“Haywood and the Reading Public: Reclaiming Femininity and Didactic Expression from Fantomina to Besty Thoughtless” by Hanna Warsame

As “the most prolific British woman writer of the eighteenth century,” Eliza Haywood was forced to examine her authorial intent in the face of an onslaught of personal attacks by her male contemporaries (Saxton 2, 8). Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad (1728) remains the most well-known public critique of Haywood’s writing – “shameless,” “scandalous,” and “licentious” were among the politically loaded terms he used to categorize her work (Saxton 7). Scholars have noted the clash of values at the heart of this critique: Pope’s Scriblerian sympathies were in direct opposition to the “secret histories” found in women’s writing such as that of Haywood’s (Brewer 220); by extension, writing that emphasized and even praised women’s expression of sexuality, feeling, and emotions consequently lacked honour, value, and respect. Pope was not alone in his critique of the author: Henry Fielding and Richard Savage both similarly attacked her status as a woman writer (i.e., “Mrs. Novel”) as well as the “scandalous” content of her fiction (7-8).

Gender no doubt had its role to play in these critiques: eighteenth-century society already contained pre-established biases against women’s writing, associating it with “inappropriate public display, sexual transgression,” and, most strikingly, “the production of inferior texts,” (Saxton 8). As a result of Pope’s critiques, Haywood’s readership was divided into two groups: “those who admired her talent as a chronicler [of] sensations of love, and those who sided with the Scriblerians [in] seeing her as the epitome of scandal-writing,” (Brewer 223). Two questions consequently arise from these events: Firstly, how did Haywood’s relationship with the English reading public change after the 1730s, and secondly, how did the content of Haywood’s writing and creative production become transformed as a result of these critiques through the printing press?

Despite the attacks on her reputation, Haywood’s creative genius allowed her to remain true to her status as the “Great Arbitress of Passion” throughout her career (Brewer 225), with the rising number of novels and periodicals “attributed” to her name remaining a topic of debate within Haywood scholarship today (Orr 335, Brewer 218-19). I argue that the historical development (rather than the decline) of Haywood’s didacticism rests on two propositions: firstly, that traditional readings of Haywood’s narratorial shift from youthful “amatory” to mature “domestic” fiction are false; and secondly, that the political nature of Haywood’s writings increased in transparency in the years leading up to the French Revolution.

The centre of focus for my analysis of Haywood’s didacticism therefore comprises of the “socialized conditions” (McGann 120) as well as the political and economic contexts (King 26-7) in which her fiction was being published. With regards to gender norms, a comparison of Haywood’s early works, such as Fantomina (1725), with her later publications, such as The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751), demonstrate Haywood’s desire to not only claim but also reclaim femininity and personal identity through the course of her career. 

Haywood’s early novel Fantomina demonstrates values as anti-Scriblerian as it gets. As a  “masquerade novel,” the identity of Fantomina is hidden throughout multiplicities of narrative masks. I argue that Haywood does not truly discard with this masking technique in her later works, such as Betsy Thoughtless, a narrative in which young women are still forced to perform their virtue to maintain public respectability in order to “survive” within the social constraints of eighteenth-century England. This makes Haywood’s supposed shift to “domestic” fiction no less “amatory,” if indeed the “scandalous” nature of her writing remains a fundamental component of her later texts.

Haywood’s fiction is therefore necessarily a medium through which she can transparently communicate to the reading public expressions of gender, sexuality, and politics; even moreso in the latter half of her career.


Author Biography

Hanna Warsame is an MA student in English at the University of Ottawa. Her research focuses on Wael Hallaq’s revision of Edward Said’s Orientalism, as it applies to Romantic literature of the long eighteenth-century. She is the recipient of a SSHRC MA award for her research proposal in British Romanticism and the Ottoman Empire.


Works Cited

Brewer, David. “‘Haywood,’ Secret History, and the Politics of Attribution.” The Passionate Fictions of Eliza Haywood, edited by Kirsten T. Saxton and Rebecca P. Bocchicchio, University Press of Kentucky, 2000.

King, Kathryn R. A Political Biography of Eliza Haywood. Routledge, 2012.

McGann, Jerome J. The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory. Oxford UP, 1985.

Orr, Leah. “The Basis for Attribution in the Canon of Eliza Haywood.” The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, vol. 12, no. 4, 2011, pp. 335-375.

Powell, Manushag N. “Eliza Haywood, Periodicalist(?)” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, 2014, pp. 163-186.

Saxton, Kirsten T, and Rebecca P. Bocchicchio, editors. The Passionate Fictions of Eliza Haywood. University Press of Kentucky, 2000.


“Tribal Terminology or the Language of Liberation: Tracing Volk from Herder to Büchner” by Jeffrey Jarzomb

While not necessarily explicitly tied to Romanticism, this project deals with the use and conceptualization of the term “Volk” in selected works by several Romantic or proto-Romantic authors including Johann Gottfried von Herder, Friedrich Schiller, and Heinrich von Kleist, before moving past Romanticism to Therese Huber and Georg Büchner. Using a wide breadth of texts from these authors, this dissertation will examine the development of a discourse of “Volk” and ethnicity which reflects, in some ways, a burgeoning conception of German nationality. The prevalence of the term “Volk” can be seen in its use within every iteration of a German Constitution, starting with the recommendations of the Frankfurter Nationalversammlung in 1848, and is present in language as innocuous as folk festivals and as virulent as Nazi rhetoric. 

This research project gives particular attention to the friction between instances of aspiration and execution in unifying cultural groups within these texts, hypothesizing that the idealistic notions associated with this term gradually decline as faith in their realization dissipates. Notable works adhering to this trend include Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, a dramatized account of the Swiss national founding myth; Kleist’s Der Prinz von Homburg, which is often read through the themes of national unification; Huber’s Klosterberuf, a narrative that explicitly questions the nature of ethnicity and its expression in the feminine; and Büchner’s Dantons Tod, a drama that sees both main characters’ rhetoric revolve around speaking for the “Volk.” Although these texts set a clear trajectory in the progression of this discourse, there are many other examples from these authors that problematize this concept. Ideally, this dissertation will resolve such contradictions in a meaningful way that also sheds light on the problematic nationalisms of our own times.

Starting with the philosophical writings of Herder, as well as some of the reference literature from the period, a distinct connection between the concepts of “Volk,” ethnicity, language, and statehood begin to emerge. Many of these texts contain conflicts between the prescriptive definitions of their terms, how they would like to see such terms viewed moving forward, and their descriptive sections, denoting their current applications. This specific tension is quite visible in Herder’s Ossian und die Lieder alter Völker, in which his hope for the fulfillment of his prescriptions is dashed by the generous—and ahistorical—editorializing of the text he analyzes. 

This project will examine the philosophical and literary disconnects between the possibilities revealed in unifying large groups under cultural and class-based conceptions and their realization. More often than not, the actualization of these concepts within the text leads to unexpected or disastrous consequences. In Michael Kohlhaas, the nobility wins and the once unified “provisorische(n) Weltregierung” has degenerated into a mob of looters. Büchner’s Dantons Tod sees both Danton and Robespierre using (and abusing) the rhetoric of “das Volk” for their own purposes, to the detriment of their revolution. Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, however, sees the ultimate success of this language in the expulsion of foreign empire and the death of the central villain, Geßler. 

While questions around aspiration and execution will undoubtedly remain central throughout the examination of works in this project, discussions on the parameters of membership within this group will also play a central role. How does one determine who is a member of the “Volk”? To what extent does this term refer to class? How do female characters express their sense of membership, or more importantly, in which ways can they not express their membership? The intersections of identities and the dichotomies of inclusivity v. exclusivity and aspiration v. execution will be a guiding theme in the development of this dissertation.



Jeffrey Jarzomb is a third year PhD student in the University of Washington’s German Studies Program. In the coming months he will take his doctoral exams and, hopefully, achieve candidate status. Jeffrey’s primary research interests are the intersections of nationalism and literature in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

“Inner Human Being, Rehabilitation of Theological Motif in Light of the Psychology of Friedrich Schleiermacher” by Matthis Glatzel

‘Inner human being’ is one of the key concepts of Paul’s anthropology. On the hand,  Paul describes it in 2. Cor 4,16 as part of being human, which is renewed daily, and,  on the other hand, he locates it close to what he calls “law” in Rom 7,22. This motif  has its origin in Plato’s politeia and is negotiated in works from Augustine to Martin  Luther. While Plato describes it as being strongly linked to reason in opposition to  instinct, it is Augustine who identifies a deeper connection between ‘inner human  being’ and truth. Finally, Luther distinguishes between ‘inner’ and ‘outer human being’.  Not surprisingly, he understands ‘inner human being’ as being in a deep connection to  god while ‘outer human being’ is lost in sin. In summary, one can say that ‘inner human  being’ is one part of being human itself, but it is also directed toward a transcendent  sphere. 

When researching that concept in current theological encyclopedias, it is either not  mentioned at all or rejected as a Hellenistic estrangement of biblical anthropology.  Considering its great importance in Paul’s anthropology, this neglect is surprising and  likewise a symptom of anti-psychologism in philosophy and theology. This tradition  reaches back to the middle of the 19th century. At that time, psychology developed from  a philosophical into a scientific discipline. In this form, psychology has nothing to offer  for the explanation of a theological motif.  

To counter anti-psychologism in philosophy and theology, I am convinced that it is  necessary to search for concepts within romantic traditions. They are prior to  philosophical and theological anti-psychologism, emphasize inwardness, and, in the  form of the Psychologievorlesungen (Lectures on Psychology) of Friedrich  Schleiermacher, they offer a psychological concept that holds a fundamentally different  starting point than the psychology which had arisen at the end of the 19th century: the  term “living”. It derives from Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis and therefore can be  considered a motif of romantic philosophy. Moreover, it has formative power over the  psychological work of Schleiermacher. He does not strictly separate between body and  soul but sees a connection between both in the “living”. What he understands under  “living” can best be described as movement or as continuous interaction between  subject and object. As Schleiermacher’s Psychologievorlesungen are grounded in the  term “living”, he develops his concept from the “Denktätigkeiten” ( activities of  cognition) toward the feeling of the sublime and the beautiful, culminating in religious  feeling. 

