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:


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!


Week 0 - "Counterfactual Romanticism"

Professor Damian Walford Davies
 (Cardiff University)

A very Happy New Year to all! As a special Week 0 seminar* to kick off our 2014 programme, we're very pleased to be welcoming Professor Damian Walford Davies, who will be speaking on notions of "Counterfactual Romanticism" in relation to one of his current projects:


Historicism (of various modalities) remains the critical and methodological orthodoxy in Romantic Studies. It’s had a good innings. Dare we imagine ways beyond it and cultivate more radical rhetorical moves in our attempts to get away from, and then back into, the literary text’s various ‘histories’ (and the ‘histories’ of our own criticism)? How might a counterfactual move refocus the ways we configure the literary ‘past’? This paper, which offers an account of the genesis, current contours and potential afterlives of the project Counterfactual Romanticism, tendentiously opens a window on how things might be – for ourselves as critical latecomers and for the Romantics, too – ‘otherwise’.

Join us for what promises to be a compelling talk to see in the new term - all are welcome to attend as ever, and we hope to see you on Thursday!  

*Please note the slightly earlier time of 5:00pm for this week's seminar.


Hilary 2014 Termcard

Romantic Realignments

Thursdays at 5.15, English Faculty Building, Seminar Room A.
* Extra seminar in Week 0 this term.

* Week 0, 16 Jan, 5pm (note earlier time!):
Damian Walford Davies, Cardiff University
Counterfactual Romanticism

Week 1, 23 Jan:
Robert Stagg, University of Southampton
Wordsworth After Bathos

Week 2, 30 Jan:
Nicolas Lema Habash, Somerville College, Oxford
Metaphysics as Aesthetics: On Nietzsche’s Critique of Kant’s Teleology

Week 3, 6 Feb:
Lucy Linforth, University of Edinburgh
The Antiquarian Collections and Fictions of Horace Walpole and Walter Scott

Week 4, 13 Feb:
Pablo San Martin Varela, University of Edinburgh
Hume, Shelley and the Evolution of Myth

Week 5, 20 Feb:
Edward Larrissy, Queen’s University Belfast
Future Romanticisms

Week 6, 27 Feb:
Christoph Bode, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t M√ľnchen
De-frosting the Discourse on the Subject: S. T. Coleridge

Week 7, 6 March:
Anna Mercer, University of York
Creative Tension: how did Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley collaborate after Frankenstein?

* Week 8, 10 March (Monday):
Bruce Graver, Providence College
America through a British Lens: William England’s Stereoscopic Tour