Romantic Realignments is one of the longest-running research seminars in Oxford.

Past speakers have included Marilyn Butler, Gerard Carruthers, David Chandler, Heather Glen, Paul Muldoon, Philip Shaw, Fiona Stafford and Peter Swaab, to name but a few.

All are very welcome to submit an abstract — we aim to provide a friendly 'workshop' setting in which speakers can try out new papers as well as more finished pieces, and in which lively discussion can flourish.

Held every Thursday in Weeks 1 - 8 at 5.15pm, Seminar Room A, St Cross (English Faculty) Building.

If you would like to send us an abstract or suggest a speaker, please contact the current convenors Katherine Fender, Sarah Goode and Honor Rieley at:


CFP - The 'Exotic' Body in 19th-Century British Drama

This may be of interest to Romanticists / nineteenth-century specialists alike - as well as those working within the context of theatre studies in general; abstracts and short biographies to be sent, by 25th May 2014, to:


The ‘Exotic’ Body in 19th-century British Drama

University of Oxford
Funded under the 2011 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships scheme, European Commission

25-26 September 2014
Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford

Convenor: Dr Tiziana Morosetti (Oxford)

Confirmed speakers:
Professor Ross Forman (Warwick), Dr Peter Yeandle (Manchester),
Dr Hazel Waters (Institute of Race Relations, London)

Increasing attention has been paid in recent years to the representation of the Other on the 19th-century British stage, with key studies such as Acts of Supremacy: The British Empire and the Stage, 1790-1930 (Bratton et al. 1991), The Orient on the Victorian Stage (Ziter 2003), Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Brooks 2006), Racism on the Victorian Stage: Representation of Slavery and the Black Character (Waters 2007), Nineteenth-Century Theatre and the Imperial Encounter (Gould 2011), China and the Victorian Imagination: Empires Entwined (Forman 2013). Building on these, the conference aims at exploring the concept, politics, and aesthetic features of the ‘exotic’ body on stage, be it the actual body of the actor/actress as s/he performs in genres such as the ‘Oriental’ extravaganza, or the fictional, ‘picturesque’ bodies they bring on stage. A term that in itself needs interrogation, the ‘exotic’ will therefore be discussed addressing the visual features that characterize the construction and representation of the Other in 19th-century British drama, as well as the material conditions, and techniques that accompany the ‘exotic’ on stage on the cultural and political background of imperial Britain.

One of the dissemination activities for the two-year project ‘The Representation of the “Exotic” Body in 19th-century English Drama’ (REBED), funded under the 2011 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships scheme, the conference also hopes to function as a site for discussing the state of the art on the ‘exotic’ in the theatrical cultures of both Romantic and Victorian Britain; contributions on ongoing research and/or recently completed projects are therefore particularly encouraged.

Although attention will be paid mostly to the non-European Other, papers addressing a European ‘exotic’ are also welcome.

Topics include the following:

Definitions of ‘exotic’:
-Is the non-European Other on stage really ‘exotic’?
-Are any genres more ‘exotic’ (or more liable to convey ‘exotic’ stereotypes) than others?
-Do different dramatis personæ and/or settings convey different degrees of ‘otherness’?
-Can the British on stage be ‘exotic’, and, if so, to what extent?
-Is the spectacular on stage itself ‘exotic’?

Staging the ‘exotic’ body:
-How are costumes, make-up, scenery, movements employed to construct the ‘exotic’?
-Are any visual features more recurrent than others?
-To what extent is the visual representation of the ‘exotic’ body historically accurate?
-How does music contribute to the staging of the Other?
-Who embodies the ‘exotic’? Is the acting career informed by bringing the Other on stage?
-Who were the audiences? Did their composition have an impact on the performance of the ‘exotic’?
-Are any experiences abroad relevant to how managers staged the Other in Britain?
-In what ways were representations of the ‘exotic’ body informed by venues?
-The Other on the London stage and the provinces

Cultural and political backgrounds:
-To what extent did audiences’ expectations affect theatrical representations of the Other?
-In what ways do class, gender, race inform the acting and managing of ‘exotic’ pieces?
-To what extent did scientific and anthropological accounts inform theatrical portraits of the Other?
-Were illustrations of (European and/or) non-European countries informed by theatre?
-In what ways have political narratives influenced (or been influenced by) the ‘exotic’ on stage?
-Has the legal frame for the theatre influenced the staging of the Other?
-Visual points of contact between popular entertainment and theatrical representations of the Other

The travelling ‘exotic’:
-How do texts such as Arabian Nights, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Mazeppa ‘travel’ between dramatic and non-dramatic genres?
-Survival of a Romantic ‘exotic’ in the Victorian staging of the Other;
-Is Othello on the Romantic and Victorian stage ‘exotic’?
-How do translations/adaptations from other languages contribute to the construction of the Other on the British stage? Can we define a British specificity when it comes to the ‘exotic’?
-Has the theatrical representation of the ‘exotic’ in Britain had an impact on non-British stages?