In my research, I want to conceptualize ‘inner human being’ as being part of the human  conscience and explain how to understand its directedness toward a transcendent  sphere. For this, Schleiermacher’s work is very productive because he presents an  innovative conception of “inside” and “outside”. The two of them are connected in the  unity of “living”. This connection is maintained by means of every mental action  happening in both spheres, as action proceeds from “inside” to “outside” as well as in  the opposite direction. Accordingly, Schleiermacher offers an exposition of the human  inner workings, points out its context with “living”–instead of just with notional reflexion- -and presents an explanation of what can be understood as ‘inner human being’.

Author Bio:

Matthis Glatzel is a PhD student at the University of Leipzig, Germany. He studied philosophy and theology in Mainz, Frankfurt and Leipzig and is mainly interested in philosophy of religion. In his research he examines the psychology of Friedrich Schleiermacher as a philosophical psychology, which is deeply grounded in romantic thoughts and ideas.  

“Abduction and Pursuit Plots in the Romantic-era Novel” by Katherine Nolan

I am in the early stages of researching a book project tentatively titled, “Hot Pursuit: Abduction Narratives in the Romantic-era Novel.”  The Romantic-era novel is a notoriously disparate subject. Even the phrase “Romantic-era novel” suggests that scholars are hesitant to declare something definitively as a “Romantic novel.” Instead, fiction from 1776-1832 is a patchwork of genres that seems to bear the handiwork of Victor Frankenstein himself. The NOVEL special issue on the Romantic-era novel highlights the sense of the novel itself as “hijacked” by genre fiction. These genres, loosely defined, include sentimental novels, gothic novels, and historical novels. Through these genres, I detect one figure running (or being chased) through all of them: the abducted female figure. Charting a lineage from Richardson’s Clarissa, romantic-era heroines across all genres are in constant danger of abduction and entrapment. Even the gentle drama of Jane Austen’s novels flirt with an abduction plot in Emma. My book project will attempt to map how these genres relate to the narrative of abduction as a way of charting, if not ideological coherence, than at very least the ideological battle lines of the Romantic era. I am also thinking about subtle differences in these plots; for instance, the difference between pursuit and abduction. Perhaps these distinctions might offer something like the influential template Toni Bower created for the novels of 1660-1760 in Force or Fraud. I am in the early stages of researching this project. Some preliminary questions I have are: What are the salient differences between the various genres of the Romantic era as they approach abduction plots? Can these plots help scholars define some commonalities in the Romantic novel?  How do domestic plots about abduction interact with the very real abductions of African people during the romantic period? What can abduction plots tell us about the Romantic era? 

Just as an example of the kinds of moments in novels I am interested in: I have found myself thinking a lot about Ann Radcliffe’s early novel A Sicilian Romance as an exemplar of a “pursuit” plot. The heroine, Julia, has run off with her lover Hippolitus to escape the odious, older suitor chosen for her by her father (in a move reminiscent of Clarissa). Radcliffe figures Julia’s escape in relation to her confusion with another gothic heroine in pursuit. For, in the forest, there are two women with their lovers escaping from evil patriarchs. Just when we think Julia is at risk of being caught, Radcliffe swaps her with a near identical figure: 

Wretched girl! I have at least secured you!,’ said a cavalier, who now entered the room. He stopped as he perceived Julia; and turning to the men who stood without, ‘Are these,’ said he, ‘the fugitives you have taken?’… it appeared that the stranger was the Marquis Murani, the father of the fair fugitive whom the duke had before mistaken for Julia. (Radcliffe 112) 


Because Julia is indistinguishable from this other gothic heroine, both women are able to escape their pursuers. It allows them to enact their own desires to be with their lovers. Julia’s double also points to the generic nature of gothic novels, the rigidity of their conventions often cast by critics as a potential detractor from the seriousness and literary value of the form. However, generic convention seems to be crucial to how the novel imagines possibilities of agency within the pursuit plot. Julia is fungible with other women because their stories are the same, not because they might look the same; creating structures of mutual aid between women. 


Bio: Katherine Nolan earned her Ph.D. in 2020 from the University of Chicago. Her dissertation was titled, “She Objects: On the (Im)Mobility of Women in the Eighteenth Century Novel.” Katherine’s work has appeared in Philological Quarterly, The Rambling, and (forthcoming) Eighteenth-Century Fiction. She has presented at ASECS, NASSR, and the Legacies of Enlightenment Workshop. Katherine now teaches high school English at an independent school in the Seattle area. 


“An Introduction to Percy Shelley’s Gothic Fiction” by Molly Watson

On 8 March 1812, nineteen-year-old Percy Shelley wrote the following letter to William Godwin:

[…] [T]o you, I owe the inestimable boon of granted power, of arising from the state of intellectual sickliness and lethargy which I was plunged two years ago, and of which ‘St. Irvyne’ and ‘Zastrozzi’ were the distempered altho unoriginal visions. 

