London-Paris Romanticism Seminar: Environmental Humanities and Romanticism, Online Event, Friday 23 October 2020

The first event in the 2020-21 series of the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar is an online seminar via Zoom on Friday 23 October 2020 at 17.30-19.30 London time (GMT +1). To launch this year’s programme, we are delighted to be hosting a special panel on Environmental Humanities and Romanticism with two outstanding Romantic scholars. Jeremy Davies (University of Leeds) will speak on the Industrial Revolution, Romantic ecocriticism and periodization, and Fiona Stafford (University of Oxford) will speak on agrarian and rural change and the influence of Robert Burns on environmental attitudes. Their titles and abstracts appear below. The two short papers will be followed by general discussion conducted on Zoom via the chat text box and ‘raised hands’. The panel will be chaired by Rowan Boyson (King’s College London).

The seminar is free and open to everyone, including postgraduates and members of the public. Prior registration is necessary. To reserve your free place via the Institute of English Studies website, click here. When you register, you will be provided with full details of how to join the online forum. Whether you wish to contribute or simply to listen in, you are more than welcome.

Jeremy Davies is an associate professor of English at the University of Leeds. His books include The Birth of the Anthropocene (2016). He is editing a forthcoming issue of Studies in Romanticism called β€˜An Inventive Age: Writing of the Industrial Revolution, 1770–1830.’ 

Fiona Stafford is professor of English at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy.  She is a specialist in Romantic Literature and Chair of the Environmental Humanities Programme at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities. Her recent books include The Brief Life of Flowers (2018); Jane Austen (2017); The Long, Long Life of Trees (2016); Local Attachments (2010). 

Titles and abstracts:

Romantic Ecocriticism and the Industrial Revolution 

British Romanticism shares a time and place with the so-called classic period of the Industrial Revolution. Recent scholarship in the economic history of eighteenth- to nineteenth-century Britain has much to contribute to Romantic studies. In this paper, I will consider one potential avenue for interdisciplinary exchange between literary and economic history. I’ll ask: how might paying attention to the historiography of the Industrial Revolution help to enable a new kind of Romantic ecocriticism? Romantic ecocriticism has hitherto been preoccupied with the idea of Romanticism as a point of origin of modern environmental consciousness. Turning attention to economic change in the period provides a basis for alternative agendas.  (Jeremy Davies)

Mourning the Daisy’s Fate: Ruin, Recovery and Romanticism

In Keith Thomas’s account of ‘The Dethronement of Man’ and the ‘destruction of the old anthropocentric illusion’, Robert Burns makes a brief but honourable appearance as spokesman for a new attitude to animals as earth-born companions. The paper will consider the late eighteenth-century sentimental ideal of ‘fellow-feeling’ and its relationship to environmental consciousness. Poems by Burns in which sympathy for non-human earth-bound companions is on display can open questions about the often fraught relationship between human beings and the natural world.  At a crucial moment in agrarian, industrial and global history, Burns’s local observations offer a lens through which to consider the impact of humankind on the entire world. Burns reveals the prospect of ruin – and the hope of rescue. The shifting, diverse reception of his work sheds light on the possible effects of poetry on environmental attitudes – and how shifting environmental attitudes can lead to different readings of familiar works of art.  (Fiona Stafford)