Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Reading Group Report: 'Melodramatic Monster Villains in Early-Nineteenth-Century Theatre'

7th May 2014
Sarah Winter, Northumbria University
Wednesday 7th May saw NENC members meet for our penultimate session at Durham University, with this session delving back into the 1820s to explore two stage adaptations of Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein. Northumbria’s Sarah Winter introduced us to both Richard Brinsley Peake’s 1823 play Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein and Henry Milner’s 1826 The Man and the Monster; or The Fate of Frankenstein. Brinsley Peake’s version, Sarah suggested, was received positively by audiences attracted by the play’s melodrama and use of groundbreaking special effects. Shelley, however, was not overly-impressed, and many critics dismissed the play as mere sensationalism. Both Brinsley Peake’s and Milner’s adaptations, however, disseminated a deeper political message amongst the masses, tapping into the turbulent political climate of the period. Discussion after Sarah’s paper centred on the significance of the colour of the ‘creature’ (which was, somewhat surprisingly, blue, as opposed to the more conventional twentieth century image of the creature as green), the use of Gothic props in the plays and the issues of presenting the creature as symbolic of the working masses and political debate to a largely working class audience.
Details are to be announced shortly of the upcoming final session of this term. We would like to congratulate NENC member Beatrice Turner, who recently had a successful viva - and also to wish good luck to member Kate Katigbak on her upcoming viva!
Contact: northeast19thcentury@gmail.com
Twitter: @northeastc19

Monday, 28 April 2014

NENC May Meeting

The next meeting of NENC will be held on Wednesday 7th May, at 5pm in the Seminar Room of the IAS on Palace Green (Institute of Advanced Studies - map can be found here https://www.dur.ac.uk/ias/contact/)

This month we look forward to welcoming Northumbria University's Sarah Winter, who will be giving the intriguingly titled paper: 'Melodramatic Monster Villains in Early-Nineteenth-Century Theatre' (abstract below). This will be followed by discussion, and drinks and refreshments at the pub afterwards.

All are welcome and we hope to see many of you there for what promises to be a lively and engaging talk!

'Melodramatic Monster Villains in Early-Nineteenth-Century Theatre'
Sarah Winter, Northumbria University

‘It lives! I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open, it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs’. 
Richard Brinsley Peake, Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein (1823)

The famous phrase ‘It Lives!’, probably more widely-known in the present day as ‘It’s Alive!’, carries instant connotations of Victor Frankenstein’s experimental overreaching in Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). The exclamation is mostly associated with black-and-white film adaptations; yet it emerged much earlier than the twentieth century, as the dramatic saying originated on the early-nineteenth-century stage, when the story was adapted for theatre a few years after the novel’s publication. It was staged as a melodrama, and the novel’s ‘creation scene’ in particular brought spectacle and sensation to the production, aided by developing advances in stage technologies. The first stage adaptation in Britain was penned by Richard Brinsley Peake in 1823, titled Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein. The overall positive public reception towards the production maintained perennial performances, yet reviewers’ derogatory criticism placed a label upon the play as sensationalist. However, I argue that Peake’s version, along with another rival production which competed to stage the Frankenstein narrative, exhibit socio-cultural reflections on the turbulent political context in which they were performed, thereby revealing an important relationship between theatre and political debate.




Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Call for Papers: Making, Breaking and Transgressing Boundaries: Europe in Romantic Writing, 1775-1830

Making, Breaking and Transgressing Boundaries:

Europe in Romantic Writing, 1775-1830

Postgraduate and Early Career Researchers Interdisciplinary Conference

Newcastle University – 15 July 2014

From William Blake to Germaine de Staël, Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Thomas Robert Malthus, the Romantic period is fraught with attempts to define and redefine concepts of European boundaries. This one-day conference invites papers which consider the making, breaking and transgression of boundaries in response to revolution and national struggle across Europe between 1775 and 1830. As the borders of political territories move, expand and collapse, how is this then translated into political, philosophical and literary discourse? What does it mean for a writer in this period to cross boundaries as an exile and travel in a way distinct from the Grand Tour? How are the boundaries of Europe represented as national borders or poetical spaces?

Topics may discuss but are not limited to:
  • Topographical and political boundary formation/breaking in radical literature
  • National identities; marginalisation
  • Romantic exile and exilic behaviour; movement across borders
  • Circulation of texts; censorship and suppression of movement
  • Responses to revolution and reformation
  • The literary in the political text; the political text as ‘literature’
  • Women’s writing; the limitations of liberté, egalité, fraternité
  • Literary, political, and philosophical concepts of Europe, nationhood, and citizenship
Abstracts for 20 minute papers should be 250 words in length followed by a 50 word biography. We invite proposals for poster presentations, film presentations, and interactive pieces that explore the theme of Romantic boundaries in exciting new ways. Please address proposals to Rosie Bailey and Katie Stamps at romanticboundaries@gmail.com

The deadline for submission is 25 April 2014.

Our blog has a dedicated discussion page, which we will update regularly with interactive videos and questions prior to the conference:


We hope to break down the boundaries of distance between interdisciplinary researchers in the humanities, and invite you to join the conversation.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Reading Group Report: 'The Misguided Imaginations of Men’: Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and the Principle of Self in Shelley’s Speculations on Morals and Metaphysics

11th March 2014
Dr Leanne Stokoe
The first session of the newly organised NENC saw members meet at Newcastle University on Tuesday 11th March. The session was hosted by Newcastle’s Dr Leanne Stokoe, who gave a paper on the ‘Principle of Self’ in Shelley’s Speculations on Morals and Metaphysics, written in fragments between 1817 and 1821, and published posthumously by Mary Shelley in 1840. Leanne’s paper focussed on Shelley’s contemplation of ‘disinterestedness’, often interpreted as semi-Godwinian in its outlook, as drawing instead upon the utilitarian philosophy of both Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham. Leanne explored, firstly, Shelley’s attraction to Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), before moving on to Bentham’s interpretation of Smith’s doctrines and his own ideas about social ‘happiness’. Ultimately, however, Shelley’s Speculations suggest that these insights on the permanence of self-interest are ‘misguided’, with Shelley proposing instead a vision of self-interest that offers an altruistic humanity.
Questions and discussion followed on the composition and publication of the fragments, the movement in recent criticism away from the Victorian perception of Shelley as Matthew Arnold’s ‘beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain’ (1881) and ways in which to consolidate Shelley’s poetry of the same time period with these prose pieces, with the conversation spilling over into the pub!
We will shortly be announcing details of our April meeting and hope to see many of you there. In the meantime, don’t forget to follow North East Nineteenth Century on Twitter (@northeastc19) for more updates and news about nineteenth-century events in the region.
Lyndsey Skinner
Contact: northeast19thcentury@gmail.com
Twitter: @northeastc19 

Friday, 7 March 2014

NENC March Meeting

The next meeting of NENC will take place on Tuesday 11th March, at 5.30pm in Room B.30 in the Bedson Teaching Centre at Newcastle University (Location 21 on page two of this campus map: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/documents/Campus-Map-Print.pdf).

Dr Leanne Stokoe, of Newcastle University, will be giving a paper on ‘The Misguided Imaginations of Men’: Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and the Principle of Self in Shelley’s Speculations on Morals and Metaphysics (abstract below). This promises to be a really interesting talk, hopefully with a lot of discussion.

If you can't make it to this session, then never fear - we will be planning the meetings for next term shortly, so watch this space! And if you're interested in helping out in any capacity, then please do get in touch!

Best wishes,

Siobhan and Roisin (NENC Organisers)


‘The Misguided Imaginations of Men’: Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and the Principle of Self in Shelley’s Speculations on Morals and Metaphysics

Dr Leanne Stokoe, Newcastle University

Percy Bysshe Shelley is often viewed as promoting an idealistic view of humanity.  His contemplation of ‘disinterestedness’ in his fragmentary Speculations on Morals and Metaphysics (1817-1821) is interpreted as reflecting a semi-Godwinian vision, in which individuals can evolve in order to ‘forget’ their selfish propensities.  However, this paper argues that he believed such a society could only be realised by embracing, rather than rejecting the self.  It explores Shelley’s receptiveness to theories of self-interest that impacted upon his better-known ideas about imagination and social change.  Such a focus may be seen to relocate Shelley’s moral outlook in alternative Scottish Enlightenment and utilitarian traditions.  Firstly, it sketches Shelley’s attraction to Adam Smith’s doctrines in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), specifically the idea that individuals ‘imagine’ the situation of others from within their own self-interest.  Secondly, it explores Shelley’s response to Jeremy Bentham’s transformation of Smithian morality in order to promote his reformist concept of social ‘happiness’.  Notwithstanding Shelley’s attraction to such progressive interpretations of the self, I argue that he believed these insights to be ‘misguided’.  Rather than depicting self-interest as a permanent aspect of human nature, Shelley’s Speculations conclude that its intrinsic imaginative propensities ultimately inspire an altruistic humanity.