NGSC E-Roundtable: The Pedagogy of Romanticism

INTRO: Renee Harris, Emily Zarka, and Daniel Nutters will focus their roundtable discussion on pedagogy around two essays by Mark Edmundson included in his recent book Why Teach? In Defense of a Real Education. The essays are entitled “The English Major” and “Teaching the Truths” and were previously published in The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 29th, 2013) and Raritan (23.1) respectively.

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While Why Teach? contains a polemic against the bureaucratization of education and the corporate logic of professionalism that governs academia, it also offers a vision of a “real education” that rests upon many assumptions inherent to what we now call “romantic ideology.” What makes this book, and especially the two essays we will consider, such an appropriate text to consider for a roundtable on pedagogy on the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus blog is the manner in which it demonstrates the continued relevance of such highly charged categories as “genius,” “imagination,” “truth,” and all the motifs of a “natural secular” theology of art. At the core of Edmundson’s thinking is not just a familiar and clichéd humanist vision, but one that has survived the culture wars (see Edmundson’s edited volume Wild Orchids and Trotsky), the apparent anti-humanist theory (or as he puts it anti-literature philosophy) of the 1970s and 1980s (see his Literature Against Philosophy). Absorbing these consequential intellectual events has allowed Edmundson to assess our current academic scene and argue for a vision of education that builds upon his own experience of the changes witnessed and occurring in higher education. Continue reading

Symposium on the Biological Turn in Literary Studies

Last month the Duke English Department and the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory hosted a symposium on “the biological turn in literary studies.” It was, from my perspective, an exciting and successful event, and will likely be of interest to many of us in the NGSC. It would be very difficult for me to do justice to the first-rate talks of the individual presenters in only a brief description; below I offer merely a round-up of the premises of the different talks, and I would encourage everyone to check out the linked videos for any (and all!) of those talks that catch your attention. My great thanks to Rob Mitchell and Nancy Armstrong for organizing the symposium, and to Davide Carozza and Stefan Waldschmidt for making the whole thing happen and for making the videos available to a wider public!

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More Romantic CFPs!

MMLA (Columbus, OH, Nov. 12-15):

“Intersections of Art and Science in the Long Nineteenth Century”:

We welcome papers that explore the intersection of “art” and “science” in the long nineteenth century. From Keats’s enigmatic intonation “beauty is truth, truth beauty,” to Ruskin’s declaration that “high art differs from low art in possessing an excess of beauty in addition to its truth, not in possessing excess of beauty inconsistent with truth,” to the aestheticism of the fin de siècle, the nineteenth century witnessed a fraught renegotiation of the relationships between knowledge, art, and science. We are interested in papers treating artistic representations, practices, and engagements with the empirical sciences, and in the epistemological shifts that constructed “art” as both distinct from, and linked to, “science.”

250-word abstracts by April 5th to Andrew Welch at awelch2@luc.edu.

To feature your conference proposal on the NGSC Blog, please write to the Managing Editor.

Behind the Scenes: A First Experience Co-Organizing a Conference

I love conferences; I might even call myself a conference junkie. I’ve been to about a dozen of them in my academic life, and I’ve enjoyed pretty much every single one: visiting new places, staying in hotels, meeting the same people over and over, getting conference food and coffee and drinks and swag… not to mention attending panels and getting feedback on my work. It’s all my favorite part of being an academic.

But, I will never look at a conference the same way again after co-organizing our department’s first Annual Literature and Social Justice Grad Conference. I have a new appreciation for all of the stuff I love about conferences, which is painstakingly planned by people behind the scenes, people who usually don’t even get to participate in much of the conference once it happens. After almost two semesters of planning and a successful final product last weekend, here is my guide to organizing a conference.

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The Modernization of Elizabeth Bennet

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune… must be in want of a wife.” One of the most well-known lines in literature has been reiterated once again—except that this time, it’s plastered on a bright fuchsia T-shirt.

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So begins The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013), an Emmy-winning web series that reworks Pride and Prejudice for the modern age, featuring an endearing but sarcastic twenty-something Lizzie Bennet played by newcomer Ashley Clements.

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New CFPs: MLA 2016

Dear Romantic readers: Here are some calls for papers that might interest you for MLA 2016 (Austin). If you have a CFP you’d like to promote, please write to me and I’ll add it to our list!

