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 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.