(LPBS I, 226)

Shelley claims that only by reading Godwin’s Political Justice (1793) was he “no longer the votary of Romance” (228). Shelley’s romances, written and published the previous year are typical Gothic novels. Zastrozzi (1810) is a revenge tale in which the eponymous character seeks to destroy the son of the man who had sexually dishonoured Zastrozzi’s mother. St. Irvyne (1811) is a more complex work. Readers are first introduced to a Gothic narrative in which the bandit Wolfstein is haunted by the spirit-human Ginotti, who seeks to obtain the elixir vitae. Running parallel to this is a sentimental plot following the plight of Eloise De St. Irvyne, who is impregnated by the libertine Nempere and subsequently marries the Irish nobleman Fitzeustace. St. Irvyne ends with the somewhat puzzling declaration that “Ginotti is Nempere. Eloise is the sister of Wolfstein” (252). Between 1809-12 Shelley produced an immense amount of literature, ranging from Gothic poetry to Godwinian novels contemplating the failure of the French revolution. It was a period of rapid development for Shelley, both politically and personally.

Unsurprisingly, contemporary reviewers did not warm to Shelley’s novels. Proclaiming themselves as guardians of public decency, The Critical Review attacked Zastrozzi as “one of the most savage and improbable demons that ever issued from a diseased brain” (329). Similarly, St. Irvyne was regarded by The Anti-Jacobin as a novel only fit for prostitutes (Barcus, 53). Subsequent scholarship has not been much kinder. Biographer Jean Overton Fuller dubiously suggests that Shelley wrote his Gothic fiction in a state of somnambulism, and therefore did not fully comprehend what he had written (31). For Angela Wright and Dale Townshend, Shelley “dabbled” in the Gothic before moving on to bigger and better things, as it were (14). Such scholarly dismissal demonstrates the sheer desperation to cling onto Shelley’s literary wholeness. Yet, this was formed in part by Shelley himself, who would always feel embarrassed that he succumbed to “intellectual sickliness and lethargy” (226). 

But to cling onto Shelley’s literary wholeness is to dismiss the many nuances and complexities within his Gothic fiction. If it has been established that the Gothic and British Romanticism are ambiguous and fluid, there has been little incentive to approach Shelley’s novels in the same way. Indeed, Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne demonstrate Shelley’s experimentation with literary narrativization and genre, as well as showcasing his conflicting ideological voice. Shelley sympathises with Zastrozzi’s atheistic dismissal of “vulgar prejudices” (103) while celebrating divine retribution, which seems odd given that Shelley was a self-proclaimed atheist at the time. Likewise, in St. Irvyne, Shelley honours free love while simultaneously warning Nempere that “the God whom thou hast insulted has marked thee!” (232). The novels, then, are far more intricate than previously acknowledged. 

Indeed, trying to pin Shelley down as an arrogant young man who “tired” of the Gothic in favour of intellectualism is problematic. Attempting to fill in the gaps of Shelley’s juvenilia ignores the fact that Shelley as a man and as a writer is an aporia, a found manuscript that is, essentially, incomplete. Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne are not simply antecedents to his major poetry, and to read them solely in relation to his “masterpieces” dismisses the novels’ own autonomy. Paradoxically, Shelley is at his most Romantic when Gothic. 

Author biography

Molly graduated with a first-class BA in English Literature at Huddersfield in 2020 and is currently conducting an MRes on Percy Shelley’s Gothic fiction. She has submitted a PhD proposal on motherhood and loss in the children’s literature of Sara Coleridge and Mary Shelley. 

Works Cited

“ART. 19.-Zastrozzi; a Romance, 1 Vol.” The Critical Review, Or, Annals of Literature, vol. 21, no. 3, 1810, pp. 329-331. ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.libaccess.hud.ac.uk/historical-periodicals/art-19-zastrozzi-romance-1-vol/docview/4380540/se-2?accountid=11526. Accessed 3 Feb 2021.

Barcus, James. Shelley: The Critical Heritage. Routledge & K. Paul, 1975, 53. 

Fuller, Jean Overton. Shelley. Jonathan Cape, 1968, 31. 

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Vol I: Shelley in England. Edited by Frederick Jones, Clarendon Press, 1964, 226-228.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Zastrozzi & St. Irvyne. Edited by Stephen Behrendt, Broadview Press, 2002, 59-252.

Wright, Angela, and Townshend, Dale, editors. Romantic Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion. Edinburgh University Press, 2016, 14.

New Approaches Blog: “Emotion, Deixis, and Wordsworth” by Madeleine Roepe

One of the first things we learn to do is to reach, or point, to things and people which become important to us. Our need for pointing in order to be understood manifests itself in language, and this essential cognitive tool has a name: deixis.


Pronouns are common deictic devices used to indicate boundaries of “I,” “you,” and “we.” The pronoun “she” for example semantically indicates a female-presenting person, but once placed into conversation comes to mean (or becomes synonymous with) one particular person with which the ‘pointer’ establishes a relationship. Space is also defined via deictic terms to clarify particular location: “here,” “there,” “near,” “far,” etc. We’re used to seeing this kind of thing with the Romantics: broadly speaking, the experiential nature of poetry by Coleridge, Wordsworth, and others is often rooted in this sense of particularity.


Take Coleridge’s “This Lime-tree Bower my Prison” – the very first word is deictic. The imagined conversation within Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven” endlessly concerns itself with relations built through deixis, a miscommunication between “we”s, “you”s, and “in”s. 


