Tuesday 22 April 2014

Two New Romanticism Blogs

There are some superb Romanticism blogs available on the web, and I thoroughly enjoy reading the latest news from a range of academics who are passionate about sharing their research. It's great to read posts on authors and topics outside of my own areas of specialism, and to keep up to date with what's going on in the Romantic studies community.

The problem with a lot of academic blogs is that they're often written by a single researcher. This frequently results - and I know I'm guilty of this! - in blogs remaining stagnant for weeks or months at a time while various teaching and research commitments are met; it can also mean that posts are rather narrow in focus.

Two new Romanticism blogs that seek to address these issues have recently launched: The Wordsworth Trust's Wordsworth and Romanticism Blog and the Romantic Textualities Blog. Both hosted by thriving Romanticism sites, these blogs are updated regularly and feature posts from teams of contributors. This results in a range of lively and varied posts on a startlingly wide array of topics; I've really enjoyed reading up on global Romanticism, Harriet Shelley, and the Gothic and travel writing so far, to name but a few.

The Wordsworth and Romanticism Blog

Officially launched on 7 April this year to coincide with Wordsworth's birthday, the Wordsworth and Romanticism blog provides introductions to a range of Romantic figures and topics, some very well known, and others less so. So far, posts have covered P. B. Shelley in revolutionary Ireland, Byron's exiles, Claire Clairmont, William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Harriet Shelley, as well as a rather playful post speculating on the positions various male Romantic poets would play on a football team! The beauty of these posts is that they make their content accessible for those with no previous knowledge of the subject, yet also engage those readers who have a more long-standing interest in Romanticism.

Stephen Gill's post on Wordsworth is a particular highlight, capturing the essence of the poet for those new to his work while also reminding those of us who are familiar with his poetry why he is such a fascinating writer and how we can never truly consider our readings of his texts finished. Wordsworth is a poet, Gill argues, who 'offers us continual renewals of pleasure', living many lives and covering numerous themes yet ultimately always displaying a determination 'to try to understand what it means really to live'.

Claire Clairmont, by Amelia Curran
Written by a selection of big-name academics, early career researchers, and non-academic writers, these posts are invariably well-written and engaging. Sinéad Fitzgibbon describes the wonderful moment when P. B. Shelley, with youthful enthusiasm and zeal, threw his 'Address to the Irish People' from a window onto the heads of passers by during a visit to Dublin in 1812, while Andrew McConnell Stott shows us how Byron not only experienced exile himself, but also banished friends and acquaintances from his company. Lesley McDowell's post on Claire Clairmont reconsiders this intriguing figure who was part of the Shelley circle while never quite seeming to belong. Educated and independent without being rich, Clairmont was a woman whom Byron 'hadn't a clue how to handle'.

It's one of the great strengths of this blog that it strives to introduce its readers to a range of lesser-known Romantics, publishing posts on female writers and cultural figures alongside those that consider the male Big Six. This site is definitely one to bookmark.

The Romantic Textualities Blog

Aimed more at a specifically academic audience than the Wordsworth and Romanticism Blog, the Romantic Textualities Blog offers some wonderfully varied posts covering cutting-edge research, pedagogical reflections, conference reports, and introductions to topics. Part of the wider Romantic Texualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780-1840 site, there's always something interesting to be found on this blog: I've recently enjoyed posts on Burke and Hare (Sarah Sharp), Wordsworth's poetic development (Elias Greig), and global Romanticism (Manu Samriti Chander).

The scholars writing for this site often consider a topic or theme across several posts; one particularly successful (and useful) set of posts has been Daniel Cook's 'Teaching Romanticism' series. Beginning with a consideration of how we teach Romanticism in terms of setting period boundaries, Cook reflects upon designing a Romantic and Gothic Literature paper at the University of Dundee. Later posts then turn to examining Romanticism modules, Scottish literature, and Taught Masters programmes.

The Villa Diodati
Another compelling series is written by Maximiliaan van Woudenberg, who introduces us to the Fantasmagoriana: the collection of gothic stories, read by the Shelley circle at the Villa Diodati in 1816, which inspired the famous ghost-story writing contest. I've been meaning to look at these stories for a long time, and after reading van Woudenberg's wonderfully enthusiastic posts I'm now determined to make time to look at them; who could resist the lure of a tale called 'The Spectre-Barber', which tells the story of a ghost who must be shaved bald in order to be set free?(!). As well as providing plot summaries and introductory information, van Woudenberg also considers the influence of each tale on Frankenstein. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the posts in this series, and highly recommend that Mary Shelley fans should keep an eye out for them in the coming months.