Congratulations on REF results

Late December saw the announcement of the results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. All 4 of the departments involved in CECS – Archaeology, English and Related Literatures, History of Art, and History – came in the top five in their relevant subject category. This speaks volumes for the quality of research being produced by the staff associated with CECS. Each department had a very strong showing not only in their research outputs, but also in the ‘research environment’ category. CECS is very proud to be an integral part of that environment, providing a base for research excellence in its staff working across the long eighteenth century, and providing a unique inter-disciplinary context that nurtures the next generation of scholars.



Podcast: launch of the Letters of William Godwin, Vol II

The Letters of Godwin vol 2Studies in William Godwin has been undergoing a revival over the last few years. From a position within literary studies as a fall guy to Coleridge and Wordsworth, Godwin’s importance to the broader intellectual culture of the late eighteenth century has been reiterated lately by the publication of his diary on-line by the Bodleian Library and the ongoing publication of his correspondence by OUP under the general editorship of Pamela Clemit. The second volume was launched in Oxford in November last year at an event at which CECS Director Jon Mee spoke.



CECS in Tokyo and in POETICA

I’ve just completed an essay ‘Electrical Science and Della Cruscan Poetics in the 1790s’ which will come out in a special issue of the journal POETICA vol. 82 pp.1-21, in December 2014. The essay is taken from my current research project on ‘cultures of electricity’ in the long eighteenth century. The journal special issues features selected papers from a conference that I attended in Japan in June 2014, the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism’s supernumerary conference ‘Romantic Connections’, held at the University of Tokyo. Several former CECS students presented papers at the ‘Romantic Connections’ conference, and I’m delighted that my essay will feature in the POETICA special edition alongside the work of two other CECS alumni. Dr Alex Watson (Japan Women’s University) is the editor of the special edition, and Dr Richard Adelman (University of Sussex) provides an essay on ‘Keats and the Sociability of Idle Contemplation’. I hope we can continue to develop the York-Tokyo connections!

Mary Fairclough

CECS alumni in Tokyo
CECS alumni in Tokyo

Anglo-Scottish Relations

On 1 November 2014 CECS hosted a successful day conference on the topical theme of Anglo-Scottish Relations. Prompted by the Scottish independence referendum campaign, the conference explored the cultural, political and social connections between Scotland and England in the long eighteenth century. Our keynote speakers Professor Stana Nenadic (University of Edinburgh), Professor Michael Brown (University of Aberdeen) and Professor Jane Rendall (University of York) each explored in different ways the professional, philanthropic and intellectual networks that supported the English in Scotland and the Scots in England at the period. The conference also featured a panel of papers by Dr David Stewart (Northumbria University), Dr David Higgins (University of Leeds) and Professor Tom Mole (University of Edinburgh), which explored the interactions between Scottish and English periodicals, and a panel formed of papers by Dr Rhona Brown (University of Glasgow), Dr Hamish Mathison (University of Sheffield) and Jennifer Wilkes (University of York) on the work of Robert Burns and publishing culture associated with Burns’s poetry. During the lively and stimulating round table discussion at the end of the day, delegates agreed that much work remains to be done on the subject of Anglo-Scottish relations, and we hope to begin this process with the publication of a volume of essays arising from the conference.

Sawney Scott

‘Electrick Communication everywhere’

Jenny Wilkes

As part of the York Festival of Ideas, last week CECS held a pair of public lectures titled “‘Electrick communication everywhere’: Order and chaos in the arts and sciences”. The lectures explored connections between the arts and sciences in the Romantic period.

poster 1 festival of ideasThe first lecture was ‘Transpennine Enlightenment: The collision of mind with mind in the North 1760 to 1830’ by Jon Mee. Jon explored the increasing popularity of literary and philosophical societies during the period, with a particular focus on those in Manchester, Newcastle and York. Rather than thinking of these societies in terms of the binary relationship between the arts and sciences, Jon argued that it would be more helpful to think about how they engaged in different modes of knowledge production, namely lectures, libraries (or ‘repositories of books’), and conversation (or ‘collision of mind with mind’). Societies often felt that conversation was more conducive, and inclusive, to learning than passive, solitary reading. But during this period, the relationship between these different modes was often fraught with tension. So when the founder of the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, William Turner, became concerned that the society would become a mere ‘repository of books’, he created a club within a club for the purpose of literary conversation. Paradoxically, his attempt to increase engagement had to come about by excluding others.

poster 2 festival of ideasThe second lecture was by Mary Fairclough, titled ‘Electrical itinerants: Science, showmanship and sedition 1745-1830’. Mary talked about the itinerant lecturer Adam Walker (1730/1-1821). A self-taught man, he spent some years as a teacher in Manchester, before buying a set of scientific apparatus and taking it on tour. Mary’s talk focused on his time in York, where he lived for several years in the 1770s. From a series of newspaper advertisements we got a glimpse of his captivating lectures. For the sum of one guinea (“Ladies half a guinea”), audiences were treated to a course of lectures illustrated by a dizzying array of apparatus: these included globes, spheres, centrifugal machines, a ‘thunder house’, and Walker’s own invention, the celestina, “which has all the Perfection of the Organ, Harpsichord, Piano-Forte, Harmonica or Viol d’Amour”. As Mary showed, lectures such as Walker’s were a popular mixture of science and spectacle, between the known and the unknown, at the very forefront of new discovery.

Both of last week’s lectures provided a wonderful insight into an electrifying period of social and political change, and the new ways in which people began to think about science, the arts, communication, and education.