In the past, linguistic understandings of deixis haven’t been explicitly connected to cognitive theories of emotion. However, in observing the ways in which Romantic poets (particularly Wordsworth) rely on deictic terms to communicate meaning in personal experience, I’ve come to suspect that there is a link between the two.


Poems like “This Lime-tree Bower” and “We Are Seven” prescribe certain value judgments to a reader by virtue of deictic phrases: “this” is marked as significant, “we” in a family includes a count of the dead and not just the living. It is this inherent system of value encoded within poetic language and the cognitive process of building value that interests me as a scholar. I thus aim to close read Romantic poetry through a new lens: a reimagining of emotion as fundamentally evaluative and the basis of everyday decision-making, rooted in neuroscientific research dating back to the mid-1990s.


Cognitive approaches to Romantic texts have been undertaken before by scholars like Richardson, Bruhn, Spolsky, Zunshine, and more – my own methods arise directly from this precedent. But even within these innovative projects in ‘cognitive Romanticism,’ figurative language reigns supreme as more explicitly ‘emotional.’ (Many lab studies conducted on neurological effects of language have also historically focused on metaphor.) These analyses are rarely connected to the essential non-cognitive appraisals that scholars now cite as origin points for emotions themselves, and where I hope to intervene in this growing subfield is with my unique emphasis on the importance of background textual elements such as pronouns, prepositions, and other articles of speech typically overlooked as empty of emotional content. 


Through analyses of poems like “Tintern Abbey,” it is my proposal that deixis concretizes a reader’s spatial orientation within a poem to the effect of building a system of value within that poem. This system affects a reader’s final judgment of the poem’s content, like the presence or implied presence of other bodies. These close readings can also be supported by several recent studies detailing the importance of background text in comprehension.


Including deixis and other traditionally “non-emotional” content in analyses of emotion constructed through text transforms not only the ways we read canonical Romantic poetry, but also how we understand reading more generally. Literature in every form calls upon us to make value judgments as we engage with it in order for it to have any meaning; how exactly these judgments are built into poetic structure is a pressing issue for many scholars, and it is my hope that this continued research may reach across discipline lines to begin that conversation.


Short author biography:

Maddie Roepe is a fourth-year PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara specializing in Romanticism and neurological theories of emotion. Beginning with her undergraduate education at Boston University’s Kilachand Honors College and in her current role as the UCSB Literature and the Mind RA, her passion in academics lies in encouraging interdisciplinary conversations about meaning and the human condition. Her dissertation is entitled The Hidden Language of Emotion: Cognitive Romanticism in Wordsworth and Shelley.

Call For Papers: Romantic Women’s Writing and Sexual Transgression

Romantic Women’s Writing and Sexual Transgression

Call for Papers

 Edited by Kathryn Ready (University of Winnipeg) and David Sigler (University of Calgary)

Women writers have not figured centrally within the study of transgressive sexuality in the Romantic period. The influential paradigm of distinct, and distinctly gendered traditions of Romanticism, “masculine” and “feminine,” has encouraged the perception that Romantic-era women writers were not significantly engaged with transgressive sexualities. There has been longstanding popular fascination with the sex lives of male Romantic writers such as George Gordon, Lord Byron, and a sense, drawn from the early work of Mario Praz in The Romantic Agony (1933), that Romantic writing is preoccupied with illicit and criminal sexuality. There has been concerted work in Romantic-era sexuality studies since the 1990s, yet many questions still remain regarding how women writers fit into a tradition of Romanticism in which transgressive sexuality is taken as a defining feature. While substantial ongoing attention has been paid to sexual transgression and male writers of the period such as the Marquis de Sade, William Beckford, Matthew Lewis, Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the topics of sexual transgressions and perversions in woman-authored Romantic writing are still strikingly understudied, despite work in this direction by scholars such as Adriana Craciun.

As the narrative of separate Romanticisms is increasingly called into question and as our understanding of Romantic-era sexuality has deepened, there is now an opportunity to explore more fully the wealth of material produced by female Romantic writers on different kinds of transgressive sexuality and the transgressive sexual lives that a number of them led. To what extent did women writers contribute to the ascendant regime of sexual discipline, and to what extent did they resist it, or formulate other models, exploiting, for example, the “epistemological panic” theorized by Richard Sha? There is additional scope for thinking about what women writers contribute specifically to the understanding of what Foucault calls “peripheral sexualities” in the period.

We welcome essays on Romantic women writers and a variety of transgressive and “perverse” sexualities, including, but not limited to: masturbation, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, nymphomania, sex work, voyeurism, sadism, masochism, homosexuality, incest, necrophilia, bestiality, and ecosexuality. These could be analyses of individual texts in which transgressive sexuality is explored, discussions of writers’ lives and personas, or analyses of emergent discourses of female perversion in the period. Essays may also consider, for example: how does the proximity of sexual perversion affect women’s literary considerations of gender, race, class, the social order, politics, or domesticity?

