Category Archives: Politics

How Far Feminism?

It is rare that I ever have the pleasure of walking into my classroom to find students enthusiastically discussing our subject matter. Since for the most part I teach courses on poetry or nineteenth-century novels, my eighteen-year-old, twenty-first-century students tend not to get too riled up about the nuances of iambic tetrameter or “ye olden days” characters found in historic fiction (and can I blame them, really?).

Recently, however, I witnessed what other courses with more obviously controversial material might be experiencing on a more regular basis: my students were animated—and not just animated, but even aggravated!!—by the readings for their latest assigned task. They were asked to compare Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman and her fictional Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman with a few contemporary articles. These latter essays suggest that women who choose today to “opt out” of the work force for the sake of raising children are still, at heart, somehow in line with the feminist agenda.

When I stepped into the room, the students were arguing about just how far—or not—feminism has come.   Continue reading How Far Feminism?

Walter Scott and the Raiders of the Lost Honours

Historical events that reveal authors as encountering the world in ways other than through their pens add a dimension of intrigue to their personal stories. In Walter Scott’s case, a particular treasure hunt in Scotland blurred the lines between the thematic content of his fiction and his personal love for Scottish folklore.

This story starts around the time when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protectorate of England. During his reign, Cromwell sold some of the English crown jewels in order to raise money for his new government. Scotland—which had yet to be unified with England (that happened in 1707)—feared that Cromwell and his armies would invade them and steal the Honours of Scotland, their royal regalia. The Honours consisted of three pieces: the Sword of State, a gold crown that predates the 1540s, and a silver scepter, thought to be a papal gift and topped with a large crystal stone. According to local legend, Cromwell wanted to melt the pieces down; for him, they stood as a symbol of the monarchical system he opposed. The story goes that the treasures were smuggled away before he could find them. They remained missing for a century. Over time, people began to believe the Honours were simply mythical objects.

Continue reading Walter Scott and the Raiders of the Lost Honours

“Monumental” Ghosts: The Spectral Statesmen of 1813

It was a dark and stormy night, less than a month before Halloween, when the leading story in The Examiner volleyed the first chilling claim of the morbidly resurrected: “It may startle our readers to advance such an opinion, but really the most vivacious persons, now living, and making the most noise in the world, seem to be dead men” (561).

Indeed, in the frosty days of fall, dead statesmen were top news for England’s press. It seemed that nary a dead man could refrain from leaving his grave to wreak new havoc on the world. Louis Alexandre Berthier, for example, was reported dead by the Dresden newspapers, only to reemerge a week later as the Major-General of Napoleon’s French armies. Napoleon himself, The Examiner declared, “was assassinated many years back, since which time he has more than once met his death in a similar way, and is now, with a want of sympathy hardly to be expected in a dead man, preparing for new scenes of slaughter in Germany” (561). Continue reading “Monumental” Ghosts: The Spectral Statesmen of 1813

« Make It Work » : Velocities of Engagement, The COP21 Forum and Nuit Blanche 2015

As I detailed in my first post this academic year, I am in Paris on a critical theory fellowship studying French philosophy and environmental history. This month, two particularly significant events took place: the first–as part of the “Make It Work” initiative at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (« Sciences Po »)–was Forum COP21: Civil Society Committed to the Environment; the second was the 2015 iteration of the Nuit Blanche arts festival, where the city stays up all night to look at art. This year’s theme, fittingly in support of COP21, and as part of ArtCOP21, was “atmospheres.”

In this post, I detail both events. My intent is to be more journalistic than interpretive, leaving the content of these events open as much as possible for interpretation by the blog’s audience, excepting a few places where I bring the methods of environmental history and critical thought into play, and experiment with some quantitative analysis of environmental issues.

Continue reading « Make It Work » : Velocities of Engagement, The COP21 Forum and Nuit Blanche 2015

Elegy in Wordsworth, Turner, and James Bond

As the scene opens, a brief shot catches a spy momentarily transfixed by a painting. That spy is James Bond, and that painting is Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838. Soon the as-yet-unidentified Q sits down to offer his barbed reading, and it hits close to home. Stung, Bond refuses to interpret the work of high Romantic elegy that had held his attention moments before—it’s just “a bloody big ship.” This denial is a concession: Bond tacitly admits the painting depicts what Q calls “the inevitability of time.”

Continue reading Elegy in Wordsworth, Turner, and James Bond

John Clare, Biopoetics, and the Romantic Lyric

When I read the blurb for Sara Guyer’s book Reading with John Clare: Biopoetics, Sovereignty, Romanticism in the NASSR bulletin this past July, I felt both fascinated and puzzled. What could Romantic lyric poetry possibly have to do with biopower and its institutional controls? What constitutes a “biopoetics”? A few months have passed and I’ve finally found the time to ask these questions of the book itself, which I’ve found to be a challenging, but ultimately rewarding, read. In this post, I’ll share some insights I’ve gleaned from Reading with John Clare–insights about Clare’s poetry but also about Romantic aesthetics and its legacies more generally.