The legacy of 19th-century ‘exotic’ body:
         -Contemporary plays/performances addressing the Other on the 19th-century British stage (e.g. Lolita    
           Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet)
-The ‘exotic’ body on the British stage in a diachronic perspective
-The non-European Other in the 20th- and 21st-century Christmas pantomime

Abstracts of no more than 300 words and a short bio should be sent to by 25 May 2014

Speakers whose abstracts have been accepted will be notified by 15 June.


Week 8 (Monday) – America through a British Lens: William England's Stereoscopic Tour

Professor Bruce Graver, Providence College

* Note: this week's seminar is on Monday instead of the usual Thursday. Same time, same place (Seminar Room A).

For the final Romantic Realignments of Hilary term, our speaker will be Bruce Graver, with a talk on the early photographer William England's foray into North America which should appeal to those interested in landscape, travel writing, Anglo-American relations . . . the points of connection are endless! All welcome, come along and help us send off the term in style.


Week 7 - "Creative Tension: The post-Frankenstein collaboration of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley"

Anna Mercer
(University of York)

This week*, we're delighted to be welcoming Anna Mercer - a first-year doctoral candidate from the University of York - to speak to us about the creative collaboration of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.


Percy Bysshe Shelley (PBS) and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (MWS) collaborated on the latter’s first major work, Frankenstein.  1816-1818 was a period of shared productivity for the Shelleys; as well as Frankenstein, they also produced a joint publication, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour.  Beyond this, however, the Shelleys’ literary relationship and dialogue is little considered by critics, their connection reduced to a source for biographical interpretations of their distinctly separate or individual writings.  

My research aims to study the Shelleys’ relationship in a literary sense, considering the connections between their texts, their intellectual responses to each other, and the reciprocal interchange of ideas between a literary couple that were reading and writing together from 1814-1822.  This paper explores an approach to the Shelleys’ compositions post-Frankenstein, including MWS’s second novel, Matilda, and its connections to PBS’s verse-drama The Cenci.  MWS comments on her involvement with PBS’s composition of The Cenci in 1819: ‘We talked over the arrangements of the scenes together’.  I also look at the way in which further collaborations by both Shelleys on one text (The Mask of Anarchy) can be deduced from manuscript evidence.  1819-1820 (the period during which these works were written) was a time of emotional strain and estrangement in the Shelleys’ marriage, but it is evident in their works that their intellectual engagement survived, and profoundly influenced their writings.

Please join us for another exciting and original talk - all are, as ever, most welcome at both the seminar and the wine reception.  We hope to see you then!

*Please note that the seminar this week will be held in Seminar Room B - just next door to our usual venue, Seminar Room A.


Upcoming Event: Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century

Full registration (for the conference with dinner) will be closing Monday 3 March. Act now to avoid disappointment!

Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century, 1775–1914
Dates: 14 and 15 March 2014
Venue: English Faculty and Magdalen College
Description: The conference explores the diversity of experiences dependent on the coasts in the long nineteenth century. Papers will consider aesthetic responses by artists, writers and musicians, but also focus on everyday material practices. In keeping with the spirit of fluid exchange encouraged by coasts, the conference draws together scholars from across the disciplines of literature, art history, musicology, history, and geography.
Speakers include Rosemary Ashton, Margaret Cohen, Valentine Cunningham, Jane Darcy, Roger Ebbatson, Kate Flint, Nick Freeman, Nick Grindle, James Kneale, Leya Landau, Fiona Stafford, Christiana Payne, David Sergeant and Carl Thompson.
A recital will take place in association with the conference, with singers from the Guildhall School for Music performing works by Elgar, Stanford and Vaughan Williams, introduced by musicologist and concert pianist Ceri Owen.
The conference programme can be downloaded here.


Week 6 – 'De-frosting the Discourse on the Subject: S. T. Coleridge'

Professor Christoph Bode, 
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

This week we're very happy to be welcoming Professor Christoph Bode back to Oxford, where he will soon be taking up a visiting fellowship at St Catherine's College. He will be speaking about 'De-frosting the Discourse on the Subject', unsubtly represented here by this extremely on-the-nose image of frost and midnight . . . All welcome as ever!


