When an undergraduate professor assigned Roland Barthes and told me, “The Author Is Dead,”1 I heard with elation the clarion cry of burgeoning self-importance. I was no longer a measly high school student who naively derived literature’s meaning from the author’s personal psychology. No, no, I was a college student now and could refer to The Text as Ding an sich. In fact, by interpreting it, I was basically writing the darn thing! Reborn as a liberated reader, I ultimately heeded the call to become a literary critic myself.
What would Lord Byron say, I wonder. How might that quintessentially Romantic “man of affairs,” as Jerome McGann once delighted in punning, respond to our current state of affairs? What would he say of our endlessly streaming 24-hour news cycle, or to our social media? We can never know, of course. But as a politics and news junkie, as well as a Romanticist, I love to speculate.
Upon suffering a concussion, I found myself in the hospital and attempted to convince the nurse that I was perfectly alright by holding up the copy of Pride and Prejudice that was in my bag and reciting dramatically, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Apparently, recitation of dear Jane is not evidence of a functioning brain (I had a grade two concussion after all). But the point is that even during a moderately traumatic event, literature was one of the first things to pop into my addled head.
Atesede Makonnen is the winner of the 2017 NASSR Graduate Student Paper Prize. She is starting her second year as an English PhD student at Johns Hopkins University (MA in Shakespeare Studies, King’s College London, BA, Dartmouth College). Her research examines performance and race. Her winning paper will be published in the conference issue of European Romantic Review.
For this week’s blog post I thought I’d give a recap of our friends at BARS’s annual conference this past July. The theme of the 15th International Conference was “Romantic Improvement,” and was hosted at the gorgeous King’s Manor in York, July 27-30th. Plenary speakers included Catherine Hall, Jane Rendall, Nigel Leask, and Jon Klancher.
Welcome, readers, to a new year of blogging from the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus!
We have an exciting year planned, with some returning bloggers and some new, as well as a number of guest posts. Be sure to check here often for new content and to keep in touch via social media.
Stephanie Edwards’s Recap
Day four of the conference was, undoubtedly, the most exciting for me since it was the day of my own panel. Before my mid-morning panel, I heard some interesting and unique papers at “The Life of Things.” Brianna Beehler’s paper, “Frankenstein’s Doll: Production Narratives, Animation, and the Novel,” offered a really cool and fresh approach to reading Frankenstein as a doll narrative, with the Creature moving from doll to doll player. As a huge fan of Frankenstein, I was very excited to think about my beloved text in a new way.
Stephanie Edwards’ Recap
Day three of the NASSR conference, for me, signaled the beginning of a shift in my conference-going interests. On Friday, I attended the roundtable on Romanticism after Black Lives Matter, a roundtable that I plan to discuss at length in my conference postmortem blog post. What is important in the context of day three, however, is how that roundtable influenced what panels I attended today. I decided this morning that I would attend all (possible) panels that featured a paper on a writer of colour or that dealt with issues of race. This decision not only enriched my overall conference experience but brought forth some of the most engaging papers and Q&A discussions of the week.
Caroline Winter’s Recap
I started the day by chairing a wonderful panel on Affect and Economics. I was especially excited about this since I’m working on Romantic economics myself. It was lovely to hear about the work that others are doing in this area, and it made me wonder what became of New Economic Criticism? I’ve heard a lot of this kind of criticism pop up in various contexts throughout the conference, but we don’t seem to see it as a coherent strand of criticism, and I’m not sure why.
Every day during this year’s conference, one or more NASSR grads will post a recap of the day’s events. Many delegates are livetweeting, so we’re also using Storify to capture each day’s highlights.
Stephanie Edwards’ Recap
As a NASSR conference newbie, my first day of this year’s conference was a haze of drinking coffee, attempting to subtly read nametags, and writing feverishly in my notebook. Above all, though, today provided me with an overwhelming amount of generative and invigorating scholarship and a chance to listen to the exciting new work being done by many Romantic critics who I have admired for a long time. From this morning’s panel, “Plant Love and Vital Sparks: Materialism, Vitalism, and Erasmus Darwin,” in which paper topics ranged from the ambiguity of electricity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the sexual politics of Blake’s amaryllis, to the panel that closed out my day, “Feeling/Less/Life,” where David Clark, Lubabah R. Chowdhury, and Jonathan C. Williams provided an absolutely fascinating discussion on the aesthetics of death, each panel I attended either increased my interest in an already-familiar branch of scholarship or alerted me to new areas and ideas that left me wanting to spend the night getting cozy with the MLA Bibliography.