reading with John Clare

    Continue reading John Clare, Biopoetics, and the Romantic Lyric

The Climate of Romanticism: Autumn in Paris 2015

Fall has always been my favorite season. The excitement and energy of a new academic year, with the promise and potential for new experiences, engagements, commitments and ideas never ceases to amaze me. I’ve experienced this to be especially true this fall. Felicitously, and making good on Devoney Looser’s advice regarding applying for fellowships, published on this blog,  I received a fellowship to take part in Northwestern’s Paris Program in Critical Theory, a graduate exchange program with the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. In the Program, you spend the autumn in a seminar covering a select topic in critical theory (this year, belief in Jacques Derrida’s “Faith and Knowledge”) led by Samuel Weber, best known as a theorist, scholar of media, and translator of Derrida and Theodor Adorno. For the rest of the year, you are free to engage in archival research and dissertation writing, and to take part in European academic life. I’ve included a link to the program’s website, since it is open to all graduate students with external funding.  With annual graduate fellowships available at most universities in the form of presidential fellowships and other awards that don’t require full-time residence at the home university, in addition to important external awards to apply for, such as the Fulbright program, ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship, the Chateaubriand Fellowship in the Humanities, and many more, numerous great possibilities exist for grads across the humanities and social sciences to take part in the Paris Program in Critical Theory.

Specifically, I’m in Paris this year for two reasons. First, I’m here to study contemporary French environmental theory as I develop the conceptual framework that’ll drive my dissertation on Blake and ecological politics. Consequently, over the coming months on the blog, expect reading lists and book reviews of the latest in European social thought, with an emphasis on texts that haven’t been translated into English that I imagine will be especially relevant to graduate students generally, and Romanticists especially. There’s also nothing like having an audience to focus and sharpen the mind with language learning, translation, and writing, right?

Yet, this year–as I’m sure most of our readers are already aware–is an especially significant one for climate politics, decades in the making for climate policy experts and negotiators, and centuries in the making, with respect to the conditions those most optimistic among us hope will begin to be overturned: the massive amounts of carbon accruing in the earth’s atmosphere. In December, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as the COP21) will convene in Paris, with the hope of establishing a legally binding universal agreement to begin curtailing carbon emissions. The goal is ultimately to limit the amount of atmospheric carbon to that which will produce no more than a 2°C rise, on average, above pre-industrial levels. So second, and relatedly, my fellowship is geared to support my hope to help document the important visual culture that looks to emerge around the the climate conference. Already, there are prominent stirrings–with the ArtCOP21 cultural festival set to convene in Paris, and across the globe, paralleling the climate summit. All of this, I believe, retains certain implications for the study of Romanticism.

Continue reading The Climate of Romanticism: Autumn in Paris 2015

Female Cross-Dressers in 18th-Century and Romantic England

Welcome back, readers! As Managing Editor, I am excited to say that we have an all-star lineup of new bloggers, roundtables, and conferences to share with you this Fall. (For the identities of these mysterious new bloggers, who represent a wide selection of American and Canadian universities, take a look at Our Writers).

In the midst of getting organized for the new semester of NGSC blogging, though, I’m also preparing to give a presentation for my friend Katie Gemmill’s undergraduate seminar at Columbia, which she has brilliantly titled “Miss Behaviour: Transgressive Women in 18th-Century British Fiction.” In response to the assigned primary-source texts on dress, disguise, and gender, I will be providing some historical background for female cross-dressing during this period. Since I think blog readers are just as likely as students to be intrigued by the topic, I’ll introduce to you now some fascinating (and, most importantly, * real *) cases of female cross-dressing and concealed identity — especially in the context of same-sex relationships —  in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Continue reading Female Cross-Dressers in 18th-Century and Romantic England

Guest Post: Disability and Visibility at the Academic Conference

By Caitlin Rose Myers

We would all agree that conferences are an essential part of the job of academic.  However, I’ve recently discovered firsthand that fulfilling this part of our job is extremely difficult for those scholars and graduate students who have disabilities, in ways that are often overlooked – not out of malice, but out of a lack of understanding or foresight.  On a recent trip to two conferences in the span of two weeks, I encountered many of the obstacles I’m referring to while using my wheelchair to try to navigate the conference atmosphere.  I’d like to share these obstacles in the hope of promoting more foresight and more activism for the rights of disabled conference attendees.  Since my disability is largely related to mobility, that is my focus here, although I hope that more conversation can occur about sensitivity and accessibility for all disabled scholars.  As a part of our job, we shouldn’t struggle as much as we do to engage with these events, and I hope to encourage those who notice some of these issues at conferences you attend to speak to organizers about promoting accessibility.

Continue reading Guest Post: Disability and Visibility at the Academic Conference

Report from the Front: Professor Jeffrey N. Cox on the Waterloo Bicentennial

June 18, 2015 marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, that decisive event that signaled the end of the Napoleonic Wars and, more broadly, constant military conflict on the European continent since 1756. Notable not only for Napoleon’s defeat by the combined forces of England, Prussia, and the Netherlands under the command of the Duke of Wellington and the Prince of Orange, Waterloo remains one of the bloodiest military conflicts in history with nearly 48,000 causalities in only ten hours. Yet, even more than a political turning point, Waterloo left an inedible mark on the period’s cultural productions; as graduate students studying Romanticism, we remember the battle in terms of the massive literary and artistic output it inspired. From Wordsworth’s “Thanksgiving Ode” to a theatrical production at Sadler’s Wells that included the song ‘The Bellerophon, or Nappy napped,'” Waterloo became a permanent fixture in Europe’s cultural memory. Continue reading Report from the Front: Professor Jeffrey N. Cox on the Waterloo Bicentennial