All posts by Kirstyn Leuner

Sharing Process, Sources, Product: Around My Talk on Grad Student Group Blogging

Just a couple weeks ago, I gave a talk at MLA13 on graduate student blogging in which I call for graduate students, like us and in our example, to blog more about what we do over the course of the years we spend training for our jobs and for publishing. Rather than just reblogging my talk, this post is an effort to share my process of writing this talk, since it was highly dialogic and a new process for me. Feedback from other bloggers was critical to my learning how different users read, write, and connect through communities of graduate students studying Romanticism and other topics in the Humanities and to thinking through two very different kinds of group blogging forums: our nassrgrads blog and HASTAC.

Here’s a link to the talk: “‘A Large Amount of Good Second-Class Work’: The Value of Graduate Students’ Contributions to Scholarly Group Blogs”

Twitter and Storify: While writing my talk, and especially during MLA, I Tweeted a bunch and was on the lookout for Tweets on topic that pointed to relevant scholarly discussions. I made a Storify of these tweets, which you can find here.

To get to the final version of this talk I needed a lot of feedback from bloggers — thank you very much for your email replies! I also sought feedback from HASTAC (another group blog forum I wrote about and that I participate in). To think things through, I blogged on HASTAC and through those blogs generated two sets of very useful conversations.

Blog 1: “Graduate Student Research Blogging” and its conversation (on HASTAC) led me to …

Blog 2: “How Do You Use HASTAC” and its conversation (again, on HASTAC’s platform). All I can say is: wow! It is incredibly satisfying and exciting to have real-time discussions with scholars, like Cathy Davidson, and to have those conversations inflect my work so directly and meaningfully. More, please!

Here is a loose compendium of the sources I consulted while writing this talk, pub’d in Google Docs. One source I just thought of that is not on the list, and that includes blogs as scholarship, is Debates in the Digital Humanities (ed. Matthew K. Gold, U of Minnesota P, 2012).

On the “shoulder” of the MLA talk project, I was simultaneously thinking a lot about how we can make our blog a better, more fruitful, rewarding, rich, fun, and useful collection of posts and conversations. I’m looking forward to working on these improvements as a group!

All of this is to share a process that was extremely nontraditional for me in terms of scholarship production. It was true for this paper that thinking editorially about our blog and group on nassrgrads, blogging questions and comments in multiple fora, Tweeting and making a Storify, researching in The Chronicle and other pubs that focus on the relationship between scholars, modes of scholarship, and the profession helped me recognized the lack of serial scholarship produced by graduate students (on the whole) and ways in which we can increase our value as working Humanists who produce great quantities of useful work over the course of our training. It was a highly dialogic writing process in which comments from people I only know through HASTAC or nassrgrads — by professional connection in an online research community — contributed to critically thinking through the issues and identifying what I wanted most to say. After all, Mark Sample was adamant that each speaker only had 6 minutes and 40 seconds at the podium. I sweated this one and a lot of discussing and reading went into those few minutes.

Now that most of it is collected here, in this blog post, I am turning to my first spring semester projects: dissertation fellowship applications, revisions for my entries in the Johns Hopkins Guide to New Media and Textuality, and revising a diss chapter into an essay-length piece.

What are you working on right now? Looking forward to hearing from you — tally-ho, Spring semester projects!


Image of raw cookie dough: By Nick Ares (originally posted to Flickr as Cookie Dough) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

MLA Panels of Interest to Graduate Students

Right on the heels of Carmen Mathes’ suggestion to attend the Romantic Media Studies Panel, I will also point out that there are a number of graduate-student specific events at the convention to be aware of. I have copied this from the MLA website and pasted it below. I will be at MLA attending panels on Thursday afternoon, all day Friday, part of Saturday, and all day Sunday. If you will be there, as well, and would like to catch up email me and we’ll connect! (Kirstyn dot Leuner at gmail)

2013 MLA Convention Sessions of Interest to Graduate Student Members

A lounge where graduate students can meet for discussion or relaxation will be located in the Sheraton Boston (Exeter, 3rd floor).

The Job Information Service will operate a center at the Westin Copley Place (American Ballroom, 4th floor). The Association of Departments of English and the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages will arrange times for experienced faculty members to offer one-on-one counseling to job seekers in the center.

The CSGSP encourages graduate student members attending the convention to comment on Twitter about sessions of interest to graduate students. Please use the hashtag #mla13 for all 2013 convention tweets and add tags such as #mlagrads and session numbers (e.g., #S394).

Officers and experienced editors who are members of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) will be available on 4 and 5 January from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Jamaica Pond, Sheraton, to provide informal information and private consultations about what to expect in journal submission, peer review, and publishing processes. Beginning scholars (graduate students and entry-level professors) are particularly welcome.

Sessions of particular interest to graduate students include the following:

Touring The (Launched) 18th-Century Common

As a Romanticist, I am always tickled when I read or listen to a news story that mentions the era that I study. I had an NPR “driveway” moment this fall during which I sat in my parked car and listened to the story about 18th-century scholar Natalie Phillips’ (MSU) research on Jane Austen, reading, and distraction. Phillips’ research uses modern neuroscientific tools to study the brain’s response to different ways of reading–close reading and casual reading–and also studies 18th-century conceptions of neuroscience and theories of cognitive attention. The blogged version of the story received a flurry of comments and other popular news outlets, including and, covered Phillips’ study as well.

The 18th-Century Common, “a public humanities website for enthusiasts of 18th-century studies,” is on to popular culture’s budding interests in 18th-century culture and, in particular, where science and the Humanities rub elbows. In fact, one of its first calls for contributions seeks responses to Phillips’ research or related pieces on cognitive science and the Humanities. This relatively new website will offer similar kinds of stories written by scholars about 18th-century topics that are geared toward a curious public, non-academic audience–much like NPR’s listeners. My first blog post about The 18th-century Common introduces the project; I wrote it after I presented on a NASSR panel with one of the website’s co-editors, Andrew Burkett (Union College). My second post provides a sneak peek at the blog’s features while it was still under construction this fall. This post will take you on a tour of the launched site and explain updates and improvements that you’ll find there that were not covered in my previous posts.

Three Feeds of Content in the Common
Historically, a “common” is private property that is open for various kinds of public use; it brings people together and is based on the idea of open access to a shared space. In this spirit, The 18th-Century Common aims to deliver scholarly research on 18th-century culture to a wide array of interested readers beyond the Academy, from students to pleasure readers. It accomplishes this by publishing three kinds of feeds on a single website. The first two (Collections and Blog) provide non-peer-reviewed essays, or digests of peer-reviewed published essays, for a broad public readership. In these, scholars write about their research while gleefully setting aside discipline specific jargon, dense theory, and allusions that would be abstruse to someone who has not done graduate coursework in the field. (If you find a “body without organs,” it will refer to a skeleton.) The third feed, called the Gazette, runs “shorts” that link to 18th-century content on the web and also calls for scholars to supply new content. New content can be cross-posted under multiple feeds if applicable. The Common also has a Forum page where users can leave feedback and a hearty Resources page that lists links to 18th-century DH projects, historical sources, online texts, bibliographies, blogs, and online periodicals. Here’s a little more about each of the three main feeds.

