London-Paris Romanticism Seminar: Keats and France, international panel, Friday 15 March 2019, Senate House, University of London


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The next meeting of the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar will be held on Friday 15 March 2019 and feature an international panel on Keats and France. We are delighted to welcome as our guest speakers two distinguished scholars: Caroline Bertonèche, Professor of English Literature at Université Grenoble Alpes, who will talk on Keats’s Frenchness, and Emily Rohrbach, Lecturer in British Literature at the University of Manchester, whose paper is entitled Reading Keats with Rancière. Abstracts of their talks appear below.

The seminar will be held in the Bloomsbury Room (G35, ground floor) at Senate House, University of London, starting at 5.30. The papers will be followed by a discussion and wine reception. Everyone is invited, including postgraduates and members of the public. Admission is free and no registration is needed.

caro2 cropCaroline Bertonèche is Professor of English Literature at Université Grenoble Alpes, President of SERA (Société d’Études du Romantisme Anglais) and a member of the Paris steering group of the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar. She studied Romanticism at the University of Oxford and holds a doctoral degree from Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. She has also been a Fulbright Scholar and a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard and Yale University. She has published widely on British Romanticism and literary criticism, on the modes of influence in poetic and medical discourse, and on the rewriting of scientific myths in the nineteenth century. She is the author of two books on John Keats: Keats et l’Italie. L’incitation au voyage (Paris: Houdiard, 2011) and John Keats. Le poète et le mythe (Lyon: PUL, 2011). She also edited a selection of essays, dedicated to Susan Sontag, on Bacilles, phobies et contagions. Les métaphores de la pathologie (Paris: Houdiard, 2012) and, more recently, co-edited a book on Romantic madness, ‘Is that Madness?’: Les organes de la folie romantique (Paris: Houdiard, 2016). She is currently working on a new book on Antique and Romantic skies in Europe.

emily 1 crop 2Emily Rohrbach joined the Department of English at the University of Manchester in 2016, having previously taught in the United States at Northwestern University and Hamilton College. She is the author of Modernity’s Mist: British Romanticism and the Poetics of Anticipation (Fordham University Press, 2016), as well as essays on Anna Barbauld, John Keats, Lord Byron, William Hazlitt, and Jane Austen. Her new work extends an aeonian interest in Romantic conceptions of time to questions of how Romantic writers understood the materiality of the book in relation to the time of reading, focusing on Wordsworth, Austen, Hazlitt, Keats, and Letitia Landon, among others. Two of her essays on this topic recently appeared in European Romantic Review and Textual Practice.


Keats’s Frenchness

This talk focuses on what could be seen as a hidden layer of Frenchness in Keats’s poetry and posterity. Like Shelley who despised ‘that nasal and abbreviated cacophony of the French’, Keats was not fond of the French language, ‘the poorest one ever spoken since the jabbering in the Tower of Babel’, he writes in his Letters. Keats was able to read and translate French, but he never seemed to have appreciated the beauty of the language. It was perhaps too ‘odiously’ academic? La faute à Boileau. Or constituted a possible threat against the poet’s purest form of Englishness? Yet Keats’s fascination for French art and literature is not just another Keatsian myth. In Keats’s poems, the references to French authors or artists – Alain Chartier, Ronsard, Le Lorrain – are numerous, as are the French heirs to Keats’s poetry (Mallarmé, Proust). Why then is Keats such an attractive figure for the French? Because he is a true Republican, some would say. His earthliness, his sensuousness, his democratic sense of community and the realism of his verse would even make him a precursor of Flaubert. Anatole France, in his adaptation of the Grecian Urn, provides us with another valuable answer. Keats is the only English poet, after Shakespeare, able to reconcile the best of both worlds; a poet whose intelligence relies on the universal nature of his essentially ‘English charm’. (Caroline Bertonèche)

Reading Keats with Rancière

Do books in the Romantic period indoctrinate readers to prevailing cultural values or do they elicit a sense of freedom from the status quo, opening up possibilities for imagining, or even making, a more socially equal society? Drawing on recent work by Christina Lupton, Deidre Lynch, and Abigail Williams concerning the social life and contingency of books, this talk will address two scenes of reading—one told by John Keats (British Romantic poet), the other by Jacques Rancière (contemporary French philosopher)—in which books do the latter. In each case, the egalitarian possibility rests on a peculiarly bookish reluctance to imagine time as linear progress. For Keats, in his famous letter on the “vale of Soul-making,” the temporality of affective reading displaces an Enlightenment historiographical logic of progress, by conjuring instead a world of human flourishing in the present: not oriented toward future happiness, but focused on the process of soul-making, which is figured as the child learning to read, open to non-instrumental play. In his book Le Maître ignorant, Rancière tells the story of Joseph Jacotot, lecturer in French literature during the French Revolution, whose chance experiment—with a book at its center—disrupts the conventional temporality of pedagogical progress, levelling the hierarchy of lecturer and student. Looking at these two scenes together indicates a wider Romantic perspective on the book as disturber of linear time and as technology of social equality. (Emily Rohrbach)