Sunday, 17 June 2012

Conference report BARS 2012: Romantic Connections

The 1st of June saw Newcastle University host the Early Careers and Postgraduate Conference for BARS, entitled ‘Romantic Connections: Networks of Influence, c.1760-1835’, organised by Helen Stark (Newcastle University), Matthew Sangster (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Matthew Ward (University of Edinburgh). This day conference was well attended, and consisted of many interesting panels and sessions. Professor John Mee gave the keynote paper, entitled ‘“If any thing can be called a man’s property it is the produce of his mind”: The Literary Fund and Claims of Literature (1802)’, in which Professor Mee discussed The Literary Fund alongside contemporary popular writers and groups such as the Della Cruscans.
Another notable moment in the day was the fascinating roundtable discussion. This comprised of a talk from Professor Gary Kelly on funding projects, a lively and engaging report from Professor Matthew Grenby on his current editing and research project on the letters of William Godwin, an exciting introduction to the research resources at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and a valuable insight into academic collaboration and new media from Dr Kerri Andrews of Strathclyde University.
Alongside these stand-out sessions, the conference brought together many unique and fascinating papers in a series of well-designed and lively panels. Of particular interest was the morning panel, ‘The Coleridge Connection’, chaired by Jennifer Orr. Philip Ahearne gave his debut conference paper on Coleridge as instructor in his paper, ‘Coleridge: The Teacher and the Talker’, which was followed by Newcastle University’s Beatrice Turner and Joanna Taylor, giving their papers, ‘A Bare and Solitary Branch: Hartley Coleridge Re-writes his Family Tree’, and ‘The Transition of Debt between Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’, respectively. In this Coleridge panel, all three papers complemented each other beautifully; Philip Ahearne’s paper succinctly arguing for Coleridge as instructor, before Beatrice Turner gave an intriguing and satisfying examination of the problematic relationship between Coleridge and his son Hartley, followed finally by Joanna Taylor, who analysed another of Byron’s relationships, that between himself and his protégé, Shelley. One would expect a lively and engaging discussion to follow, and in this regard the panel did not disappoint, offering a fascinating question and answer session following the papers.
In the afternoon, Matthew Grenby chaired the four-paper panel, ‘Politics and the Personal’. Cato Marks presented his excellent paper ‘My Life has for Several Years Been a Theatre of Calamity: Caleb Williams and the Theatrum Mundi Trope’. Dr Marks’ paper was the beginning of a very engaging panel, followed by ‘Alison Morgan’s ‘Starving Mothers and Murdered Children in Cultural Representations of Peterloo’, Sophie Coloumbeau’s ‘Ne suis-je pas son mari? Frances Burney, Charlotte Smith and Cross-Channel Conjugality’, and finally Jessica Evans’ ‘The Monstrous Body Politic: Medical Language and Political Reform in the Romantic Press’. As with the morning sessions, all four papers complemented each other extremely well. As a consequence, the speakers, the attentive audience, and conference organisers for putting together such well-constructed panels must all be congratulated.
Indeed, as a whole, ‘Romantic Connections’ was a remarkably well-organised and welcoming conference. On minor notes, there were ample networking opportunities for delegates between panels and throughout lunch. For a conference on ‘connections’, the overall mood of the day was of warm congeniality and collaboration. The end of the conference was followed by a meal at local restaurant Marco Polo’s and drinks afterwards, continuing the theme of collaboration and discussion in an atmosphere of sociability and stimulation.

- Dr. Christopher Machell (independent researcher)


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