— Collections —
Collections are like issues or topics under which essays on a similar subject are grouped. For example, The Age of Wonder is The 18th-Century Common’s first collection of 7 essays (though it can grow to include more) written by scholars and students that respond in various ways to Richard Holmes’ popular book The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Knopf, 2009). This collection contains Jessica Richard’s round-up of online resources referring to Sir William Herschel, in celebration of his November 15th birthday; Morna O’Neill’s essay on the visual and images of genius in Holmes’ book, Margaret Ewalt’s essay on pre-Romantic-era ideas of “wonder”; Grant McAllister’s essay on the figure of the German mad scientist; Richard’s essay on Mungo Park’s 1794 voyage to explore the Niger River as participating in the need to define Africa as a subject of wonder in scientific terms and within the context of the slave trade; Rebecca Kurzweil’s essay on Romantic-era poets’ esteem for scientific studies and the fusion of aesthetics and science in the poetic form of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Mont Blanc; and Trista Johnson’s essay on Caroline Herschel’s contributions to astronomy.

A call for contributions to the website’s second collection, “Cognitive Science and the Humanities in 18th-Century Studies,” can be found in the Gazette section.

— Blog —
The Blog is a feed for short, non-peer-reviewed essays written by scholars on various 18th-century topics that do not necessarily form a cohesive collection. To me, this looks like a feed to which one could contribute a short essay based on research on the 18th century inspired by travel, teaching, politics, or a morsel or digest of a larger project. The blog feed is already populated with diverse entries, including “The University of Woodford Square and the Age of Obama” by Roncevert Almond; “‘African’ in Early Haiti, or How to Fight Stereotypes” by Lesley Curtis; “Taxes Are Evil” by Heather Welland; and “Fear and Love in a Revolutionary War” by Jake Ruddiman.

— The Gazette —
While the blog contains original short essays, the Gazette is a playful series of long updates, a bit like an embellished Twitter feed, that features content gathered from around the Web related to 18th-century studies as well as explanations and commentary on the content. It also features news and editors’ announcements, such as a call for contributions for a new collection. For example, Jessica Richard posted a Gazette short called “Daniel Defoe around the Web” in which she compiles websites with brief annotations for the Defoe-curious, such as Steven H. Gregg’s Defoe blog. The Gazette also announces an exhibition in New York City called “Radiohole:  Inflatable Frankenstein!” and relates it to other recent Shelley exhibits in Manhattan, including the NYPL’s “Shelley’s Ghost: The Afterlife of a Poet.” In addition, this newsfeed calls for contributions to new collections, such as Cognitive Science and 18th-century Studies. The Gazette feed can be found on the right-side menu on the homepage.

New under the Hood: Technical Updates
Since my last blog post early this fall, there have been many significant technical updates to the website made by Damian Blankenship (Wake Forest) and his team. First, the homepage received a great makeover: a new nature-inspired background image (to invoke the idea of a “common”) and an improved layout that I think makes the different components of this website easier to locate.

Compared to the previous GUI, the remodel looks less like a website still in development and more like a new but up-and-running multi-faceted e-pub, which is its actual status. Also, the front page is no longer static — recent posts from collections and blogs are displayed at the bottom of the front page, and posts from the “Gazette” are listed on the right side.

Also of note, the site transitioned from .com to .org to more clearly communicate the non-commercial nature of the project. Conscious of the popular audience that the site hopes to reach, Blankenship is also modifying the site for improved use on tablets and smart phones as well as social media integration with a WordPress plug-in called Jetpack. Mobile users will be able to access all of the content on the website from a simplified menu and new posts will be automatically published on Facebook, and, in the near future, on the @18Common Twitter feed, as well.

Who Oversees The 18th-Century Common?
The 18th-Century Common has two advisory boards: an internal and an external board. The internal board is comprised of co-editors Burkett and Richard, as well as members who participated in the 2010-11 NEH-funded faculty seminar at Wake Forest, “Science and the Arts in the Eighteenth Century,” that led to the building of the website and who worked closely with the site’s co-editors. All WFU professors, the internal board includes Margaret Ewalt (Assoc. Professor, Spanish), Grant McAllister (Assoc. Professor and Chair, German and Russian), Morna O’Neill (Assist. Professor, Art History), John Ruddiman (Assist. Professor, History), Heather Welland (Assist. Professor, History), and Byron Wells (Professor of French, Chair of Romance Languages).

External board members include a star-studded line-up of distinguished professors from a variety of institutions who work in eighteenth-century studies and Romanticism studies and who are also heavily invested in Digital Humanities work. They include Devoney Looser (Missouri), Jack Lynch (Rutgers), Laura Mandell (Texas A&M), Benjamin Pauley (Eastern Connecticut State), and Linda Troost (Washington & Jefferson).

Contact, Follow, Contribute, Discuss
You can follow or tweet The 18th-Century Common on Twitter (@18Common) as well as follow on Facebook. Calls for contributions can be found here. Each entry in 18Common has a comment thread for readers to respond to posts and to each other.

Final Thoughts
I like this new project a lot and I admire the scholars that are behind it for their work, energy, and desire to make this a public scholarly endeavor — because of its expanded audience, there is a lot of room for it to grow in terms of technology, contributions, and conversations. I think that this website has the potential to create a vibrant interactive community of scholars and public intellectuals who are giddy about the same topics and who contribute meaningfully to the content and discussions about it. Since it’s the holidays, I offer a father/daughter, or non-scholar/scholar example. I’m studying 18th-century mirrors and optics for part of my dissertation on late-Romantic-era literature and media. My father, on the other hand, is not keen on old books or even fiction, but has a degree in engineering, has fun solving physics equations, and geeks out on technology and electronics. We may seem like intellectual opposites, but we meet at Herschel. I gifted him an e-copy of The Age of Wonder (Holmes) for Christmas for his Nook, with a link to The 18th-Century Common in my note.

[Author’s note: this blog was originally posted on HASTAC as part of a three-blog series. I repost it here because I think it will be of interest to our Romanticist graduate student community.]

General and Special Session CFPs – NASSR 2013: Romantic Movements (Aug. 8-11, Boston, MA)

ICR 2012 is now behind us and we can at once look forward to writing and gathering for NASSR 2013, “Romantic Movements,” to be graciously hosted by the College of the Holy Cross and Boston University, August 8-11. All abstracts are due by January 15, 2013. Below I have copied the general CFP as well as the Special Sessions CFPs at the very bottom of this post. If you have general conference questions, you may find the answers the conference website. Please send all proposals or direct questions to the conference organizers, Jonathan Mulrooney (Holy Cross) and Charles Rzepka (Boston University) at Good luck!

* * * * * *

NASSR 2013 invites submissions for its conference to be held on the banks of the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts August 8-11, 2013. While especially interested in proposals prompted by the conference theme “Romantic Movements,” broadly conceived, the committee also looks forward to considering sessions and papers on all topics representing the best current work in the field. This is to say that the conference theme should be considered suggestive, but not proscriptive. To that end, both “Romantic” and “Movements” should be considered terms under investigation, and might yield conversations about any aspect of such topics as Romantic motion, emotion, mobility, transport, affect, infrastructure, importation, exportation, flow, obstruction, freedom, restriction, progress, regression, ascent, decline, development, diminution, migration, travel, gesture, dance, location, dislocation, displacement, exile, temporality, personality, rising, falling, diversion, direction, misdirection, speculation, experimentation, currents, contagions, fronts, feints, faints, scatology, scansion, prosody, prose, and so on.

