If your inbox looks anything like mine this first week of January, it’s flooded with advertisements for gym memberships, discounted vitamins, and fancy planners that “guarantee” you reach your goals. I started wondering when the idea of a New Year resolution became such a widespread cultural phenomenon. The Romantic period seemed like a likely point of origin, given the increasing emphasis on individual experience.
“New Year’s Eve,” one of Charles Lamb’s Elia essays published in the London Magazine in January 1821, does not prove my hypothesis. But it does express an interesting attitude toward the New Year.
Dr. Nikki Hessell is a co-winner of this year’s NASSR/Romantic Circles Pedagogy Contest, as announced at NASSR 2017 in Ottawa. Nikki is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at the Victoria University of Wellington. She’s been kind enough to tell us about her submission and share some tips for graduate students on teaching Romanticism.
What would Lord Byron say, I wonder. How might that quintessentially Romantic “man of affairs,” as Jerome McGann once delighted in punning, respond to our current state of affairs? What would he say of our endlessly streaming 24-hour news cycle, or to our social media? We can never know, of course. But as a politics and news junkie, as well as a Romanticist, I love to speculate.
For this week’s blog post I thought I’d give a recap of our friends at BARS’s annual conference this past July. The theme of the 15th International Conference was “Romantic Improvement,” and was hosted at the gorgeous King’s Manor in York, July 27-30th. Plenary speakers included Catherine Hall, Jane Rendall, Nigel Leask, and Jon Klancher.
Day four of the conference was, undoubtedly, the most exciting for me since it was the day of my own panel. Before my mid-morning panel, I heard some interesting and unique papers at “The Life of Things.” Brianna Beehler’s paper, “Frankenstein’s Doll: Production Narratives, Animation, and the Novel,” offered a really cool and fresh approach to reading Frankenstein as a doll narrative, with the Creature moving from doll to doll player. As a huge fan of Frankenstein, I was very excited to think about my beloved text in a new way.
Day three of the NASSR conference, for me, signaled the beginning of a shift in my conference-going interests. On Friday, I attended the roundtable on Romanticism after Black Lives Matter, a roundtable that I plan to discuss at length in my conference postmortem blog post. What is important in the context of day three, however, is how that roundtable influenced what panels I attended today. I decided this morning that I would attend all (possible) panels that featured a paper on a writer of colour or that dealt with issues of race. This decision not only enriched my overall conference experience but brought forth some of the most engaging papers and Q&A discussions of the week.
I started the day by chairing a wonderful panel on Affect and Economics. I was especially excited about this since I’m working on Romantic economics myself. It was lovely to hear about the work that others are doing in this area, and it made me wonder what became of New Economic Criticism? I’ve heard a lot of this kind of criticism pop up in various contexts throughout the conference, but we don’t seem to see it as a coherent strand of criticism, and I’m not sure why.
As a NASSR conference newbie, my first day of this year’s conference was a haze of drinking coffee, attempting to subtly read nametags, and writing feverishly in my notebook. Above all, though, today provided me with an overwhelming amount of generative and invigorating scholarship and a chance to listen to the exciting new work being done by many Romantic critics who I have admired for a long time. From this morning’s panel, “Plant Love and Vital Sparks: Materialism, Vitalism, and Erasmus Darwin,” in which paper topics ranged from the ambiguity of electricity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the sexual politics of Blake’s amaryllis, to the panel that closed out my day, “Feeling/Less/Life,” where David Clark, Lubabah R. Chowdhury, and Jonathan C. Williams provided an absolutely fascinating discussion on the aesthetics of death, each panel I attended either increased my interest in an already-familiar branch of scholarship or alerted me to new areas and ideas that left me wanting to spend the night getting cozy with the MLA Bibliography.
It’s been a half century since the publication of Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order. 1 The book was written by the American Marxist economists Paul Baran and Paul Swezy. Monopoly Capital advances a trenchant critique of advanced industrial capitalism. Still salient, the book remains important for romanticists invested both in the Marxist tradition in critical theory, and the project of tracing the eighteenth-century British origins of contemporary constellations of global capitalist political economy. In this post, I return to Monopoly Capital, trace the text’s key contours, and argue for both its importance for understanding aspects of the contemporary ecological predicament, and the need to update Baran and Swezy’s ideas according to the concept of “disaster capitalism.” 2
I was lucky enough, during one of the few trips I made into London from the West Country via rail, to catch a musical performance of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner by the Trad Academy Sea Shanty Choir at historic Wilton’s Music Hall. The show was at 7:30 pm on 15 July, a Saturday; and because the last train back to Templecombe would leave Waterloo Station at precisely 9:20, I had to find lodgings in London for that night or risk getting “locked out” and, possibly, forced to pay through the nose for a few restless hours in a room that didn’t fit into my budget (this had happened once before, but is a story for a different day). I booked a room for that night in a nearby Chamberlain’s (the pub chain) hotel about a ten minute walk from the music hall. I showed up there several hours early, ate fish and chips, requested “iced tea” as my complimentary beverage (to the utter dismay of the bartender), climbed the five flights of stairs to my room (for the lift was broken), and took a nap. After the 140-minute train ride in, and another two hour walk from the station (I refused to pay for a cab), I knew that I needed to sleep or I would be unable to savor the coming performance.