For interest of Romanticists - Oxford Garden and Landscape History Seminar

A new forum has been created at Oxford to facilitate the discussion of ideas surrounding notions of space, garden and landscape. More information is available here: 

The next Oxford Garden and Landscape History Seminar will be held on Saturday 8th March from 10:15am to 4:00pm at the Maison Française d'Oxford (2-10 Norham Road); for further details, please see below. 

This is a fantastic opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion, so do come along if you're able to!

To register interest, or for more information, please contact Laurent Châtel at:


Week 5 - "Future Romanticisms"

Professor Edward Larrissy 
(Queen's University Belfast)

We're very excited to be welcoming Professor Edward Larrissy to Romantic Realignments this week.  On Thursday, he'll be speaking to us about the notion of "Future Romanticisms" - our second paper this term stemming from the current Counterfactual Romanticisms project, as introduced to us by Professor Damian Walford Davies in Week 0:

This paper proposes to predict the way in which Romanticism will tend to be taught and anthologised some fifteen years hence. The assumptions behind the predictions are best fully avowed in advance, since they need to be supported in tandem with the presentation of the future canon. As it happens, they are straightforward and plausible. It would almost be sufficient to say that they could be reduced to one single assumption: namely, that the kinds of politically liberal interest that have been driving the revision of the reading list over the past quarter of a century still have the scope, within their own terms, to effect further revision and re-shaping of canon and curriculum. Still, not every change of emphasis I shall propose can be easily derived from that single assumption, so ‘assumptions’ in the plural is probably the fairer term.
            To develop the point, then. It is plausible that ‘British Romanticism’ will be conceived in even more markedly archipelagic terms than it is today: writing from all of the ‘four nations’ (very much including Ireland) will be regularly represented. The emphasis on women’s writing will be maintained and furthered. Working class writing will figure in the list. Writing about the colonial world (chiefly India) will always be present – and (a relative newcomer) – so will writing about America, reflecting the continued strength of humanities departments in American universities, and their interests. The strong presence of Gothic tropes and imagery in contemporary popular – and indeed ‘high’ – culture will support not only the regular appearance of ‘the Gothic’ in the study of Romanticism, but a regular emphasis on such tropes and imagery among authors by no means solely associated with it (Blake, Wordsworth, Percy Shelley). The growing dominance of science in the academy, as well as a continued promotion of interdisciplinarity in all subject-areas, will lead to the taken-for-granted presence of texts under the heading of ‘Literature and Science’ (e.g., Humphry Davy). More generally, there will be some attempt to maintain the new historicist aim of representing the self-understanding of the period by including texts that were famous in their own day but have until recently been neglected.
            Some obvious results flow from these assumptions: works by Burns, Moore, Scott and Hemans will always be visible, as will the poetry of Clare. So far, so relatively simple. But the pressure on time and space in the curriculum will lead to an emphasis on texts where more than one of the above themes can be exhibited. A few examples will have to suffice at this stage. Thus, Thomas Moore will not only be reliably visible, but he will normally be visible in the shape of Lalla Rookh, which allows the lecturer or anthologist to tick both the ‘Irish’ and the ‘Indian’ boxes. Very similar considerations lead to the inclusion of Sydney Owenson’s The Missionary: this can figure in the category of women’s writing, but also in those of Irish writing and writing about India.  Southey’s The Curse of Kehama will be studied. Examples of writing about America are not that abundant, but Thomas Campbell’s Gertrude of Wyoming will appear on most reading lists – a poem that was very popular in the nineteenth century, especially with American readers. Alongside this, the lecturer may be persuaded to present some of Moore’s writings deriving from his American journey. While many of these texts are already receiving some attention again, my point is that in the middle term they will become as close to ‘canonical’ as an anti-canonical inclination will be able to endure.
         The last move in the paper will be to return to the question of how the canon established from the late nineteenth century onwards came to exist. It will be pointed out that its development was closely linked to the preferences of writers (e.g., Yeats) as well as of critics. The question will be asked, whether the academy is shifting its attention away from the kind of writing that might still be an influence on current writers – or whether such a suggestion itself reveals a prejudice about how writing should currently look and behave. This last section will reference McGann, among others.

Do come along for what looks set to be a fascinating paper and a stimulating discussion - all are welcome to attend the seminar, as ever.  We look forward to seeing you on Thursday!