As a first step, we welcome abstracts of 200-250 words. We will be pleased to receive your abstracts by November 1, 2020. Shortly thereafter, we will be able to let you know, based on the abstract, whether your essay has been selected for inclusion. First drafts of complete essays, of between 5000 and 8000 words, will be due in August 2021. We hope to see a wide range of topics from many different scholars, and are interested in promoting early career scholars, BIPOC scholars, and scholars from other marginalized groups. If, given current circumstances, potential contributors feel that they need an extension of either proposed deadline, please just let us know and we will endeavor to be flexible.

Abstracts should be emailed to the editors: k.ready@uwinnipeg.ca and dsigler@ucalgary.ca.


Kathryn Ready and David Sigler


Call for Papers: Fall Blog Series hosted by NGSC

Fall Blog Series hosted by NGSC

Deadline for Abstract and Author Bio Submissions: August 31, 2020

Contact email: nassrgradstudentcaucus@gmail.com

The NASSR Graduate Student Caucus welcomes abstracts by fellow graduate students related to the gothic, sublime/uncanny, and supernatural themes associated with the Romantic Period. This online blog series is intended to reimagine how graduate students can discuss and share their scholarship in a productive and meaningful digital setting beyond the confines of traditional face-to-face conferences. All accepted applicants will have their final essays published in the fall issue for the NGSC quarterly blog series on the Humanities Commons throughout October 2020. 

Although all proposals will be considered, we are most interested in essays about Romantic-era works relating to the gothic, supernatural, and macabre for this fall issue, with special emphasis pertaining to:

  • The sublime/uncanny
  • Gothic monsters 
  • Romantic works by women and persons of color
  • Personal, social, and political anxieties/ fears

Submission Guidelines

We are asking those interested to submit 300 to 500 words abstracts and 200 words author biographies by August 31, 2020. Abstracts and author biographies should use Times New Roman, 12-point font, double-spacing, and be combined into a single file submission. Please submit your application by email at nassrgradstudentcaucus@gmail.com, with your last name and the word FallblogseriesSubmission” as the file name. 

About the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus

The NASSR Graduate Student Caucus (NGSC) is intended as a venue, under the aegis of NASSR (North American Society for the Study of Romanticism; www.nassr.ca/), for graduate students interested in the study of Romanticism to make contact with one another and to share intellectual and professional resources.

We are committed to working together to further the interests, not only of the graduate student community in Romantic studies, but also of the broader profession, by helping to train active and engaged scholars who will continue to strengthen and advance themselves and the discipline. Moreover, the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus is fully committed to helping young scholars engage in antiracist conversations surrounding Romantic-era literature. All graduate student members of NASSR are invited to attend caucus meetings and to participate in elections and panels.

For any queries, please feel free to email the organization committee at nassrgradstudentcaucus@gmail.com, or visit our website at http://nassrgrads.hcommons.org/ for more information.

“The Liberty of the Press”: The French Revolution Debate to Present by Hanna Warsame

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

The Reign of Terror ignited a widespread moral debate on both sides of the English Channel, at the same time creating a ripple effect of meta-discourse on the value and influence of the printing press on the public sphere. In response to legislation in England designed to limit the writings of revolutionary sympathizers, William Godwin exclaimed:

The liberty of the press! If anything human is to be approached with awe, it is this […] The press [is] that great engine for raising men to the dignity of gods, for expanding [the] human understanding, for annihilating, by the most gentle and salubrious methods, all the arts of oppression… (229, 231)

While an expression such as “free speech” might have added political associations in the modern day, Godwin’s argument for “the liberty of the press” is far less anachronistic, making the debates concerning print culture in the long eighteenth-century relevant for today.

In particular, post-revolutionary discourse may help us navigate the current social and political discussions centered on human rights in the United States. The Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd opened up a series of clashes between police and protesters that made people reflect on similar instances of oppression and violence witnessed in history, such as that of the Arab Spring, and farther back, the French Revolution itself (Serhan).

According to the Helsinki Commission, there have been “nearly 500 reported press violations since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter protests [on] May 26.” As Yasmeen Serhan states in The Atlantic, these attacks and arrests made by police have made it clear that those “who identified themselves as members of the press” were being targeted. Much like revolutions and protests of the past, journalists were arrested at a much higher rate than usual – six times as many, in fact – in an effort by authorities to limit and control the media landscape (Serhan).

The similarities in public violence are glaring in the case of the French Revolution. While Godwin formed his arguments regarding press freedom in 1795, it was only one year earlier that the famous Treason Trials were taking place in judicial courtrooms. Thomas Paine was perhaps the most memorable victim of these trials designed to imbue punishment on reformist writers in England. Paine was one among many Jacobins under “intensified criminal surveillance” by the government, who intended to “curb the circulation [of] political texts” and deter revolutionary sympathizers from creating further publications (Keen 197). The English government finally attempted to convict Paine, whose famous text Rights of Man was written as a response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. The Treason Trials followed the publication of Paine’s second book and Paine’s subsequent escape to France.

Thomas Erskine, who acted as the leading defendant in the trials, argued that Paine’s book was “addressed to the intellectual world upon so profound and complicated a subject,” that it was incapable of deserving the accused charges of sedition and libel (32). However, prosecutor Sir Archibauld Macdonald proposed that the text preyed on “the ignorant” and “the desperate,” who were altogether vulnerable to “[the anarchist] doctrine that there is neither law nor government among us,” (32).

