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

“Horror in Medicine” – a Response

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Catherine Belling (associate professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine), an event launching the “Imagining Health Project” series by the IHR Medical Humanities Initiative at ASU. This series is meant to integrate art and the humanities with medicine driven by the philosophy “health is a basic human need” that encapsulates a variety of physical and mental components.

Belling’s talk, entitled “Imagining Disease–Horror and Health in Medicine,” was hosted by the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. While I have personally been to lectures taking place in art museums, cafes, and libraries, attending a humanities-driven event at a working medical treatment and research facility was definitely a novelty.  Tackling the themes of uncertainty and fear at the center of medical care, Belling’s lecture focused on what she termed “a poetics of medicine” in which the humanities offers ways to approach healthcare in all of its facets. She named three terms implicit in this discussion: imagining (or imagination), disease, and horror. I found her definitions and conclusions regarding imagining and horror to be the most compelling, and I will briefly summarize her key points below while also noting my own reactions to the material, posing questions I still need answered (perhaps you dear reader, can help!). Continue reading

Fellow-Feeling, Cognitive Science, and Keats

I’ve lately been dabbling in cognitive cultural studies in efforts to understand the physiological registry of emotions and how the second generation Romantics theorized the phenomenon as embodied or immersive reading. I thought for this post, I would give a little background on how I got to this area of study and why scholars have linked it to eighteenth and nineteenth century British thinkers and Romantic poets, in particular. I limit this post to Gabrielle Starr’s work, as her book Feeling Beauty focuses on the cognitive processes involved in aesthetic experience, and I am particularly interested in the aesthetic experience of reading poetry. Continue reading

Poem: Winter Song

I’ve been thinking about the concept of wildness in the context of winter, and the idea of delirium seemed worth exploring to me. I had the skating episode of Wordsworth’s Prelude (Book I ll. 452-489) in mind, and especially the passage that begins with the wonderful line, “When we had given our bodies to the wind” (479).

Winter Song

Now, in the delirium of winter
I eat my breath
Warm and dribbling down thick scarves

And sip at wind
So thick it lies water-heavy in my mouth.

Meanwhile my vision, distracted,
Has lost the boundaries of sun, ice, snow,

All of them covered in wind
That drags them into each other.

But behind the wind
The cold slips in

Soft like snow,
Clearing out the heat
In brain and body.

The world is perfected –
Snowbanks sheared to stiff edges,
The blue lines of their shadows neat beside them,
The sunrise growing on trees,
The air;

And as the wind breaks on my cheekbones
I am sharpened to a blade
Against ice.

The Poet and the Vampyre: Caught in the “Byron Vortex”

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Source: Amazon.com

I know the beginning of the semester (or really any time during the semester) is not the best time for a book recommendation. But, I think you’ll forgive me because this is a fun one and packed with your favorite “literary characters.” Andrew McConnell Stott’s The Poet and the Vampyre was released late in 2014 and is a biographical amble through the events great and small surrounding the fateful weekend in Diodati that produced the monsters we have come to love. Yet, it also self-consciously dances around that stormy night—one that we can all agree fascinates scholars but has been written about to (un)death—in favor of an in-depth look at the relationships amongst these young poets and poetesses that brought them together and split them apart, primarily focused on Byron’s influence (and curse) upon his young doctor, John Polidori. For years, I have been an apologist for Polidori and his novella, The Vampyre, both of which often get shoved to the side for being important but not necessary or enjoyable. Here is finally an attempt to bring Polidori to life, not just as the spiteful tag-along of more successful poets but as the sympathetic victim of other people’s celebrity. Continue reading

Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism