Sunday 21 October 2012

Keats, Wollstonecraft, and the Gothic: A Bumper Month for Romanticism Fans!

This month saw the publication of what is probably the most important book published all year for Romanticists: Nicholas Roe's superb John Keats: A New Life. Roe has previously published widely on Romanticism, including the monographs John Keats and the Culture of Dissent and Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years, and the excellent biography of Leigh Hunt, Fiery Heart. In John Keats: A New Life, Roe again demonstrates his great skill as a biographer, combining extensive and pain-staking scholarly research with a talent for story-telling which brings the details of Keats's biography to life.

Roe's Keats is not delicate and tragic, but a passionate figure who, Roe convincingly argues, was an opium addict, writing some of his best-loved poems while under the influence of this drug. Published by Yale University Press, John Keats: A New Life has an RRP of £25, but is currently available on Amazon for £18.29. A Kindle edition is also available for £16.46. Whether you're a dedicated fan of Keats or merely a casual admirer of his poetry, I really can't recommend this book highly enough.

If you couldn't make it along to Professor Sharon Ruston's lecture on Mary Wollstonecraft given to The Royal Society last month, you'll be pleased to know that a video and an audio recording of the talk have been put up on the society's website. In the lecture, Ruston argues that Wollstonecraft used her knowledge of contemporary science for a political purpose. Referring in particular to William Smellie's Philosophy of Natural History, Ruston makes a strong case for Wollstonecraft having been inspired by her reading of a number of works on natural history at the time that she was writing her Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). At just under an hour long, this lecture is lively and engaging, and well worth making the time to listen to.

Villa Diodati: The property rented by Lord Byron during the summer of 1816
Finally, fans of the Gothic should take a look at the range of programmes which are part of the  'Gothic Imagination' series currently running on BBC Radio 4. The two-part adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula which was the Classic Serial this week was well produced and very gripping, so I'm looking forward to the first installment of the next two-parter in the series, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which is due to be broadcast on Sunday 28 October at 15.00. Both adaptations will be available to listen to again on the website.

Also part of this series was a 90-minute adaptation of the 1984 play by Howard Brenton, 'Bloody Poetry', which tells the story of Percy and Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron, and John Polidori in Geneva during the summer months of 1816. This was another great production on the whole, capturing the youth and passion of the circle of friends during that dark and gloomy summer. It's only available on 'Listen Again' for another 6 days, so catch it while you can!

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