Sponsored by the College of the Holy Cross and Boston University, NASSR 2013 aims to open conversations not only about Romantic scholarship but about the relationship between scholarly work and how we teach Romanticism now. We encourage proposals addressing these concerns as they engage a wide range of British, Continental, American, and world Romanticisms.

The conference organizers are open to several forms of proposal:

  1. Traditional 15-minute paper proposals (250-word abstracts), either grouped together as 3-paper panels or submitted individually.
  2. Proposals for open-call special sessions (250-word descriptions of potential session).
  3. Proposals for alternative format sessions such as roundtable discussions, state-of-the-field debates, etc. (250-word description of topic and list of participants).

Deadline for open special session calls: October 15, 2012
Deadline for all other proposals: January 15, 2013

Please send all proposals or direct questions to the conference organizers, Jonathan Mulrooney (Holy Cross) and Charles Rzepka (Boston University) at

* * * * * *


Special Session CFPs

Please submit paper abstracts directly to the organizers listed for each session. Unless otherwise noted, abstracts should be 250 words for 15-minute papers. Session organizers will select the papers best suited to their purposes, and pass on the rest to the main conference committee for vetting. Deadline for submissions is January 15, 2013.

The Aesthetics of Trance (Kristin M. Girten, University of Nebraska, Omaha)

Trance states recur throughout Romantic literature as an indicator and source of psychological transport. What do such states of psychological suspension entail? Brandy Schillace characterizes the trance episodes that punctuate Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, as symptomatic of epilepsy. In contrast, Robert Mitchell associates Shelley’s and Keats’s “trance poetics” with radical psychological as well as political emancipation. For the former scholar, the aesthetics of trance signifies neurological disability; for the latter, it portrays and even enables psychological triumph.

This session will explore the implications of, as well as the motivations behind, the aesthetics of trance and the transport it implies with the goal of broadening scholars’ understanding of the significance of suspended psychological states within the literature of Romanticism. The potential implications of the aesthetics of trance are many. Does it document a paralysis of the will? Or does it convey the possibility of the fulfillment of the will? Might it rather portray a dull sense of ennui? Perhaps it even inspires a state of psychological suspension in the reader? Panelists participating in the session will encourage a nuanced and varied appreciation of the aesthetics of trance by analyzing diverse appearances of it within the poetry and prose of Romanticism.

abstracts to:

Bodies in Space (Tom Crochunis, Shippensburg University)

This panel will focus on the ways in which bodily movement was performed, viewed, and
interpreted in the Romantic era in relation to particular significant spaces. Papers might focus on theatrical or other public performances, athletics, or other social/cultural performances in which bodies played an important role.

1-page abstracts of proposed presentations to Tom Crochunis at

John Thelwall’s Movements (Judith Thompason, Dalhousie University)
Special Session Sponsored by the John Thelwall Society

John Thelwall was a figure of romantic mobility. From the earliest eccentric excursions of this politico-sentimental Peripatetic to the political and elocutionary lecture tours, both national and international, that continued until the moment of his death, he covered a lot of ground geographically, culturally, philosophically and rhetorically, connecting disparate communities and shaping literary history in ways that scholars are only now beginning to understand. As Thelwall has moved from the margins to the centre of romantic studies in recent years, the John Thelwall Society has been founded to celebrate, study, collect the archive and encourage further exploration of the versatile voice and mind, arts and acts, of this remarkable romantic-era polymath.

To this end, we invite papers on any aspect of Thelwall’s movements, including his literal travels; representations of travel and territory in his work; his ideological and formal eccentricity and experimentation; his theories of measure and prosody; his elocutionary practice or pedagogy; his transnational tours, interests, activities and influence(s); his literary, political or professional connections; his relation to philosophical and critical movements in his own time (Jacobinism, Della Cruscanism, feminism, abolitionism, elocution), and in ours (including his movement from background to foreground in romantic studies). Presenters need not be members of the John Thelwall Society.

abstracts to:

Metrical Movements (Charles Mahoney, University of Connecticut)

To what degree might Romanticism be productively thought of as a matter of meter? What are the most representative as well as the most idiosyncratic meters of Romantic poetry? And how do these meters, these peculiar measurements, represent not only the ways in which Romantic poetry moves (to what ends?) but also Romanticism as a move-ment? Taking into consideration that meter names both idealized patterns (of sound, in verse) as well as the cultural and political associations of these patterns, this panel solicits contributions which reflect on the ways in which meter moves Romanticism—and patterns its movements.

abstracts to: 500-word abstracts to

Movements of Past and Present: Aesthetics and Genealogy (Magdalena Ostas, Boston

Tracing lines from the past to the present and through to the future, the writing of genealogy is a deeply evaluative and transformational gesture. Through it, the present becomes legible and meaningful to itself, and the backwards glance thus becomes a means of legitimating, interrogating, or undermining the orientation and situation of the present moment. Through genealogy, the present thus reveals itself to be essentially in movement and, like the past, always in transformation.

This panel seeks to articulate ways in which our own understanding of what is called “aesthetics” forms a genealogical line to or from Romanticism. What are the claims, contours, and stakes of Romantic aesthetic theory, and how do they come to be taken up, rethought, reevaluated, and reshaped throughout the nineteenth century and especially in our own critical climate? Papers for this special session are welcome that address the claims of Romantic aesthetics and the vexed, dynamic relations of those claims to the tenets and inclinations that structure the contemporary study of Romantic literature and philosophy.

abstracts to:

Moving Pictures (Sophie Thomas, Ryerson University)

From Wordsworth’s cave of Yordas, with its “shapes, and forms, and tendencies to shape, / That shift and vanish, change and interchange” (The Prelude 1805, 8:721-22), to Coleridge’s “The Picture,” with its dispersal of the beloved’s watery image, to Philipsthal’s Phantasmagoria shows, with their looming apparitions projected by mysterious means across darkened rooms, Romanticism is haunted by encounters with images that will not sit still. This special session seeks to explore, in broad terms, the mobilization of the visual in Romanticism. Topics could include: the development of visual technologies that literally made images move (the Eidophusikon, the Diorama, the moving panorama); the dissolving view; the science of vision and ‘techniques’ of observation; vision in motion, as might be experienced from a ship, a balloon, or by the roving eye of the picturesque tourist; moving among pictures at galleries and exhibitions; traveling picture shows; the moving images of the imagination; hallucination/ animation; natural forms and their movements.

abstracts to:

Moving Through the Passions in Romantic Women’s Writing (M. Soledad Caballero,
Allegheny College)

As Geoffrey Sills argues in his study of the passions and the rise of the British novel, something happens to the general understanding of “the passions” throughout the eighteenth century, such that an area considered relatively stable and consistent since the Classical age invites scrutiny, angst, and exploration from writers across the political and social spectrum. By the century’s end, the “passions” of social and political movements register across the literary landscape of the Romantic era. As discoveries in science and medicine emerged in the seventeenth century and informed philosophers and writers’ understandings and expectations of “the passions,” this area of human spiritual, political, and aesthetic experience shifts in the literary and cultural landscape of the Romantic age.

