Romantic Realignments is one of the longest-running research seminars in Oxford.

Past speakers have included Marilyn Butler, Gerard Carruthers, David Chandler, Heather Glen, Paul Muldoon, Philip Shaw, Fiona Stafford and Peter Swaab, to name but a few.

All are very welcome to submit an abstract — we aim to provide a friendly 'workshop' setting in which speakers can try out new papers as well as more finished pieces, and in which lively discussion can flourish.

Held on Thursdays at 5.15pm, Seminar Room A, St Cross (English Faculty) Building.

If you would like to send us an abstract or suggest a speaker, please contact the current convenors Katherine Fender, Sarah Goode and Honor Rieley at:


2014 : New Romanticism Research Seminar Series

As of Michaelmas 2014, Romantic Realignments will become the 'Romanticism Research Seminar', and will be held fortnightly at Lincoln College.

(Please bear with us as the website undergoes a few alterations to its structure to incorporate this change.)

Michaelmas 2014 Termcard

The seminar will be held at 5:30pm in the Turl Yard lecture Hall, Lincoln College on the following Mondays

Week 3 (27 Oct): Professor Lucy Newlyn (St Edmund Hall) interviewed by Nicholas Halmi about her recently published dual biography of Dorothy and William Wordsworth

Week 5 (10 Nov): Ben Markovits, author of A Quiet Adjustment and other novels inspired by Lord Byron's life (his Faber webpage describes him as having "left an unpromising career as a professional basketball player to study the Romantics")

Week 7 (24 Nov): Dr Erica McAlpine (Robin Geffen Career Development Fellow in English, Keble College) and Heather Stone (DPhil student in English at Brasenose College)

We look forward to a new academic year and many new faces at the seminar! 

-Nicholas Halmi and Fiona Stafford, convenors


Week 6 - "Wordsworth in America"

Judyta Frodyma
(St Catherine's College, University of Oxford)

William Wordsworth's House, Rydal Mount, c. 1897

For our final seminar of the term - and of this academic year - we're delighted to be welcoming back former Romantic Realignments convenor, Judyta Frodyma, who's going to be speaking to us about the reception of Wordsworth's works and ideas in America.  As ever, all are welcome at both the seminar and the wine reception afterwards - held from 5:15pm, St Cross (English Faculty) Building, Seminar Room A - so please join us for what promises to be a fantastic talk to wrap up the 2013-2014 programme.  


I examine Wordsworth’s reach as a ‘prophet of the nation’ by exploring the reception of his poetry on the other side of the Atlantic. I take my lead from Elizabeth Peabody’s letters and manuscripts and other Transcendentalist writers. Peabody says of Wordsworth that he was ‘the Messiah of the reign of the saints,' and  'a true Christian prophet.’ Wordsworth’s initial impact on America was one that strongly resonated with Unitarian readings of Scripture. I will compare the American approach to landscape in the late nineteenth century with Wordsworth’s own, and address the widely-used rhetoric of Wordsworth’s ‘ministry’ and ‘followers’, including American ‘worshippers’ who made ‘pilgrimages’ to Rydal Mount. Wordsworth’s ‘real language of men’, as well as his prophetic calling, was thus carried beyond the British landscape into a landscape of English language in America. 


Week 5 – 'Between Individual and General History: Godwin's Seventeenth-Century Texts'

Professor Tilottama Rajan, University of Western Ontario

For this penultimate Romantic Realignments of the year, we're delighted to be welcoming Tilottama Rajan, Director of the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at the University of Western Ontario. She will be speaking on the subject of William Godwin's historiography – specifically, the different optics through which he looks at the seventeenth century. All welcome as always in Seminar Room A at 5.15!


This paper argues that Godwin was writing a world history in bits and pieces, through his novels, histories, biographies and children's books, and that these different genres give us different optics on history. Within this larger framework he was particularly interested in the Cromwellian period as a lost republican moment that has particular resonances in his own time (around Ireland, the pamphlet wars, the suppression of radical dissent, and the "Restoration" of stability in 1660 and 1816). The paper begins with Godwin's essay on individual vs general history and then works between two very different texts: The History of the Commonwealth as an impersonal, long-durational history, and the intensive focus of Mandeville on a misanthropic individual against the backdrop of the religious divisions and fanaticism of the period, which I see as connected with misanthropy.


