Abstracts

Noah Heringman and Crystal B. Lake, "Introduction"

In their Introduction to Romantic Antiquarianism, Noah Heringman and Crystal B. Lake survey the history of antiquarianism and theorize its practices, concluding with an overview of the seven essays in this volume. Paying particular attention to antiquarianism in popular culture, Heringman and Lake seek to redress the critical tendency to isolate antiquarianism as an amateurish fad, an eccentric pastime of interest to only a few specialists, or a discourse concerned primarily with documents and texts. Instead, Heringman and Lake position antiquarianism as an embodied practice in which ancient objects themselves exerted a powerful influence on the process and products of knowledge work. Increasingly specialized study of periods and types of objects shaped the networks that linked antiquaries, engravers, and publishers with a public eager to experience in detail the customs and manners or material culture of the past. The introduction places a special emphasis on remediation as a rubric for understanding how antiquarian practices informed the circulation of ancient and medieval objects and their representations in the Romantic period.

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Martin Myrone, "Extravagant Topography and Sublime Antiquarianism: John Martin, John Britton, Avebury, and Pompeii"

Historical writing on landscape painting in 18th and 19th century Britain has often been guided by a distinction between topography and the Sublime. The sharp line thus drawn between the routine and the exceptional, the plain and the imaginative, the derided and the elevated, matches that drawn between antiquarianism and the modern discipline of history. By exploring two images by the nineteenth century artist John Martin which defy or confuse these various distinctions, this essay seeks to complicate our sense of landscape painting’s history and its relationship with topography and antiquarian image-making.

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Jonathan Sachs, "Poetical Geography: The Place of the Antiquarian and the Situatedness of Literature"

This article explores problematic relation between the local, the national, and the international in antiquarianism through a focus on the issue of place in antiquarian writings. It looks specifically at the argument that literature can best be understood in its original place of composition as articulated in the writings of Robert Wood. By shifting emphasis from Wood’s later writing on Homer to his first published work, The Ruins of Palmyra (1753), the article suggests that Wood is not a late entrant but an early contributor to the "media environment" of the mid-eighteenth century, an environment characterized by the belief that poetry originates in an early stage of society, that it is composed orally, that it expresses the local particularity of landscapes and national or tribal culture, and that it can properly be traced and recovered by ethnographic, first-hand engagement with its place of origin. That Wood's theory of ancient poetry echoes (and perhaps anticipates) the later work of Percy, Ritson, Scott and others underscores not the separation but the proximity and overlapping concerns of popular antiquarianism with other varieties of antiquarianism less invested in the particular traditions of the British Isles. Ultimately, the article raises the possibility that classical antiquarianism broadly understood, including its varieties more attuned to classical and not national cultures, could also bolster the creation of national literatures that we associate with Romanticism.

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Thora Brylowe, "Antiquity by Design: Re-Mediating the Portland Vase"

Counterintuitively, Josiah Wedgwood's Staffordshire-made clay replicas of the acclaimed ancient Roman glass vessel known to Britons as the Portland Vase exceeded the cultural authority of the Vase itself. The Wedgwood copies were celebrated as national treasures, extolled in paint and poem, and a copy remains on exhibit in the British Museum. Both Benjamin West's painting Manufactory Giving Support to Industry (1791) and Erasmus Darwin's The Botanic Garden (1791), which includes illustrations of the Vase by William Blake, offered tribute to Wedgwood’s copies. Wedgwood's achievement was not merely a technological or aesthetic triumph. He also managed to harness competing discourses held by classical antiquarians and Royal Academicians regarding the nature and status of the copy.

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Rosemary Hill, "The Antiquary at Home"

Between 1789 and 1851 antiquarianism blossomed. One of its more notable manifestations was the creation of "Romantic interiors," rooms, houses, even occasionally churches, which expressed the dynamic relationship with the past that characterised the period. In these spaces the personality of the creator was expressed through objects. Past and present were elided and rearranged for imaginative effect. Though not unknown, in the earlier eighteenth century such creations were rare; by the mid-nineteenth century the Romantic interior was an accepted style of interior decoration. This article considers some examples.

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Timothy Campbell, "Pennant's Guillotines and Scott’s Antiquary: The Romantic End of the Present"

In this essay, Campbell traces the peculiar re-circulations of Thomas Pennant's 1770s antiquarian description of an archaic Scottish proto-guillotine. These re-circulations culminated in a late-Romantic fantasy that Pennant's antiquarian labors had brought the modern, French guillotine to life. But even in the 1790s moment of the French Revolution, as the fashionable periodical The Bon Ton Magazine makes most remarkably clear, Pennant's prose was mediating the British encounter with the French guillotine in extraordinary ways. As an encapsulation of the antiquarian enterprise, the episode illuminates how the antiquarian fragment (liberated from an originary context) always threatened to belong to new times in uncontrollable ways, and so generated an illicit kind of temporal belonging more familiarly ascribed to fashion's recursive cycles. Campbell turns from the re-circulations of Pennant to the fiction of Walter Scott, where a prominent and simultaneous address of antiquarian fragments and fashionable dress aimed to mitigate precisely the kind of dangers on view in Pennant's unwitting resurrection of the guillotine. Scott's Waverley Novels finally bind fashions and antiquities to their respective times of origin, but the novels nevertheless remain in the shadow of Pennant's old guillotine.

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Ina Ferris, "Unhinging the Past: Joseph Strutt and the Antiquarian Poetics of the Piece"

This essay reads the genre of illustrated antiquarian history to argue that in contrast to literary antiquarianism, this form of publication rooted in the archive was governed by a poetics of the piece premised on the portability rather than persistence of the past.

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Sam Smiles, "Discursive Modes in the Antiquarian Image: Irish Antiquities in the 1840s"

The Irish artist and antiquarian George Petrie's publication The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland (1845) refers to its illustrations by George Hanlon as exemplary instances of accuracy and truthfulness, very different in kind to picturesque depictions. Petrie's statement prompts further thoughts about the function of archaeological/antiquarian illustration and the possibility of its attaining the standard Petrie endorses. Charles Sanders Peirce's semiotic system (index, icon, and symbol) is drawn on to refine understandings of this imagery and to underline the coded nature of visual communication.

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Jonah Siegel, Response: "Mere Antiquarianism"

The antiquarian project is based on the unbridgeable gap we know to divide the past from the present. The embarrassment it provokes is due in part to the necessary failures of all attempts to truly understand a lost era combining with the insight the attempt affords into the never fully dispassionate drives motivating the researches in the first place. The articles in this volume illustrate the ways in which Romantic antiquarianism exists at a point of transition between the speculative regimen of an earlier era and the emergence of the period of licensed scientific research and accreditation we still inhabit. As such they provide an opportunity for reflection on the passions underlying any manifestation of the desire to know, and on the gains and losses entailed in the emergence of an ostensibly dispassionate new scholarship.

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Published @ RC

June 2014