What the passions are, where they are located in human subjectivity, who experiences them, under what conditions, and the extent to which they are internally or externally made manifest ignites new interest regarding their place in the natural and social world. This panel seeks to explore the diversity of understanding around conceptualizations of “the passions” in Romantic women’s writing. How do conceptualizations of the passions move within texts and across texts written by women of the period? To what extent do figurations of the passions shift in relation to generic form, political affiliations, class status or racial configurations? To what extent are representations of the passions static or shifting across texts written by women?

abstracts to:

Nordic Exchanges: Transfers and Transactions (Robert Rix, University of Aalborg)

One of the best-known of romantic paintings was chosen as an emblem of this conference: Caspar David Friedrich’s The Sea of Ice (1823-4), depicting a frail wooden ship crushed by huge slabs of ice, piling up under a cold blue Northern sky. If this painting symbolizes the attraction the North had for European romantics, its very prominence in the canon also testifies to a critical perception that can be summarized in a few points: (1) Romanticism is rooted exclusively in the Bermuda Triangle of Germany, Britain and France, (2) the romanticisms of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland) are mainly derivative, (3) and their influence outside the Nordic region is negligible. The purpose of this workshop is to test – and perhaps contest – this hackneyed image. And whereas “romantic Orientalism” has received its fair share of critical interest, the Friedrich painting bespeaks a contemporary interest in the Northern themes and landscapes, which warrants attention.

We welcome papers on individual Nordic romantics, but even more so on interaction, exchange, and cross-fertilization between Nordic and other romanticisms. Furthermore, the workshop wishes to explore the image of the North (Nordic landscapes, climate, culture, history, folklore, and mythology) in the romantic imagination. Topics for papers could also include travel reports – real or imaginary – focussed on the North or the Nordic countries.

abstracts to:

Romantic Movements and Walter Scott’s Poetry (John Knox, University of South Carolina)

With the editing of Scott’s poetry now well underway, and in keeping with the conference theme, the panel invites proposals that explore Scott’s place in a larger Romantic “movement.” How, we might ask, has our neglect of Scott’s poetry shaped our understanding of Romantic poetry to this point, and, conversely, what kinds of critical moves will be required to include him? The panel is especially interested in proposals that focus on Scott’s early verse romances, although proposals that consider Scott’s poetry in relation to his novels or in relation to other Romantic poets are also welcome.

abstracts to:

Romantic Movement Space (Christoph Bode, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
Special Session sponsored by the German Society for English Romanticism (GER)

Note: Session is for the NASSR 2013 conference in Boston and not for the joint NASSR-GER Munich conference on “Romanticism and Knowledge” in October 2013.

This session welcomes proposals on how space is constituted through physical/imaginary/discursive movement. The emphasis should be on how subjective movement is not only used to map ‘objective’ space, but to actually evoke and construct a space that can no longer be seen as absolute, but is irreducibly dependent on (dis-)continuous flows of experience and discrete discursive acts – and therefore inevitably temporal.

abstracts to: (500 words, and brief vita)

Romantic Waste (Richard Sha, American University)

I propose a session on Romantic shit. On the one end, I hope for papers that take Zizek’s work on toilets as ideology seriously: what does the history of Romantic waste/filth say about Romantic ideology? Such work may consider the transition from chamber pots to sewers, or the ideology of the water closet. Such work might also consider Blake’s or Coleridge’s or the caricaturist Gillray’s ample bowels. On the other end, I aspire for papers taking Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit as the muse. Frankfurt argues that bullshitters are more of a threat to the truth than liars because while liars recognize the line between truth and falsehood, bullshitters are indifferent to that line. We know that Coleridge was a plagiarist, but what does it mean to think of him as a liar or bullshitter? This session asks, what kinds of truths can shit reveal? What are its cultural logics? In a nod to Christopher Rovee’s piece on Keats and trash, what is the cultural work of
trash? Papers might also address the legal and medical implications of shit: after all, dirt and filth became medicalized as the sources of contagion and disease during this period.

abstracts to:

Romanticism and Utopianism (Regina Hewitt, University of South Florida)
Special Session Sponsored by the European Romantic Review (ERR)

This session invites papers exploring the intersections of Romanticism with the Utopian
movements that surged during this period as Owenites and Rappites, Fourierists and Saint Simonians, evangelicals and revolutionaries, philosophers and poets envisioned new worlds. Papers might consider whether Romanticism is inherently Utopian, or they might challenge or reaffirm long-standing characterizations of some Romantic-era writers, such as Percy or Mary Shelley, as Utopian. They might analyze how movements away from “blueprint” Utopias in the theories of Lucy Sargisson, Ruth Levitas, or other present-day theorists affect our understanding of Romantic Utopianism. They might examine the gendered, nationalistic, or trans-, anti-, or post- nationalistic inflections of Romantic-era Utopian thought, or address the relationship between this era’s Utopian hopes and Dystopian fears.

abstracts to:

Romanticism’s Peace Movement (John Bugg, Fordham University)

“Peace is not an absence of war,” wrote Spinoza, “it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.” This panel will proceed from Spinoza’s notion that peace is an active principle rather than a void characterizing periods between military conflict. The years between the storming of the Bastille and the defeat of Napoleon have traditionally been understood as a time of continual war, an era of violent bloodshed over issues of land, class, nation, and resources. But to view the Romantic era exclusively through the lens of war runs the risk of overlooking the significant reaching after peace that also characterizes the period, a process reflected in the unprecedented number of treaties produced at this time, from the Peace of Paris in 1783 to the London Straits Convention of 1841. Attempts to theorize, to imagine, and most importantly, to bring about peace, were significant if often overlooked forces in Romantic-era culture, a culture preoccupied not only with conflict but with conflict resolution.

abstracts to:

Romanticism, Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation (Joselyn Almeida-Beveridge, University
of Massachusetts, Amherst)

In this panel, we invite papers that extend existing scholarship on Romanticism and the Black Atlantic. Papers might address topics that include, but are not limited to literature and its relation to movements such as abolition and emancipation; tropes of anti-slavery; British Creoles; Black Cosmopolitanism; visual and material culture; gender and abolition; representations of race and enslavement; the circulation and reception of anti-slavery writers; resistance movements, uprisings, and revolts; anti-slavery leaders; colonialism and abolition; literary and material circuits between the geographies of enslavement, abolition, and emancipation.

abstracts to:

Romantic Translation / Transcreation (Daniel DeWispelare, George Washington University)

This panel seeks papers that investigate theories, controversies, and trajectories of translation as they were elaborated in relation to (and perhaps even as the preconditions of) Romantic writing. Proposals for papers addressing particularly prolific or influential translators (or, in a more radical recent formulation, transcreators) are also encouraged, for this panel will ideally become a forum for linking together developments as diverse as the transcreated poetry of Sir William Jones, Coleridge’s strange renderings of German epistemology, and the thinking of writers like Thomas De Quincey, who, toward the end of the period, tellingly remarked, “So it is with literatures of whatsoever land: unless crossed by some other of different breed, they all tend to superannuation.”

