Plenary Sessions

Plenary Lectures

Mary Fairclough

Mary Fairclough is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and Related Literature and Director of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York. She is the author of two monographs: The Romantic Crowd: Sympathy, Controversy and Print Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2013), and Literature Electricity and Politics 1740-1840: Electrick Communication Every Where (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), and of essays and articles which investigate the intersection of literature, science and politics in the eighteenth century and Romantic period. She is currently at work on a new book project which investigates elocution and reading aloud in the Romantic period, in particular, works written by Dissenting women writers for reading aloud, and the devotional practices that such reading enables. Her talk for the conference will discuss new work on action at a distance and the practice of simultaneous meetings.

Orrin Wang

Orrin Wang is Professor of English at the University of Maryland. His many publications include Fantastic Modernity: Dialectical Readings in Romanticism and Theory (Johns Hopkins UP, 1996), Romantic Sobriety: Sensation, Revolution, Commodification, History (Johns Hopkins UP, 2011; winner of the Jean-Pierre Barricelli Prize), and, most recently, a new essay collection, Frankenstein in Theory: A Critical Anatomy (Bloomsbury, 2021). He is a General Editor of Romantic Circles and the series editor for Romantic Circles Praxis. Earlier this year, he was honoured by the Keats-Shelley Association of America with their Distinguished Scholar Award, in recognition of his transformative scholarship in the field of Romanticism and his impact on its community of scholars. His current research project, on which his talk for the conference will draw, involves the possibility of non-dialectical forms of media in Romantic and post-Romantic writing, examining the concept of media without the idea of mediation. Writings from that project will be published early next year in the Lit Z series of Fordham UP as Techno-Magism: Media, Mediation, and the Cut of Romanticism.

Plenary Roundtables

Everything is Disconnected: Ecocriticism at a Distance

The reputed First Law of Ecology, that ‘everything is connected to everything else,’ belongs to the category of ‘ideas once but no longer liberating,’ or so Graham Harman has argued. This panel will take the opportunity of a physically distanced conference to consider disconnections in Romantic environmental criticism. How were Romantic-period cultures of the nonhuman shaped by borders, walls and enclosures, and by the singular, the unknowable, and the misunderstood? The panel will be convened by Jeremy Davies (Leeds), with Joseph Albernaz (Columbia), Amanda Jo Goldstein (UC Berkeley) and Francesca Mackenney (Bristol).

Heritage and Representation

Jeff Cowton, MBE (Curator and Head of Learning at the Wordsworth Trust/BARS Executive Member for Outreach and Impact) and Gillian Dow (English, University of Southampton and Vice President of BARS) will be joined for this round table by Susan Allen (Wordsworth Grasmere), Emma Hills (University of Southampton), Kim Simpson (Chawton House) and Jenny Uglow (Biographer, former Director of Chatto & Windus) to consider how the past is represented by scholars, writers and heritage institutions.

This has become an urgent public issue in recent months. The panel will discuss the challenges of accurately and sensitively presenting historical events and conditions.

In her talk, Susan Allen will consider some of the ways in which the Wordsworths’ everyday encounters with the people they met with on the roads, fells and often their own doorstep shaped their writing, influencing our own collaborative and creative approaches with people and communities often under-represented today.

Centring on her recent work with the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, Emma Hills will consider some of the ways in which heritage organisations are engaging with their colonial collections and histories, and how they are communicating and exploring these histories through their schools education programmes and volunteer engagement practices.

Kim Simpson will discuss the ways that Chawton House – formerly owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight, now home to a considerable library of women’s writing – has sought to interrogate literary reputation and canonicity in the past, while considering some of the limitations of this approach.

Jenny Uglow will give an illustrated talk about the wood engravings of Thomas Bewick, which extends  beyond birds to depict the lives of the people who escape ‘high art’ –  the farmers and boys, dairy-maids and vagrants of  the Tyneside landscape he knew and loved.

Susan Allen works on the outreach programme at Wordsworth Grasmere, engaging with older people, community partners and creative practitioners across Cumbria and further afield. Susan was born in Cumbria and, after studying then teaching at the University of Leeds, worked in community development with organisations in Yorkshire & Humberside including Leeds Neighbourhood Network, the Alzheimer’s Society, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. She now lives on the Solway estuary.

Emma Hills is an SWWDTP-funded PhD researcher at the University of Southampton and the University of Exeter. Working with Hughenden Manor’s National Trust collections, her thesis examines how Benjamin Disraeli’s early reading and writing shaped both his conceptualisation of early-nineteenth century British imperialism, and his project of self-fashioning. Specialising in the long-nineteenth century, her interests lie in book history, Victorian cultural history, cultural heritage, British imperialism, and decolonisation. Emma is currently on a placement working with the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro as part of its project to address the colonial histories of its museum and collections

Kim Simpson has just taken up position as Deputy Director of Chawton House, where she was the Postdoctoral Fellow from 2016. Her research interests include women’s writing of the long eighteenth century, anonymity and the history of the body, and she has published on Eliza Haywood, Delarivier Manley and Jane Austen.

Jenny Uglow is the author of Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick. A former Director of the publishers Chatto & Windus, her other books include the group biographies The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future and In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, as well as several individual biographies, most recently of Edward Lear. Jenny grew up in Cumbria and now lives in Canterbury and Borrowdale, and is a proud Trustee of the Wordsworth Trust.