Week 4 – 'Clare's Mutterings: The Sound of Health in the Pre-Asylum Poetry'

Erin Lafford, Corpus Christi, Oxford

This week our speaker is Oxford's own Erin Lafford, who will be sharing some of her work on the connections between poetic form and mental and physical health in the poetry of John Clare. All welcome as always in Seminar Room A, 5.15 pm!


This paper discusses how health might function through sound in John Clare’s pre-asylum poems (1820-1837). Many critics have considered Clare’s madness, but few have addressed the experience of health in his poetry.  How can we read, or hear, a healthy Clare? I will think about an experience of health through sound in relation to Clare’s representation of health as a voice that greets him alongside another vocal phenomenon in his poetry. Mutterings and the sub-vocal frequently appear as a kind of nature-speech: utterances of rivers, winds and trees emanate from the natural world and ‘speak’ to Clare. Sub-vocal communication also appears as a way for Clare to figure an affective relationship with the natural world. I will consider Clare’s instances of muttering in relation to the observations and insanity treatises surrounding his entrance into High Beech and, later, Northampton asylum, many of which cite mutterings and murmurings as evidence of insanity. I consider what the ‘voice’ of health might sound like for Clare through both Gilles Deleuze’s notion of affective vocal disturbances (Essays Critical and Clinical, 1993) and Gaston Bachelard’s healthy poetics of ‘reverie’ made up of different perceptible registers (The Poetics of Reverie, 1960). Through Deleuze and Bachelard, I consider Clare’s voice of health as one that is attuned to the incoherent sounds of the natural world, allowing me to suggest that Clare’s pre-asylum mutterings do not foreshadow a descent into madness, but allow us to think about health at and below the level of language in his poems.


Week 3 – 'Reading, Improvement, and Scottish Labouring-Class Memoirs (1800–1860)'

Dr Alexander Dick, UBC

Our speaker this week will be Alexander Dick of the University of British Columbia, who comes to us via Edinburgh where he's currently a visiting research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Abstract for the talk below; all welcome as ever!


This paper is a chapter of my current research project, Scottish Agriculture and the Literature of Improvement 1750-1850 which studies the impact of the Scottish agricultural revolution on the ecology, culture, and literature of Scotland during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The first half of that project considers how Scottish landowners and the philosophers and scientists they patronized refashioned the rural landscape of post-union Scotland in the image of enlightenment reason. It also considers how these same improvers confronted and described the already existing practices and cultures of Scottish agriculture and how this confrontation compelled them to change the strategies by which their mandate would appear and circulating, changes that led to the development of many of the institutions and genres of the Scottish Romanticism, including the intellectual journal, the statistical survey, and the historical novel.  The second half of the project looks at this process from the receiving end, focusing on the reading strategies--some complicit, some resistant, often both--of rural labouring-class Scots during the improvement period and traces their engagement with the questions of religion, education, and ecology with which the improvers were also contending. The concluding chapter, from which the present paper comes, examines labouring-class memoirs from the late eighteenth and through first half of the nineteenth centuries.  The memoirs are interesting, I suggest, primarily for the way they foreground the mixed character of labouring-class reading, its combination of Calvinist and improvement principles. Many of the memoirists were particularly inspired by the example of Robert Burns and use his story as a model not only for their hopes of personal betterment but also as a conduit for the senses of failure and alienation.


Week 2 - "The Culture of the Copy in Irish Romanticism"

Professor Claire Connolly
(University College Cork)

For our second seminar of Trinity, we're delighted to be welcoming Professor Claire Connolly - Head of the School of English at University College Cork - who's visiting from Ireland to speak to us about the culture of the copy in Irish Romanticism. The cultural legacies of Irish Romanticism and its geographical range will be considered through the lens of book history, as detailed below:


Following closely in the footsteps of Edmund Burke’s defense of a politics founded on a specific, just, and timely engagement with a properly apprehended past, Irish novels realize, in a variety of registers, a set of affective attachments to the local, the material, and the ordinary. Even as they occupy themselves with histories of everyday life, however, Irish Romantic novels remain self-consciously absorbed with the complex historical and material processes whereby Irish life is realized within Anglophone print culture. This paper considers a particular interest in ideas of copies and copying in Irish writing and argues that a longer and more fluid conception of Irish romanticism emerges as a result of such a focus.