The Treason Trials of 1794 marked a distinct moment in history where a democratic government chose to target and punish members of the press for their political, anti-authoritian views. While the English government were unsuccessful in their attempt to convict Paine, the arguments presented by the prosecution, concerning the power of the printing press to influence the reading public, was a view shared by both reformists and conservatives alike. Burke repudiated the printing press as a whole for its role in guiding English citizens towards support of the French Revolution, when he warned that “writers, especially when they act in a body, and with one direction, have great influence on the public mind,” (202). Perhaps this is what too caused the police officers in the United States to choose members of the press, out of any other group, as a target during the Black Lives Matter protests. Limiting the public’s access to knowledge is almost a priority for figures of authority who knowingly break the law. At the Helsinki Commission hearing on U.S. Press Freedom, journalist Christiane Amanpour testified to this extent when she stated that “the polarized political climate [has] forced elements of the media in the United States into political corners, and this undermines trust and the ability of the press to inform the public,” (17:31).

Where does the notion that the press is both precarious and overpowering originate? It may be argued that it was the language of the Jacobins themselves that augmented the conservative belief concerning the dangers arising from political discussion. For instance, in his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, William Godwin stated that literature is the means of obtaining truth, through “the collision of mind with mind” (4). For Godwin, it was a virtue of literature that it “failed to produce universal conviction,” but rather created “irrefragable argument,” (4). Godwin’s early emphasis on the “collision” of ideas and arguments necessary for meaningful discussion paired well with William Hazlitt’s later view concerning the power of the press. Hazlitt argued that the reading public became the engine for extracting justice for the oppressed, in a manner that aimed to remain both “impartial and disinterested,” (23). Thus when the misconduct of a nobleman was brought to light, “he could no more stand against [public opinion] than against a train of artillery placed on the opposite heights to batter down his stronghold,” (Hazlitt 24).

These descriptions of literature and the reading public advanced, whether intentionally or not, an active and violent connotation of what may lie at the end of intellectual discourse and discussion. Consequently, these terminologies of political action provided the fuel for conservatives and anti-Jacobins in England who traced the source of revolutionary fervor, as well as the blame of extremist acts – such as riots, massacres, and attacks on the Crown – to the printing press itself.

Anti-revolutionaries therefore emphasized wherever they could that reformists were not interested in the exchange of ideas, but rather the instilling of violence. This is a matter we still see introduced and debated today when it comes to revolutions, although in its modern reconstruction: protesters are deemed as only interested in creating chaos, not merely calling for change. While it was possible for writers such as Burke in the late eighteenth-century to convince the general public on the flaws of the revolutionaries, this reasoning lead to the censorship and punishment of writers themselves, which transformed the debate from an issue of intellectualism to one concerning human rights. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America, regarding restrictions on press freedom in France, “if you establish a censorship of the press, the tongue of the public speaker will still make itself heard,” (213). In other words, the censorship of the press was neither the moral nor the logical answer to those who found that their dogma was in opposition to leading reformists.

Today, creating an honest depiction of Democrats and Republicans in media and in print is as much of a difficulty as it was in the past to navigate the contrasting views of conservatives and reformists in the English public sphere. In Reflections on the Revolutions in France, Edmund Burke lamented the deaths of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, to which Thomas Paine famously responded that “Mr. Burke should recollect that he is writing History, and not Plays,” (206). Paine responded in such a manner to restate the point that Mary Wollstonecraft had made previously, that Burke’s excessive sentimentalism for the royal family was inappropriate at best (204). Paine’s emphasis on Burke’s failure to sympathize with those who had been imprisoned in the Bastille (206), in the same way that he sympathized with the nobility, is an appropriate criticism that can be applied to the modern day – it is indeed reminiscent of the victimization of police by partisan media during the Black Lives Matter protests. In contrast to the growing narrative in support of police, Matt Ford reported in June that,

Police officers have largely responded violently, with abusive and authoritarian tactics. Social media networks are flooded with footage and accounts of cops shoving elderly pedestrians and innocent bystanders into pavement, bludgeoning journalists or pelting them with rubber bullets, and dispersing lawful crowds with tear gas and overwhelming force. (The New Republic)

Despite the blatant misconduct and violence attributed to the police, certain media programs began shifting the optics: American protesters had, like those in the French Revolution, gone too far, and the oppressors of freedom began to become the victims themselves. “If we’re going to speak of rioting protesters,” argued Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times, “then we need to speak of rioting police as well.” For Bouie, the escalating violence from both groups was quintessentially symbolic of a much larger ideology: the “constant battle over who truly counts – who can act as a full and equal member of this society – and who does not.”

Thus with every revolution follows the eternal, enigmatic question: what are the limits of morality? The power of the printing press inspired Romantic writers to respond with ideas that were nonetheless dependent on historical and political contexts. Social inequality and economic instability are the paradigms of both past and present revolutionary times. The backdrop of centuries of systemic racism is an added issue that heightened the emotions reverberating through this year’s Black Lives Matter protests, and which helps to distinguish the cultural divide between the post-revolutionary debates of the eighteenth-century and the modern day. However, beyond the boundaries of historicism, it is the universality of oppression, the devaluation of human rights, and violent authoritarianism that are all implicit in the conversations that take place in both public spheres. How does one navigate the conundrums of right and wrong, particularly in an environment where strains are placed on one’s access to political knowledge and the intellectual discussions surrounding it?