Potential starting points include but are by no means limited to translation and cultural tradition, translation and religious practice, translation and empire (both from theoretical and institutional perspectives), translation and philosophy, translation and dialect, and translation and transcreation. Ideally, the panel will approach translation from as many angles as possible, all the while keeping alive an interest in how translation practices might have created the very conditions of possibility for the Romantic-era social formations and aesthetic advances that we hold dear.

abstracts to:

Shelleyean Movements (Matthew Borushko, Stonehill College)

This special session aims to reexamine the place of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s writings in later aesthetic, political, and theoretical movements, broadly conceived, including – but not limited to – the Chartist movement, the Pre-Raphaelite movement, British socialist movements, the aestheticist movement, movements in Marxian theory and praxis, as well as any other reformist, radical, or anarchist movement that draws on Shelley’s thought.

abstracts to:

Textual Migrations (Michelle Levy, Simon Fraser University)

How did texts migrate between different media in the Romantic period, and how might these migration patterns be specific to Romanticism? This panel will provide an opportunity to share research that examines and theorizes the movement of texts across multiple media. We know that many texts moved in conventional directions – from oral to handwritten forms, and from manuscript to print – as they had for centuries – but what is historically specific about these movements during the period? While a great deal of writing was produced directly for print, a significant amount first circulated amongst domestic circles and coteries, either orally or in handwritten form: manuscript circulation, recitations, sermons, speeches, lectures. But texts also migrated in less usual directions. Commonplacing of select passages and copying of shorter works into albums were widespread practices, and surviving manuscripts suggest that more extensive copying from print was also done when a printed text was difficult to obtain. Other topics could include the migration of texts between various print media: that is, between newspapers, magazines, anthologies, collected works, etc. Papers are welcomed on any aspect of textual migrations, and their significance, during the period.

abstracts to:

Theory for Romanticism (Andrew Warren, Harvard University)

Note: The format of this session will consist of a series of short presentations of about 10 minutes in length, followed by a roundtable discussion among the participants and, finally, an audience Q&A.

This panel is looking for papers that address how theory is being, or can be, or has been used to read and think with Romantic texts. While more general approaches are welcome, proposals showing how a particular theoretical concept works in, or against, particular works are especially encouraged. The hope is to create a lively roundtable discussion that helps define or problematize crucial terms and questions in the field. What might it mean, for instance, to put “theory” to “use”? What counts as “theory,” and who’s counting? How is theory limited or actuated by “concepts”? How has a particular concept been used or abused in the history of Romantic studies? How do we as Romanticists seem to be engaging with theory now? How should we, if at all?

abstracts to:

Unmoving and Unmoved: Charting the Contours of Stoic Romanticism (Jacob Risinger,
Harvard University)

In “The Four Ages of Poetry” (1820), Thomas Love Peacock made the satirical
assertion that poetry’s highest aspirations were limited to three categories: “the rant of
unregulated passion, the whining of exaggerated feeling, and the cant of factitious
sentiment.” But beneath his satire, Peacock raised a more disquieting point: in overemphasizing affective extremity at the expense of “the philosophic mental tranquility that looks round with an equal eye on all external things,” poetry in the romantic age risked disconnection from “the real business of life.”

This panel takes Peacock’s assessment as a prompt for a broad investigation: what
should be made of the affectless, stoical substratum that complements romanticism’s “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”? How do everyday states of disinterestedness, indifference, insensibility, and stoic apatheia round out our picture of what romantic poesis entails? Do the stoical preoccupations of figures like Rousseau, Kant, Smith, or Godwin inflect their influence on the literature of the period? What debts do literary and philosophical manifestations of stoic apathy owe to romantic period politics, science, and medicine? How might an emphasis of romantic dispassion alter our sense of gender, cosmopolitanism, or the relationship between history and literature in the period?

abstracts to:

Void Theory: Voids, The Void, and Avoidance (Elizabeth Fay, University of Massachusetts,

This session addresses the Romantic conception of the void, traditionally a phenomenon referring to that from which the cosmos was created, but during the Romantic period also associated with the abyss, part of the sublime landscape, and to the gateway figure of the precipice. The void was also aligned with the idea of an internal void. Romantic irony incorporates the concept of internal void; sublime experience is characterized by the voiding of selfhood in order to join with a greater, external subjectivity; consumerism masks the internal void by filling up an unacknowledged emptiness. Avoidance practices, deflecting the terror of the void by busying the mind and senses, fill the period’s literature as representation or through cultural critique. When brought into conversation, the void, the abyss, and avoidance constellate the elements of what might be called “void theory,” providing a way to think productively about cosmic and individual emptiness, and the avoidance of experiencing nightmarish versions of either. The first two are the dark shadow of Romantic transcendence; the third is the dark twin of consumer desire as well as of the cultural fascination with melancholia.

Papers are invited that consider philosophical or theological conceptions of the cosmic void, literary uses of the void or the sublime precipice and abyss, material or embodied avoidance practices, or any combination of these. This topic also lends itself to geological theories, cosmic history, discoveries made through scientific and medical breakthroughs and theories, searches for the origins of human culture, commodity culture, and travel writing.

abstracts to: elizabeth.fay@umb.ed

News Flash: Grad Pub Night at ICR!

Dear Romantic studies colleagues,

Greetings!  We’re very much excited about this year’s ICR conference in Tempe, and are writing to invite you to the first official ICR Grad Student Pub Night, jointly sponsored by ICR and the NASSR Grad Caucus, on Friday night (9 November).  We hope to offer additional networking opportunities, to form a more robust and connected graduate community within Romanticism studies, and not least of all to set aside some time to unwind, and catch up with friends. While the event is intended for current and recent graduate students, all are welcome.

We hope that you’ll join us at famous Casey Moore’s Oyster House (850 S. Ash Avenue, Tempe, 85281) around 9.00p. If you’d like to walk there together, we’ll be mustering at the Marriott lobby at 8.30p to walk to Casey’s via Mill Avenue.

Please feel free to forward any questions to the event’s onsite organizers, Jake Leveton ( or Kurtis Hessel (

See you there!

– The NGSC Co-Chairs and Board

Coming Soon: The 18th-Century Common

In mid-August, I had the great fortune of attending NASSR 2012 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and presenting on a Romanticism and New Media panel with Andrew Burkett, Assistant Professor at Union College. Following our panel, I wrote a fairly brief blog post that introduced a DH project for which Burkett is co-creator and co-editor, with Jessica Richard (Associate Professor of English, Wake Forest University): The 18th Century Common: A Public Humanities Website for Enthusiasts of 18th-Century Studies.

For blog two of this three-post series on The 18th-Century Common (a series that I am writing for HASTAC), I am happy to provide some details about this project that its co-editors have shared with me before the website launch on October 1. This is the trailer, if you will. (The third blog will be a tour of the website after its launch.) Here we go!

The Mission of The 18th-Century Common:

According to co-editors Burkett and Richard, the mission of The 18th-Century Common website is to “provide a medium for eighteenth-century scholars to communicate with an eager public non-academic readership,” and Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Knopf, 2009) provides the perfect vehicle for a project like this. More specifically, the success of Holmes’ award-winning popular science book inspired the co-editors, along with student and faculty collaborators at Union and Wake Forest, to create a website that would continue to captivate and cultivate a broad audience of readers interested in 18th-century studies—like those that are so drawn to Holmes’ bestseller—and explore new possibilities for digital public humanities scholarship that reaches beyond the Academy.