Join us tomorrow - same time, same place - for what promises to be a fascinating talk.  All are, as ever, most welcome to attend both the seminar and the wine reception that follows; we warmly encourage you to do so.


Week 1 – 'Romantic Self-Advertising: The Art of the Prospectus'

Professor David Duff, University of Aberdeen

We kick off our Trinity term programme with a visit from David Duff, who will be speaking about the interesting subgenre that is the Romantic prospectus. As always, everyone is welcome in Seminar Room A for wine and discussion! 


Trinity 2014 Termcard

Romantic Realignments

Thursdays at 5.15, English Faculty Building, Seminar Room A

Week 1, 1 May: 
David Duff, University of Aberdeen
Romantic Self-Advertising: The Art of the Prospectus

Week 2, 8 May: 
Claire Connolly, University College Cork
The Culture of the Copy in Irish Romanticism

Week 3, 15 May: 
Alexander Dick, University of British Columbia
Reading, Improvement, and Scottish Labouring-Class Memoirs (1800–1860)

Week 4, 22 May: 
Erin Lafford, Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Clare’s Mutterings: The Sound of Health in the Pre-Asylum Poetry

Week 5, 29 May: 
Tilottama Rajan, University of Western Ontario
Between Individual and General History: Godwin’s Seventeenth-Century Texts

Week 6, 5 June: 
Judyta Frodyma, St Catherine’s College, Oxford
Wordsworth in America


CFP - The 'Exotic' Body in 19th-Century British Drama

This may be of interest to Romanticists / nineteenth-century specialists alike - as well as those working within the context of theatre studies in general; abstracts and short biographies to be sent, by 25th May 2014, to:


The ‘Exotic’ Body in 19th-century British Drama

University of Oxford
Funded under the 2011 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships scheme, European Commission

25-26 September 2014
Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford

Convenor: Dr Tiziana Morosetti (Oxford)

Confirmed speakers:
Professor Ross Forman (Warwick), Dr Peter Yeandle (Manchester),
Dr Hazel Waters (Institute of Race Relations, London)

Increasing attention has been paid in recent years to the representation of the Other on the 19th-century British stage, with key studies such as Acts of Supremacy: The British Empire and the Stage, 1790-1930 (Bratton et al. 1991), The Orient on the Victorian Stage (Ziter 2003), Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Brooks 2006), Racism on the Victorian Stage: Representation of Slavery and the Black Character (Waters 2007), Nineteenth-Century Theatre and the Imperial Encounter (Gould 2011), China and the Victorian Imagination: Empires Entwined (Forman 2013). Building on these, the conference aims at exploring the concept, politics, and aesthetic features of the ‘exotic’ body on stage, be it the actual body of the actor/actress as s/he performs in genres such as the ‘Oriental’ extravaganza, or the fictional, ‘picturesque’ bodies they bring on stage. A term that in itself needs interrogation, the ‘exotic’ will therefore be discussed addressing the visual features that characterize the construction and representation of the Other in 19th-century British drama, as well as the material conditions, and techniques that accompany the ‘exotic’ on stage on the cultural and political background of imperial Britain.

One of the dissemination activities for the two-year project ‘The Representation of the “Exotic” Body in 19th-century English Drama’ (REBED), funded under the 2011 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships scheme, the conference also hopes to function as a site for discussing the state of the art on the ‘exotic’ in the theatrical cultures of both Romantic and Victorian Britain; contributions on ongoing research and/or recently completed projects are therefore particularly encouraged.

Although attention will be paid mostly to the non-European Other, papers addressing a European ‘exotic’ are also welcome.

Topics include the following:

Definitions of ‘exotic’:
-Is the non-European Other on stage really ‘exotic’?
-Are any genres more ‘exotic’ (or more liable to convey ‘exotic’ stereotypes) than others?
-Do different dramatis personæ and/or settings convey different degrees of ‘otherness’?
-Can the British on stage be ‘exotic’, and, if so, to what extent?
-Is the spectacular on stage itself ‘exotic’?

