intricate and beautiful banknote illustrations, portraying aspects of the changing Britain and illustrating a sense of national pride and civic identity.

This extraordinary exhibition of banknotes, tokens, medals, paintings, prints, silverware, pottery and models of locomotives and ships reflects those monumental changes and provides an invaluable insight into the economy and society of the time.

This exhibition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the British Museum and the Barber Institute. The exhibition also features items on loan from the Science Museum, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the Cadbury Collections of nineteenth century Britain.

Barber Institute, Birmingham
7 March 2008 – 6 March 2009

Image: An unissued five pound banknote engraved by W.H. Lizars

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