In The Age of Wonder, Holmes tells the stories of several 18th-century scientists and explorers and their landmark discoveries, including Sir William and Caroline Herschel’s discoveries of comets and the planet Uranus as well as the creation of the forty-foot telescope, James Cook and Joseph Banks’ epic nautical expeditions, and Humphry Davy’s contributions to chemistry and the invention of a “safety lamp” for miners. Holmes’ compelling and accessible prose, coupled with glossy color image spreads, were so popular with non-academic readers that the book could be purchased at Costco for $11.

A Short History of the Project:

Since Fall 2009, Richard has convened an interdisciplinary faculty seminar at Wake Forest on the subject of “Science and the Arts in the Eighteenth Century.” In 2010-11, the faculty seminar used Holmes’ book as a case study for investigating possible platforms on which popular and scholarly discourses on science studies can meet and, furthermore, what could be gained from such a discussion. The faculty seminar received a Ventures seed grant from the Humanities Institute at WFU—a grant funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities—in order to explore these questions. The study resulted in The 18th-Century Common website, which is set to launch this fall.

What’s in the Common?

While the website is still “incunabulum” and being polished and augmented before its launch, the demo site reveals the skeleton of a robust and exciting project. The homepage and “about” page deliver requisite introductions to the project and a place to subscribe to a list for updates as well as share and follow the website on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook—crucial social networking platforms that reach through and beyond the Academy to a wider audience. There is also a “Forums” page that will serve as a suggestion box and collect website feedback and content ideas once the site is officially up and running.

At this very early stage, it appears that the primary content pages will be the “Explore” page and the blog. The “Explore” section contains a collection of short essays from authors ranging from undergraduates to associate professors in a series entitled “The Age of Wonder: Science and the Arts in the Long-18th Century.” For example, Trista Johnson, an undergraduate at Union College, authored an essay in this collection that calls for a reconsideration of Holmes’ treatment of Caroline Herschel as merely an aide to her brother’s astronomical endeavors. She reveals a fascinating gap in Holmes’ research on the correspondence between Caroline and physicist Mary Somerville, even linking to Mary’s letter in Google Books, and suggests that more needs to be published on Caroline’s work not as a collaborator with her brother but as an astronomer working on her own. The blog section features pieces written only by professors, at present, who share intriguing short essays, such as Jake Ruddiman’s piece on soldiers’ amicable and amorous relationships with civilians during the Revolutionary War.

Call for Contributions:

While the project aims to increase the amount of popular science writing for a public readership that is hungry for this material, it also offers publishing opportunities to the scholarly community that will provide the material. With the launch of this website, scholars of eighteenth-century literature and culture that usually publish their research in books and journals addressed to other researchers within their discipline and in neighboring fields will have a new free, public digital venue for sharing their work with an enthusiastic public audience that is potentially larger than their academic audience. Furthermore, sections like the “Explore” page will offer opportunities for students to learn how to research and publish short essays on interdisciplinary topics that are in vogue with both scholars and the general public.

Specifically, in order to create a site of “public humanities scholarship” that communicates the results of research to an audience not limited to the Academy, The 18th-Century Common will seek a variety of contributions that include:

  • responses by scholars and students that contextualize and enrich Holmes’ work;
  • short articles, media, and other content aimed at a wide audience of readers; and
  • content solicited from academic contributors written specifically for a lay audience, including descriptions of recently published scholarly work in 18th-century studies, interesting holdings in library archives and museum collections, and critical controversies or research problems in the field.

For more information on the call-for-papers or if you have questions or comments about this project, please contact the editors. To subscribe to the website and receive updates on its launch, enter your information here. I’m looking forward to the launch and to the scholarly and pedagogical opportunities that this website will offer for outreach beyond the Academy.


Are you participating in a DH project that is under construction or published and underway with similar aims? I think it will be important to consider the relationship between The 18th-Century Common and other literary DH literary and related projects that share the goal of public humanities scholarship. How can these projects learn from one another to achieve the best possible results? Furthermore, what does “success” for a project like this mean or look like?


Author’s note: This blog post was originally written for and published on the HASTAC website on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. Find the identical original post here.

Processing the WPRP Exhibit; Or, Making an Argument with Books in Cases

The Women Poets of the Romantic Period (WPRP) exhibit, called “Landmarks,” is just a few weeks away from opening in CU Libraries. The opening is set to coincide with the June 7 start of the 20th-Anniversary British Women Writers Conference, an international professional-level conference that I am co-organizing this year. When we’re done curating the WPRP exhibit, we’ll have an in-house exhibit in 8 enormous cases in the Rare Book Room as well as an online exhibit of around 20 scanned works and extended explanatory captions, photographs, and a video production. I’ve been feeling less like a dissertating PhD student and more like a contestant on Project Runway lately, working with fabric, mylar, props like shells and even a preserved spider, a museum exhibit designer, photographers, a period music consultant, and even videographers. The cast of collaborators is long and brings together librarians; graduate students in English, musicology, and museum studies; undergraduate library assistants; computer scientists and media artists; literary and art historians; and more. And thanks to the extremely friendly and collegial tone set by Debbie Hollis, the head of CU Libraries Archives and Special Collections, we are happy and very busy collaborators.

At this point, the cases are full and designed and objects are most likely in their final places, though I will no doubt futz with them more as we near the exhibit opening. My current task is to compose the script for the photographer/videographer of the exhibit and to serve as the general editor of the large collection of captions that will describe these objects online and in the video. In other words, I’m documenting the argument that I want the objects on display to make. Or rather, as I’ve found, I’m documenting the argument that the objects on display create. (I will publish these on my blog when they are complete and my collaborators are ready to release them.)

When making arguments with objects in cases, the objects, like Keats’ Grecian Urn, are anything but silent. The objects seem to arrange themselves first and the argument reveals itself afterward. This process is more physical and far less of the purely cerebral process that I have grown so used to with writing essays or dissertating. Trying to make the objects’ display conform to the argument I imagined for them did not work for me. After working with them for a year, I’ve been influenced as much by the physical and visual qualities of these books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and letters as I have by their textual content. I have spent far more time working with some of them than with others — for example, I painstakingly transcribed Mary Cockle’s letter and then worked with Susan Guinn-Chipman, another colleague in Special Collections, to piece together the parts that were difficult to read. Due to the time spent handling and reading these artifacts in cradles, in the stacks, on shelves, and on tables in Special Collections, and also the occasions I used them to teach my undergraduate literature classes, I have been influenced by their physical properties and arrangements in space and these traits have influenced my attentions and the argument I feel that the exhibit makes.

My argument for this exhibit, therefore, is based heavily on physical constraints and visual properties of the exhibit as well as my research gathered from reading these literary artifacts and thinking about them in the context of the Romantic literary era. Curating the exhibit was a mixed process of object placement based on:

  • the 200+ works in the collection that I read from June 2011 through January 2012 (my reading list was based on numerous factors, including titles and spines that grabbed my attention, ability to find them on the shelves, recommendations from other scholars, personal interests, and more)
  • pragmatism (certain objects only fit in certain cases)
  • aesthetics (certain objects only show well in certain cases)
  • my personal research interests (visual media, travel writing, the picturesque, and the gothic)
  • the arc of my desired argument as the path from one case or section to the next
  • the arc of the argument that the objects, when placed in the display cases, created and that influenced the argument I set out to make.
  • other factors I’m unintentionally leaving out

For example, the argument that I set out to make was focused on the collection as one that lent itself to the study of travel writing in the Romantic era, how print traveled, and what that had to do with women authors and complex relationships between form and gender in print culture. However, when placing objects in the front of the exhibit, in the cases closest to the door, I realized that the exhibit is as much about changing ideas of what constitutes the domestic as it is about that which lies beyond the home. This realization grew out of thinking about the Stainforth’s position in the case next to the literary annual with the beaded cover, and after pulling the Taylors’ Rhymes for the Nursery out of this case to place elsewhere. This led me to rethink the thematic organization of the exhibit. Originally, there were just two categories–natural destinations and social destinations–but these quickly expanded into three to include the domestic as our starting place. Furthermore, between the domestic and natural destinations, I noticed a collection of works, including the Taylors’ numerous works of children’s literature, that engage the Gothic aesthetic and provide a link between home, nature, and social destinations. I settled on four categories and a flow from book objects representing the domestic and home, to the gothic, to nature, and finally to social destinations and social movements. (Of course, many of these books could be placed in multiple categories.)

Perhaps a good question to ask is: where is the argument in this exhibit? Does it emanate from the objects’ placements, the path of the visitor/viewer through the exhibit, or my textual explanations of the relationships between these objects and their home in the greater collection? How does the digital exhibit and collection influence or affect the in-house exhibit, and vice versa? And what about the additional documentary components of video and photography of the exhibit? It’s a lot to curate and even more to interpret. I admit that from where I stand right now, I’m lost in the process and on deadline, to boot.

As we know, readers and interpreters will read and interpret how they will; one cannot force readers’ paths of critical attention any more than I can control which case visitors to this exhibit will want to look at first. The case by the door is the obvious choice, but who knows, a viewer may be drawn to the red cloth in the Gothic case in the back of the room, or the promise of the spider specimen hidden therein. Despite my lack of control, I will offer my exhibit argument as a way to thoughtfully present a microcosm of the magnificent ~500-work WPRP collection. The argument and the path from case to case will, in theory, lead scholars, readers, and visitors into the collection either in the Rare Book Room or online and will draw renewed attention to Romantic-era women poets who are have changed print culture and literary history.

[Author’s note: this post was originally published on my research blog:]

Exploring the Genre of the Dissertation

During the hours that I assigned for my dissertation yesterday, I had a bit of a genre-identity crisis. I was editing and revising parts of a chapter in the morning when I discovered that I have been following no more than an idea *in my imagination* of what a dissertation should look like. Of course my prospectus outlined my chapters and my proposed argument, and has already been approved by my committee, but that piece of writing did not require me to think about the dissertation from within its draft or its guts.

I sought a model to consult — a concrete finished dissertation product to admire, toggle/flip through, and to orient my work in both form and content. Though I have read a small library of books and articles on the path to where I am now in my PhD, I have yet to read an entire dissertation. In fact, I haven’t even read a full dissertation chapter. In other words, yesterday I felt as though I was trying to compose a genre I knew nothing about and was not prepared to write. (Not true, I’ve since learned!)

The genre-identity crisis manifested in a swarm of questions. How much space should I allow to record the current critical conversation in which my argument intervenes? What belongs in a footnote and what belongs in my body paragraphs? Should my chapters be about 50 pages long and framed as long arguments/explorations of a single topic, or divisible into two articles of about 25 pages each, in order to make it easier to (try to) publish diss chapters as articles (the latter was my plan)? But is it prudent to write chapters as if they are articles, or multiple articles sewn together? How long should the arc of each chapter’s argument and investigation be? Why do I feel like I’m spelunking? Can I get away with writing shorter chapters that are the length of articles that I might submit to a peer-reviewed journal? In other words, what should the genre of the dissertation look like?

To prevent prolonged worrying and inefficiency during this busy part of the semester, I wrote to my dissertation committee co-chairs right away and posted some related questions on Twitter. I have received a collection of thoughtful and useful responses that I think are important to share.

I’m not writing a dissertation; I’m writing a book. This isn’t as pretentious as it sounds, I promise–I have no illusions about being able to produce a publication-quality book quite yet. However, I was advised to see the dissertation as the incunabulum, so to speak, of my first book project. “The dissertation,” I was told, “is a dead-end genre” and my future as scholar depends on my ability to write a good book. Furthermore, many scholars revise their dissertations to complete their first book project as a tenure-track professor.

Importantly, I was also cautioned against trying too hard to actually write a book –that is, a book both in form and content quality — while finishing my doctorate (see my disclaimer in the above paragraph). Efficiency and timely completion of my degree and entrance into the job market are important to me. While I strive to write a beautiful, organized dissertation that offers new ideas supported by a wealth of research in my field, I am also realistic about the time it would take (not to mention the learning curve) to do so as a proper book project and I’m cognizant of that fact that my funding will not last forever.

Numbers: The statistics I was given are the criteria for a book published by a university press: 75,000 to 90,000 words in length, and 4-6 chapters in length in addition to an introduction. Each chapter in typescript should run between 35-50 pages in length — I will lose about a third of my manuscript’s length when the book is typeset.

Chapters: Each chapter should focus on one major issue. Thus, it is unlikely that I will be able to derive two articles from a single chapter. Building this book project draft by thinking about each chapter as one slightly long article is a good idea, I was told. The difference between a chapter and an article is that a chapter allows for more exploration of a topic (so this is why I’ve been feeling a bit like an explorer, which I love).

Models: Find published books for models, not articles, dissertation chapters, or complete dissertations. These don’t necessarily need to be the books whose arguments I admire most–though they may be. Rather, they should be books that I would like my own book project to resemble when it is finished. The big questions are how do I want my project to resemble these works and how will my project differ?

The Department/Committee Factor: Each department has its own unique standards and each dissertation committee has its own set of expectations and criteria for what a good dissertation will accomplish within that department. These factors are more palpable during revision processes but it will pay off to consider them in advance as much as is possible and pragmatic. The expectations and precedents set by of the dept. and committee are also important when considering how to include or align work with digital projects or components of the dissertation. I do a lot of digital work on electronic texts and archives and will be putting a lot of careful thought into how my digital projects dialogue with my dissertation and how best to treat those projects to convey my argument and work as well as meet requirements.

Audience: One respondent on Twitter who is finishing her dissertation wrote that “a dissertation is for 3 people, a book has an audience.” At first, I found this depressing to say the least, but after some thought I have decided that I disagree and am therefore no longer depressed by this idea. Though the dissertation committee is the first audience that this project will see, it is not the only audience. As chapters will become articles and the work as a whole is an early draft of a book project, the dissertation’s components all “cook” together and will emerge to a larger readership than those on the dissertation team within the department. Furthermore, dissertation chapters are also the groundwork, potentially, for insightful conference papers as well as job talks.

Having solicited and received such useful advice, I have some reframing and planning to do with my current draft and I am on the hunt for five or so books that I hope to model my project on. What books would you pick as your models? How have you been conceiving of the form and content of your dissertation? As our department chair so cheerfully says, “Onward!”


Maze Image: By xOneca (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Romanticisms at the 2013 MLA

My morning conversation with a colleague reminded me that it’s time to look at the MLA 2013 CFPs. After doing a quick search in their online database for titles containing “romantic”, I found the following panels that pertain to our field of Romanticism and that would be lucky to have our scholarship and participation. This is most likely not an exhaustive list, but it will help get you started with your search for panels to apply to.

Reminder: you must be a member of the MLA in order to participate – if you’re not already a member, or if you’ve accidentally let your membership lapse, take care of that right now before you submit your abstract. It will only take 5 minutes and the graduate student annual membership fee is $20:


These CFPs are listed in the order in which the MLA database provided search results; their order does not represent any kind of intentional prioritization.

Reimagining the Romantic Imagination (Keats-Shelley Association of America)
Papers on any aspect of imagination in the Romantic era welcome, including physiological, cognitive, medical, philosophical, scientific, and esthetic constructions. 350-500 word abstracts by 20 March 2012; Alan Richardson (

British Romantic Books (Wordsworth-Coleridge Association)
Essays should examine book production and publishing history, libraries and learned societies, relationships between authors and editors, elucidating how the publication process shaped the reception of British Romantic literature. Abstracts by 15 March 2012; James C. McKusick (

The University of Romanticism:
See Prelude VII:52-57. Relation of Romantic writers/writing to institutions, practices of learning, bodies of knowledge; egalitarianism/elitism/cultural capital; clerisy/heresy/secularism; letters/arts/sciences; clubs, societies, associations, print networks; autodidacticism. 500-word abstracts by 15 March 2012; Celeste G. Langan (

Amnesia and the Romantic Novel:
Papers discussing the role of amnesia, forgetting or forgetfulness in late-18th or early-19th century novels. Comparative approaches are welcome. Abstracts of 250-500 words by 15 March 2012; Matthew Russell (

British Romantic Expatriats:
Essays should examine real and imaginary journeys by British Romantic writers to the United States, and the publication and critical reception of their work in the U.S. before 1850. Abstracts by 15 March 2012; James C. McKusick (

Everyday Romanticism:
Papers are welcome that examine the category of ‘the everyday’ in transnational Romantic-era writing, including attempts to theorize the everyday in light of industrialization, imperialism, and world war. 300-word abstract by 15 March 2012; Michael Hardy ( and William Galperin (

“A God-Intoxicated Man”: Romantic and Victorian Representations of Spinoza
This session invites papers examining the diverse literary and philosophical representations of Spinoza and “Spinozism” within Romantic and Victorian writing. 250-300 word abstracts by 15 March 2012; Jared McGeough (

Grotesque Romanticisms:
The grotesque as an important aesthetic category within Romanticism and/or as a distortion of the period (grotesque accounts/interpretations of Romanticism). Papers on art, literature, or philosophy.  Please send 250 word abstracts by 15 March 2012; Alexander Regier (

Independent Publishing in the Romantic Era:
Papers that explore self-publishing during the Romantic Era: inducements, advancements, and/or ramifications. 250-500 word abstracts. by 1 March 2012; Michael Demson (

Romantic Media Cultures:
Short papers for a roundtable of projects addressing questions of mediation, information, communication, systems, epistolarity, print, the book during the Romantic era. Also welcome: transatlantic, translation, digital humanities. 200-word abstracts. by 15 March 2012; Lauren Neefe ( and Yohei Igarashi (

Teaching Romanticism in the Digital Classroom:
AI, avatars, students glued to tiny screens: what pedagogies work for “Walden” in today’s classroom? or for the “big six” poets and the Sublime? 500-word abstracts by 15 March 2012; Merle Lyn Bachman (

Romantic Science:
Papers on Romantic-era literature and the sciences, including but not limited to: the science of aesthetics; literature and the disciplines; Romantic-era science fiction. Abstracts by 15 March 2012; John Savarese (

Note: it also just came to my attention (thank you Leila!) that the CUNY Romanticism Group also has a helpful list of abstracts to investigate – find that list here. Good luck to us!

Spring Planning (before November!): Selecting Works for Teaching Intro. to Women’s Lit.

Isabella Bird in Tibet

I just received my spring teaching assignment in my mailbox, and am delighted to find that I’m teaching “Intro. to Women’s Lit.” for the first time. I am a little kid in a candy store (or a rock climber in a gear shop) when it’s time to select possible works to teach for the next semester’s course. I’ve also noticed a trend in romanticists’ online communities, in that we enjoy suggesting works to teach on a certain theme. For example, on Romantic Circles’ Teaching Romanticism blog, Katherine Harris requested suggestions for her Gustatory Romanticism graduate course, and Roger Whitson did the same for his Visualizing Nineteenth Century Poetry course. In addition, the NASSR-L recently saw a flurry of responses to Diane Hoeveler’s call for suggestions for her Romanticism and Religion graduate seminar, and she very generously collected all of the responses in this Word doc. I’m going to use our forum for a similar kind of request–please help me decide what to teach. And following Katherine Harris’ example, I plan to post my final reading list and course description to our blog as a follow-up discussion.

I’m especially interested in your suggestions for American authors and works to teach from earlier periods, within the romantic-era, and post-romantic periods. To date, I have been transatlantically challenged, so to speak, as far as including American texts in my teaching and scholarship. (Well, I’ve been specifically assigned to teach Shakespeare and surveys of British literature for the past 3 years.) Though I have chosen to specialize mostly in British romantic works for my dissertation, I see this course as a great opportunity to begin to fill in a gap or two in my reading.

Course theme: “Adventure.” I envision the theme of “adventure,” broadly, as one that will include the genres of travel literature, the gothic, experiments with form like those found in Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, as well as experiments with media, like Shelley Jackson’s electronic literary work Patchwork Girl. Namely, I’m interested in drawing attention to women writers over time who have ventured beyond society’s prescribed boundaries and who have taken risks that they convey one way or another in their authorship.

The CU catalog description requires that this course “[introduce] literature by women in England and America. Covers both poetry and fiction and varying historical periods. Acquaints students with the contribution of women writers to the English literary tradition and investigates the nature of this contribution.”

Initial brainstorming: I’m thinking of including the following authors/works (listed early to late): Sappho’s fragments (ed. Ann Carson), Julian of Norwich (med.), Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative (17th c.), Eliza Haywood (18th c.), Mary Shelley (rom.), Joanna Baillie (rom.), Ann Radcliffe (rom), Mary Wollstonecraft (rom), Isabella Bird (Vict.), Dickinson (Vict.), Woolf (mod.), Angela Carter (contemp.), Annie Dillard (contemp.), Jeannette Winterson (contemp.)

All reading and assignment suggestions are welcome, and I’m especially interested in your ideas for:

  • 18th and 19th c. American authors and works–drama, fiction, poetry, essays
  • I work on the gothic quite a bit — any American women gothic writers or works to recommend?
  • 17th c works
  • If you’ve taught this course, have you used a particular anthology that you would recommend?
  • Assignment recommendations: I have been experimenting with my British Literature survey course with putting together student-made collections or exhibits that relate to works we’re studying in class. Any ideas how we could put together an adventure-themed exhibit for this course? (I’m thinking digital exhibit.)

Thanks in advance!