Staging the ‘exotic’ body:
-How are costumes, make-up, scenery, movements employed to construct the ‘exotic’?
-Are any visual features more recurrent than others?
-To what extent is the visual representation of the ‘exotic’ body historically accurate?
-How does music contribute to the staging of the Other?
-Who embodies the ‘exotic’? Is the acting career informed by bringing the Other on stage?
-Who were the audiences? Did their composition have an impact on the performance of the ‘exotic’?
-Are any experiences abroad relevant to how managers staged the Other in Britain?
-In what ways were representations of the ‘exotic’ body informed by venues?
-The Other on the London stage and the provinces

Cultural and political backgrounds:
-To what extent did audiences’ expectations affect theatrical representations of the Other?
-In what ways do class, gender, race inform the acting and managing of ‘exotic’ pieces?
-To what extent did scientific and anthropological accounts inform theatrical portraits of the Other?
-Were illustrations of (European and/or) non-European countries informed by theatre?
-In what ways have political narratives influenced (or been influenced by) the ‘exotic’ on stage?
-Has the legal frame for the theatre influenced the staging of the Other?
-Visual points of contact between popular entertainment and theatrical representations of the Other

The travelling ‘exotic’:
-How do texts such as Arabian Nights, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Mazeppa ‘travel’ between dramatic and non-dramatic genres?
-Survival of a Romantic ‘exotic’ in the Victorian staging of the Other;
-Is Othello on the Romantic and Victorian stage ‘exotic’?
-How do translations/adaptations from other languages contribute to the construction of the Other on the British stage? Can we define a British specificity when it comes to the ‘exotic’?
-Has the theatrical representation of the ‘exotic’ in Britain had an impact on non-British stages?

The legacy of 19th-century ‘exotic’ body:
         -Contemporary plays/performances addressing the Other on the 19th-century British stage (e.g. Lolita    
           Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet)
-The ‘exotic’ body on the British stage in a diachronic perspective
-The non-European Other in the 20th- and 21st-century Christmas pantomime

Abstracts of no more than 300 words and a short bio should be sent to by 25 May 2014

Speakers whose abstracts have been accepted will be notified by 15 June.


Week 8 (Monday) – America through a British Lens: William England's Stereoscopic Tour

Professor Bruce Graver, Providence College

* Note: this week's seminar is on Monday instead of the usual Thursday. Same time, same place (Seminar Room A).

For the final Romantic Realignments of Hilary term, our speaker will be Bruce Graver, with a talk on the early photographer William England's foray into North America which should appeal to those interested in landscape, travel writing, Anglo-American relations . . . the points of connection are endless! All welcome, come along and help us send off the term in style.


Week 7 - "Creative Tension: The post-Frankenstein collaboration of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley"

Anna Mercer
(University of York)

This week*, we're delighted to be welcoming Anna Mercer - a first-year doctoral candidate from the University of York - to speak to us about the creative collaboration of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.


Percy Bysshe Shelley (PBS) and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (MWS) collaborated on the latter’s first major work, Frankenstein.  1816-1818 was a period of shared productivity for the Shelleys; as well as Frankenstein, they also produced a joint publication, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour.  Beyond this, however, the Shelleys’ literary relationship and dialogue is little considered by critics, their connection reduced to a source for biographical interpretations of their distinctly separate or individual writings.  

My research aims to study the Shelleys’ relationship in a literary sense, considering the connections between their texts, their intellectual responses to each other, and the reciprocal interchange of ideas between a literary couple that were reading and writing together from 1814-1822.  This paper explores an approach to the Shelleys’ compositions post-Frankenstein, including MWS’s second novel, Matilda, and its connections to PBS’s verse-drama The Cenci.  MWS comments on her involvement with PBS’s composition of The Cenci in 1819: ‘We talked over the arrangements of the scenes together’.  I also look at the way in which further collaborations by both Shelleys on one text (The Mask of Anarchy) can be deduced from manuscript evidence.  1819-1820 (the period during which these works were written) was a time of emotional strain and estrangement in the Shelleys’ marriage, but it is evident in their works that their intellectual engagement survived, and profoundly influenced their writings.