Performing Romanticism(s)

Special Session
Papers addressing how literary scholars can use performance–the stage, lectern, classroom, and other non-traditional scholarly practices–to reconsider issues pertaining to Romantic-era drama, poetry, and prose. 250-word abstracts and brief bio by 10 March 2015; Omar F. Miranda (ofm203@nyu.edu) and Randall Sessler (ras559@nyu.edu).

Ineffectual Lyric

Special Session
Auden claimed “poetry makes nothing happen.” How does lyric aim for political effects, and fail? How does lyric cope with its ineffectuality? Is the ineffectual the apolitical? 250-word abstract; c.v. by 10 March 2015; Daniel Wright (daniel.wright@utoronto.ca).

After John Clare

The John Clare Society of North America invites proposals for its panel at the Modern Language Association Convention in Austin, Texas, January 7-10th, 2016.

TOPIC: “After John Clare.” Scholarship on any aspect of Clare’s influence on 19th, 20th, or 21st century poets and/or his poetry’s continuing relevance to the field of lyric studies. Abstract and brief bio by 15 March 2014 to Erica McAlpine at erica.mcalpine@keble.ox.ac.uk.

Family, Kinship & Identity in British Literature, 1750-1900

Special Session
How do eighteenth and nineteenth-century literary works portray the effects of kinship networks (family, marriage, siblings, parents) on individual characters/identities? 300-word abstract plus bio by 15 March 2015; Talia Vestri Croan (tmvcroan@bu.edu).

A Mystery: Romantic Tattoos

The Problem:

As sometimes happens when reading Romantic literature, I recently came across a chance reference to something that seemed uncannily modern. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Mary Wollstonecraft begins suddenly to comment on the practice of tattooing among “weak-minded” women:

I agree with Rousseau that the physical part of the art of pleasing consists in ornaments, and for that reason I should guard girls against the contagious fondness of dress… When the mind is not sufficiently opened to take pleasure in reflection, the body will be adorned with sedulous care; and ambition will appear in tattooing or painting it.

A Romantic-era girl imprudently reading a novel
A Romantic-era girl imprudently reading a novel

What?! Wollstonecraft!! Should I be adding sleeve tattoos to my mental image of flighty young ladies prancing around Almack’s in gauzy empire-waist dresses?

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Google Hangout with a Prof!: Rob Mitchell (Duke), Next Friday (Mar. 6)

As promised, we are excited to announce the first iteration of a NASSRGrads initiative to make space for new modes of intellectual engagement between graduate students and established romanticists. The event will take place next Friday, March 6th, from 4-5pm (EST), via a Google Hangout video chat. Rob Mitchell–professor of English, director of graduate studies, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory, and affiliated faculty in Women’s Studies at Duke University–will be in conversation with caucus graduate students regarding his interdisciplinary work, which has spanned the areas of romanticism, economics, biology, and bioart. There is space for 7 graduate students. To register your interest, and gain access to the Hangout, please email:

JacobLeveton2017 at u.northwestern [dot edu] by Monday, Mar. 1.

Geology, The Sleeping Giant

Geology is ever-present and abundant in the most expansive and also the most microscopic ways. I’ve been asked to serve on a panel next month at Southern Graphics Council International with three other printmakers who also incorporate geology as major themes in their work, and I’ve used this post as a research opportunity to develop my opening remarks. There are many ways that we use the history of the earth, rocks, and the crisis of the Anthropocene to make artistic statements. Some artists approach the work through the realm of the story teller. Others realize that our societal and economic structures depend on geological resources. Still others are interested in the multitude of phenomena that shape our world to create the landscapes we see before us. In all these ways we become thinkers that overlap artistic training with scientific thought and experimentation.

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Concert Notes: Byron’s Hebrew Melodies at 200

Last night, I performed five of Lord Byron and Isaac Nathan’s collaborative work of music and poetry, the Hebrew Melodies (1815), with the lovely and talented soprano Catherine Hancock at a private home in New York City. This was the New York premiere of Byron’s songs: there’s no record of the Hebrew Melodies being performed in American nineteenth-century periodicals, and although the musical settings were popular in the early decades of the nineteenth-century, the score was out of print from the 1850s until 1988, when Paul Douglass and Frederick Burwick produced a scholarly edition to coincide with the bicentennial of Byron’s birth. So, though we were working with music that was exactly 200 years old, the material was very new for our listeners. Theodor Adorno once said that the second-generation Romantics were “the locum tenentes of nonexistant great English composers.” But what was the music that was being written and played during English Romanticism? Our concert sought an answer to this question. Continue reading

Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism