Category Archives: News

Mid-Autumn Editorial Report

Here at the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus Blog, our writers have been knocking it out of the park. They have been working hard since the start of the academic term to bring you sophisticated and thought-provoking articles, and I want to sum up some of what our exceptional writers have achieved in just six weeks, and the new directions in which we’re excited to take this publication. Continue reading Mid-Autumn Editorial Report

Why Franklin’s Ship Matters to Romanticists

I was excited to learn, earlier today, that a Canadian marine expedition has located one of Sir John Franklin’s ships on the Arctic seabed, after a 160-year search for material evidence of the ill-fated Victorian voyage to find, chart, and claim the Northwest Passage. One archaeologist, William Battersby, has described the recent find as “the biggest archaeological discovery the world has seen since the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb almost 100 years ago.” The ship, now resting on the sea floor, seems to have been preserved in fairly good condition, and the searchers hope to find artifacts from the voyage — perhaps even photographs — on board.

Franklin's ship -- either Erebus or Terror -- on the ocean floor (photo: Parks Canada)
Franklin’s ship — [UPDATED: Erebus] — on the ocean floor (photo: Parks Canada)
Continue reading Why Franklin’s Ship Matters to Romanticists

Quarterly Editor’s Note: Collaboration & The Rush of New Insights

From one of the colder sites of the “Polar Vortex 2014,” I write to wish everyone within the orbit of romanticism (and beyond) a very happy, healthy, and successful New Year. The concluding months of 2013 brought with it the installation of a highly engaged and innovative new cadre of writers, with established authors Aaron Ottinger and newly elected NGSC Co-chair Laura Kremmel continuing to publish on the blog, making the autumn season an incredibly exciting one. There were no fewer than sixteen pieces generated in the better part of the last three months of the year. Writers explored a range of topics from the formation of scholarly collectivities, the importance of self-reflexivity regarding the possibilities and limits of reading practices, to new imaginings of cross-disciplinary approaches to romantic literature. An immediate and special congratulations goes out, as well, to blogger Renee Harris, who was selected to present new work at the Keats Foundation Conference, “Keats and His Circle,” at the Hampstead House this spring.

In my first editor’s note, posted in October, I made the proposition that this blog comprises a space where the “rush of new insights” might be most immediately felt (especially with respect to the sharing of concepts driving work-in-progress). This was most certainly the case across the autumn’s trajectory. In what follows, I highlight what I found to be some of the more interesting and important new threads of inquiry that appeared in the last few months. I’ll also make some suggestions regarding what is to be expected going forward, into 2014.

Deven Parker’s introductory piece “Towards a Tangible Romanticism” holds out the promise of very important work to come. In it, Deven outlines a new resolutely materialist approach to the interpretation of Romantic culture based on what she critically terms  “an archaeological hermeneutics.” Taking a disciplinary point of origin in Deven’s initial undergraduate training in archaeology at Penn, the proposed method pivots, as Deven puts it, on the notion that a book retains “a relation to all other objects of the same type” with strata of meaning retaining the potential to be excavated on the basis of things like choice of verse. This comes in comparative relation to other literary texts, but with a vocabulary that significantly breaks from well-worn tropes and idioms in literary studies, with the result that books come into view as simultaneously “local and transhistorical artifacts.” At its core, Deven’s method—as it seems to me—offers myriad illuminating directions for shifts in focus and understandings of relations that comprise the materiality and conditions through which the texts and objects we study are generated, received, used, and redeployed.

Arden Hegele’s November blog publication—“Romantic Geologies and Post-Organic Forms”—represents some of the very best new thinking I’ve encountered as of late. Her ability to collegially engage with, and synthesize, work by the caucus graduate authors was as enlightening as it was inspiring. By highlighting the “fundamental” as a core concept connecting the blogging being undertaken by other caucus members, Arden brings out the ways in which our group is returning to the cornerstone issues upon which Romantic studies is constructed—and it is this thread that I hope other authors will continue to draw out over the next year. Arden directs our attention to vexing questions so often taken for granted: what represent the fundamental principles with which we define the scope and body of materials we study? What are the methods we use to pursue this, and what are the temporal and theoretical limits and possibilities for Romantic studies, with respect to the nineteenth-century and beyond? Arden’s pointing to geology was crucial in this regard—and her luminous turn to look at the ways the “instability of Romantic geology shook the foundations of the period’s poetry” generates a vital potentiality of thought. Just as well, I was grateful for Arden’s bringing genre into our continuing conversation on the blog—in a reading of Group Phi, whose writing on the topic as both “sedimented” and “metamorphic” Arden nicely highlights. I was especially compelled by the way Arden amplified the importance of Phi’s theorization, arguing that thinking about genre in geological terms endows the interpretive act with a particular urgency given the politics of our own contemporary moment. It’s connected, as Arden so memorably contends, with “the ethics of geotechnical excavation, and particularly the problem of violently appropriating formerly organic structures, now metamorphosed into inorganic matter (oil).”

More recently, Nicole Geary and myself, in conversation with Arden, took this thinking as a point of departure for considering how the field of geology represents a rich zone for thinking through our own respective practices—artistic, literary, and art-historical. This led to the first collectively written post on the blog, with the broader purpose of exploring the relation between romanticism and contemporary visual culture. Ultimately, it is my wish that multiple authors collaborate in the new NGSC “Dialogues” series to produce one jointly-written post per quarter.

Further, on the collaborative front, we saw three illuminating posts by different authors belonging to the Arizona State University 19th-C Colloquium. In their first piece, Kent Linthicum spoke to not only how their scholarly collective was formed, but also to the logic defining its practices, which hinges upon an ever-present “focus on professionalization.” It struck me that this is precisely what the caucus community is doing as well, and am convinced of the importance of getting clearer on precisely what professionalism and the process of becoming professional means within the context of our field. Also, on the point of collaboration, and interdisciplinary on another axis, Jennifer Leeds published her recent interview with the political scientist and author of Jane Austen, Game Theorist Michael Chwe in December. Jennifer and Professor Chwe’s discussion proves absolutely exemplary for locating the ways in which texts produced by a figure on which many of us work can represent a field through which we might re-think a range of issues at the nexus of different disciplinary frameworks, practices, and values. This, of course, is to say nothing of the brilliance with which Jennifer approached the interview, bringing into play her own crucial investments with respect to gender and the challenging of heteronormativity on the basis of the pervasive configuring force of homo-social and –sexual relations in the nineteenth-century novel. Jennifer’s including these concepts in the interview yielded highly productive results, which I found thrilling.

In short, I am pleased that the state of the Romantic studies blog(e)sphere is very strong entering 2014—and I enthusiastically look forward to reading the critical mass of writing that will appear in this forum in the coming months.

Welcome New Co-Chairs

The NASSR Graduate Student Caucus (NGSC) is pleased to announce the election of 3 new Co-Chairs:

Laura Kremmel (Lehigh U)
Jacob Leveton (Northwestern U)
Teresa Pershing (West Virginia U)

Laura, Jacob, and Teresa are excited to begin collaborating to support graduate students studying romanticism by developing our online community and resources as well as organizing events at the annual NASSR conference. Please join me in thanking them, in advance, for their work and time.

Best holiday wishes!

Kirstyn Leuner, outgoing Chair
Jill Heydt-Stevenson, NGSC Faculty Mentor

Meet Our New Co-Editor, Jacob Leveton

Dear all,

I am extremely happy to introduce the NASSR Graduate Caucus Blog’s new co-editor, Jacob Leveton.

Jacob (B.A., English Literature, Arizona State University: 2010; M.A., Art History, University of Oregon: 2012) is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University. He has served as a writer for the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus blog since 2011. His historical interests center upon eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British visual culture, generally, and the visual artist and poet William Blake, specifically—with wider conceptual interests in critical theory, animal studies, and ecocriticism. His current major project orbits around a social-critical engagement with British equestrian portraiture at the beginning of the Romantic period in England, and is concerned with the class struggle and domination of horses as nonhuman animals.

On a more personal note, I think Jacob has been perhaps the most enthusiastic member of and contributor to our blogging group besides myself. I remember when I first met him at the Park City NASSR in 2011 at the NGSC sponsored event on the job market: his excitement and friendliness made a lasting impression. He has already started to apply his positive energy to improvements for our blog and I’m convinced that we will be a great team of co-editors.

Back to work! 🙂

– Kirstyn

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.]

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