Please join us for another exciting and original talk - all are, as ever, most welcome at both the seminar and the wine reception.  We hope to see you then!

*Please note that the seminar this week will be held in Seminar Room B - just next door to our usual venue, Seminar Room A.


Upcoming Event: Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century

Full registration (for the conference with dinner) will be closing Monday 3 March. Act now to avoid disappointment!

Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century, 1775–1914
Dates: 14 and 15 March 2014
Venue: English Faculty and Magdalen College
Description: The conference explores the diversity of experiences dependent on the coasts in the long nineteenth century. Papers will consider aesthetic responses by artists, writers and musicians, but also focus on everyday material practices. In keeping with the spirit of fluid exchange encouraged by coasts, the conference draws together scholars from across the disciplines of literature, art history, musicology, history, and geography.
Speakers include Rosemary Ashton, Margaret Cohen, Valentine Cunningham, Jane Darcy, Roger Ebbatson, Kate Flint, Nick Freeman, Nick Grindle, James Kneale, Leya Landau, Fiona Stafford, Christiana Payne, David Sergeant and Carl Thompson.
A recital will take place in association with the conference, with singers from the Guildhall School for Music performing works by Elgar, Stanford and Vaughan Williams, introduced by musicologist and concert pianist Ceri Owen.
The conference programme can be downloaded here.


Week 6 – 'De-frosting the Discourse on the Subject: S. T. Coleridge'

Professor Christoph Bode, 
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

This week we're very happy to be welcoming Professor Christoph Bode back to Oxford, where he will soon be taking up a visiting fellowship at St Catherine's College. He will be speaking about 'De-frosting the Discourse on the Subject', unsubtly represented here by this extremely on-the-nose image of frost and midnight . . . All welcome as ever!


For interest of Romanticists - Oxford Garden and Landscape History Seminar

A new forum has been created at Oxford to facilitate the discussion of ideas surrounding notions of space, garden and landscape. More information is available here: 

The next Oxford Garden and Landscape History Seminar will be held on Saturday 8th March from 10:15am to 4:00pm at the Maison Française d'Oxford (2-10 Norham Road); for further details, please see below. 

This is a fantastic opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion, so do come along if you're able to!

To register interest, or for more information, please contact Laurent Châtel at:


Week 5 - "Future Romanticisms"

Professor Edward Larrissy 
(Queen's University Belfast)

We're very excited to be welcoming Professor Edward Larrissy to Romantic Realignments this week.  On Thursday, he'll be speaking to us about the notion of "Future Romanticisms" - our second paper this term stemming from the current Counterfactual Romanticisms project, as introduced to us by Professor Damian Walford Davies in Week 0:

This paper proposes to predict the way in which Romanticism will tend to be taught and anthologised some fifteen years hence. The assumptions behind the predictions are best fully avowed in advance, since they need to be supported in tandem with the presentation of the future canon. As it happens, they are straightforward and plausible. It would almost be sufficient to say that they could be reduced to one single assumption: namely, that the kinds of politically liberal interest that have been driving the revision of the reading list over the past quarter of a century still have the scope, within their own terms, to effect further revision and re-shaping of canon and curriculum. Still, not every change of emphasis I shall propose can be easily derived from that single assumption, so ‘assumptions’ in the plural is probably the fairer term.
            To develop the point, then. It is plausible that ‘British Romanticism’ will be conceived in even more markedly archipelagic terms than it is today: writing from all of the ‘four nations’ (very much including Ireland) will be regularly represented. The emphasis on women’s writing will be maintained and furthered. Working class writing will figure in the list. Writing about the colonial world (chiefly India) will always be present – and (a relative newcomer) – so will writing about America, reflecting the continued strength of humanities departments in American universities, and their interests. The strong presence of Gothic tropes and imagery in contemporary popular – and indeed ‘high’ – culture will support not only the regular appearance of ‘the Gothic’ in the study of Romanticism, but a regular emphasis on such tropes and imagery among authors by no means solely associated with it (Blake, Wordsworth, Percy Shelley). The growing dominance of science in the academy, as well as a continued promotion of interdisciplinarity in all subject-areas, will lead to the taken-for-granted presence of texts under the heading of ‘Literature and Science’ (e.g., Humphry Davy). More generally, there will be some attempt to maintain the new historicist aim of representing the self-understanding of the period by including texts that were famous in their own day but have until recently been neglected.
            Some obvious results flow from these assumptions: works by Burns, Moore, Scott and Hemans will always be visible, as will the poetry of Clare. So far, so relatively simple. But the pressure on time and space in the curriculum will lead to an emphasis on texts where more than one of the above themes can be exhibited. A few examples will have to suffice at this stage. Thus, Thomas Moore will not only be reliably visible, but he will normally be visible in the shape of Lalla Rookh, which allows the lecturer or anthologist to tick both the ‘Irish’ and the ‘Indian’ boxes. Very similar considerations lead to the inclusion of Sydney Owenson’s The Missionary: this can figure in the category of women’s writing, but also in those of Irish writing and writing about India.  Southey’s The Curse of Kehama will be studied. Examples of writing about America are not that abundant, but Thomas Campbell’s Gertrude of Wyoming will appear on most reading lists – a poem that was very popular in the nineteenth century, especially with American readers. Alongside this, the lecturer may be persuaded to present some of Moore’s writings deriving from his American journey. While many of these texts are already receiving some attention again, my point is that in the middle term they will become as close to ‘canonical’ as an anti-canonical inclination will be able to endure.
         The last move in the paper will be to return to the question of how the canon established from the late nineteenth century onwards came to exist. It will be pointed out that its development was closely linked to the preferences of writers (e.g., Yeats) as well as of critics. The question will be asked, whether the academy is shifting its attention away from the kind of writing that might still be an influence on current writers – or whether such a suggestion itself reveals a prejudice about how writing should currently look and behave. This last section will reference McGann, among others.

Do come along for what looks set to be a fascinating paper and a stimulating discussion - all are welcome to attend the seminar, as ever.  We look forward to seeing you on Thursday!


Week 4 – 'Hume, Shelley and the Evolution of Myth'

Pablo San Martín Varela, University of Edinburgh

This week sees the second part of our Edinburgh double-header, as Pablo San Martín speaks on the shift from an Enlightenment to a Romantic definition of 'myth'.


This paper explores the history of the modern conception of ‘myth’ as it emerged during the Enlightenment, and how it was then reshaped during the Romantic period, centring on the works of David Hume and Percy Shelley. In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and The Natural History of Religion Hume developed the basic enlightened conception of myth as ‘fable,’ ‘invention,’ ‘fiction,’ or ‘illusion’, which according to the philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade later prevailed during the nineteenth century and is still present today’s use of the word ‘myth’. In the aforementioned works, Hume assessed myths in terms of an empiricist criterion of truth, and regarded them as corrupted historical records which had lost all relation to the original facts they were supposed to refer to. Shelley inherits this enlightened conception of myth from Hume, and deploys it in his early critique of religion (letters, prose and poems), levelling the narrations contained in the Bible with pagan mythology. In his later poetical practice, however, (especially in Prometheus Unboud and Hellas, and their prefaces) Shelley advanced a different and more positive conception of myth (which we could call ‘Romantic’) as  ‘true story’, ‘sacred tradition’, ‘primordial revelation’, and ‘exemplary model’, together with a more idealistic criterion of truth.

All welcome as always!


Week 3 – 'The Antiquarian Collections and Fictions of Horace Walpole and Walter Scott'

Lucy Linforth, University of Edinburgh

We're very happy to have Lucy Linforth with us this week, all the way from Edinburgh! She's going to be speaking about antiquarian objects and the important role they play in the writings of Scott and Walpole.


This paper explores the antiquarian collections held by Walpole and Scott at Strawberry Hill and Abbotsford House respectively, examining their historical and material significance upon the works of both authors. My paper will explore how the object of and objects in these collections might find resonance and representation within the pages of Walpole and Scott’s fictional works.
     In my discussion of Walpole, I will follow the recent example of scholar James Lilley, who has suggested that the collection at Strawberry Hill offers an insight into Walpole’s philosophy of both antiquarianism (‘uniquity’), and of the eighteenth-century narrative of history. Furthermore, I would also suggest that the significance of the antiquarian object in Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto (1764) has hitherto been underestimated, and therefore I begin to explore this importance in my paper. Turning to Scott’s fiction, I would suggest that several of his fictional works spring directly from items he collected and displayed at Abbotsford; I hope to demonstrate this using examples from the Abbotsford collection. I will also suggest that Scott too, like Walpole before him, laid great significance upon the presence of the antiquarian object in his fictions, which even acts occasionally as narrative agent.  


Week 2 - "Metaphysics as Aesthetics: On Nietzsche’s Critique of Kant’s Teleology"

Nicolas Lema (Somerville College, University of Oxford)

This week, we're delighted to be welcoming Nicolas Lema from the University's Faculty of Philosophy; he'll be speaking to us about Nietzsche's response to Kant's notion of teleology:


In 1868, Nietzsche planned to write a dissertation on Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790) specifically focusing on Kant’s concept of teleology. Nietzsche, however, abandoned the project and left us with a set of notes entitled “On Teleology.” These complex series of notes reinterpret and radicalize some of Kant’s most cherished concepts used in the Third Critique to study both art and biology. Here I will focus on Nietzsche’s critique and radicalization of Kant’s notions of regulative principle and reflective judgment. For Kant, reflective principles of judgment guide our cognition about particulars in nature in the form of a subjective rule; not as an ontological claim about nature. For scientific purposes, however, a principle of natural teleology—a principle that claims things in nature happen for the sake of something—must be presupposed in order to guide research. This principle acts as a ‘regulative maxim’ that guides experience. I will argue that Nietzsche’s notes point to the essential ‘aesthetic’ content, not only of regulative principles, but also of the whole realm of metaphysics. Teleology becomes nothing but an “aesthetic product,” as Nietzsche puts it. This will lead Nietzsche to an implicit critique of Kant’s harmonic view of reason as architecture.

As ever, all are most welcome to attend both the seminar and the wine reception - we look forward to seeing you then!


Week 1 – 'Wordsworth After Bathos'

Robert Stagg, University of Southampton

Our speaker for this first Romantic Realignments of Hilary Term proper is Robert Stagg, who will respond to the characterisation of Wordsworth as 'a writer of "good Bad Verse" (Wyndham Lewis)' with a paper that aims to 'defend Wordsworth’s bathos':

This defence cleaves into two categories, even as those two categories ultimately cleave to each other – noticing 1) the ability of bathos to clear false wonder from verse, mocking and twitting it, before revealing a true wonder; and 2) the way in which bathos can hold a latent energy of wonder, so that Wordsworth can extract a “hyperclimax” (in Coleridge’s terminology) from an anti-climax. My paper will begin by considering the nature of bathos, with brief examples from Pope, Byron, Clough and others before turning to the specifically Wordsworthian bathos outlined in points 1) and 2) above. I will examine Wordsworth’s paratextual writings about bathos, in the ‘Preface’ to the Lyrical Ballads and the notes to some of the poems, while turning to the poems themselves. I will consider some of Wordsworth’s late poetry and the Alps episode in Book 6 of The Prelude as examples of bathos 1) before turning to ‘Simon Lee’ as an example of bathos 2). My paper will conclude by examining the role of bathos in the relationship between Wordsworth and Coleridge. I read ‘The Thorn’ as a bathetic collapsing of The Ancient Mariner. I then think about ‘The Idiot Boy’ as a sequel to ‘The Thorn’, for which there is much manuscript evidence, in which ‘The Idiot Boy’ becomes the wondrous poem sprung from its bathetic predecessor. “Exalted by an underpresence” (The 1805 Prelude, 13.71), Wordsworth’s poetry finds wonder in slumps, stumbles, shrinkages, even snails. It is a wonder emitted not through a Coleridgean (as Wordsworth sees it) solemnity but through the comic manoeuvres of bathos – something my paper will explore, chart and advocate.

As always, all are welcome at our usual time of 5.15!