Alexis de Tocqueville argued for an ideal: that “every citizen must be presumed to possess the power of discriminating between the different opinions of his contemporaries, and of appreciating the different facts from which inferences may be drawn,” (213). However, for Tocqueville, there was also a danger in “radical equality,” which was vulnerable to refashioning the cause of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité into an excessive form of individuality that distanced itself from the collective community (Wood).

It seems that Tocqueville’s concerns were anticipated by the English conservatives of the eighteenth century, nearly fifty years prior; particularly by Whig members of Parliament. However, for the reformists, “radical equality” was not the most pressing concern. It was only after the liberty of the press was established that there could be room for universal principles to start to form. Thomas Paine reflected these sentiments when he wrote to a critic that, “it is a dangerous attempt in any government to say to a nation, ‘thou shalt not read,’” (210).

For current times, a methodological approach resembling that of the English Jacobins and French revolutionaries is an undervalued form of political resistance, just as it was in the late eighteenth-century. Paine outlined the sources of opposition toward injustices made by the English government, highlighting issues such as disparities in education, the economy, and the class system under a monarchical government (211). In his view, the oppression faced by both the English and French alike could be challenged through rational arguments and, as Godwin might say, “the diffusion of knowledge through the medium of discussion,” – or, in other words – through literature itself (3).

“From what we now see, nothing of reform in the political world ought to be held improbable,” Thomas Paine wrote, in Rights of Man (206). “It is an age of Revolutions, in which every thing may be looked for.”

Works Cited

Bouie, Jamelle. “The Police Are Rioting. We Need to Talk About It.” The New York Times, 07 June 2020, nytimes.com/2020/06/05/opinion/sunday/police-riots.html.

Burke, Edmund. “Reflections on the Revolution in France and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to that Event (1790).” Keen, pp. 199-202.

Erskine, Thomas. “Speech as Prosecution in the Seditious-Libel Trial of Thomas Paine for Rights of Man Part Two (1792).” Keen, pp. 32-33.

Ford, Matt. “The Police Were a Mistake.” The New Republic, 02 June 2020, newrepublic.com/article/157978/police-violence-george-floyd-constitution.

Godwin, William. “An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness (1793).” Keen, pp. 3-5.

—. “Considerations on Lord Grenville’s and Mr. Pitt’s Bills, Concerning Treasonable and Seditious Practices, and Unlawful Assemblies (1795).” Keen, pp. 227-32.

Hazlitt, William. “The Influence of Books (1828).” Keen, pp. 23-4.

Keen, Paul, editor. Revolutions in Romantic Literature: An Anthology of Print Culture, 1780-1832, Broadview Press, 2004.

Macdonald, Sir Archibauld. “Speech as Prosecution in the Seditious-Libel Trial of Thomas Williams for Publishing Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine (1797).” Keen, pp. 32.

Paine, Thomas. “Letter Addressed to the Addressers on the Late Proclamation (1792).” Keen, pp. 209-10.

—. “Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution (1791-1792).” Keen, pp. 205-7.

Serhan, Yasmeen. “The ‘Absurd’ New Reality of Reporting From the U.S.” The Atlantic, 19 June 2020, theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/06/journalists-united-states-press-freedom/613120/.

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America (1835), edited by Henry Reeves, Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, 2006.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. “Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; occasioned by his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).” Keen, pp. 203-5.

Wood, James. “Tocqueville in America.” The New Yorker, 17 May 2010, newyorker.com/magazine/2010/05/17/tocqueville-in-america.

“Christiane Amanpour to Testify at Helsinki Commission Hearing on Press Freedom in the United States.” Helsinki Commission, 16 July 2020, csce.gov/international-impact/press-and-media/press-releases/christiane-amanpour-testify-helsinki-commission.

“Hearing: Human Rights at Home: Media, Politics, and the Safety of Journalists.” Youtube, uploaded by Helsinki Commission, 23 July 2020, youtube.com/watch?v=hC_tgX8S4p0.


Introduction to “Disastrous Summers”

By Holly Horner, edited by Jordan Green and Sigmund Jakob Michael Stephan

“Disastrous Summers,” the first installment of the NGSC’s quarterly blog series, collects a set of essays by graduate students related to social, personal, environmental, and political disasters associated with the Romantic Period. As part of this ongoing blog series, we interrogated how the conversations surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic and the  #BlackLivesMatter protests are exacerbated by events and texts from the Romantic Period. Our first upcoming submissions consider how Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an allegory for COVID-19 and social distancing in 2020; and how Shelley’s Last Man explores the ways in which modernity fuels pandemic disease. Alongside our initial eco-centric inquiry, “Disastrous Summers” also invited writers to engage in a more urgent consideration: how graduate students must be critical of the Romantic period’s participation in imperialistic practices by adopting the #Bigger6 philosophy of performing antiracist and anticolonial work in the study of Romanticism by moving our critical focus beyond the initial “Big Six” of Romanticism and recouping historically marginalized voices. Many thanks to those who answered our CFP.