London-Paris Romanticism Seminar: Caribbean Romanticism, online international panel, Friday 25 February 2022

The next seminar in the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar series is an online international panel on Caribbean Romanticism which will take place via Zoom on Friday 25 February 2022 at 17.30-19.30 London time (GMT). As our guest speakers, we are delighted to welcome two distinguished scholars: Emily Senior, of Birkbeck, University of London, who will speak on “Nurse Flora, in Jamaica” and her Afterlives; and Nicole Aljoe, of Northeastern University, Boston, whose paper is entitled A Secret History of the Sable Venus: Digital Analysis, Narrative Authority, and the Discourses of Race in European Novels with Afro-Caribbean Female Protagonists, 1808-1827. Abstracts appear below. The illustrated talks will be followed by a discussion in which questions from the audience are invited. The panel will be chaired by Luisa Calè (Birkbeck, University of London).

The seminar is free and open to everyone, including postgraduates and members of the public. Prior registration is necessary. To book a place via the Institute of English Studies website, click here. When you register, you will be provided with a Zoom link and details of how to join the online forum. Whether you wish to contribute or simply to listen in, we invite you to join us.

Emily Senior is Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Literatures at Birkbeck, University of London. Her book The Caribbean and the Medical Imagination, 1764-1834: Slavery, Disease and Colonial Modernity (2018) shows how literature was crucial to the development of new colonial fields including dermatology and medical geography, and that the Caribbean as the hub of empire influenced changing disciplinary forms associated with the transition to modernity. Her special issue of Atlantic Studies: Global Currents (co-edited with Sarah Thomas) on Caribbean Visual Cultures was published in Spring 2022. She is currently working on a book project called ‘Anecdotal Evidence: Science and Storytelling in the Global Eighteenth Century’.

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Nicole N. Aljoe is Professor of English and Africana Studies at Northeastern University, Boston. She is co-Director of The Early Caribbean Digital Archive and Director the Early Black Boston Digital Almanac. Her books include Creole Testimonies: Slave Narratives from the British West Indies, 1709-1836 (2012) and two co-edited volumes, Journeys of the Slave Narrative in the Early Americas (2014) and A Literary History of the Early Anglophone Caribbean: Islands in the Stream (2018). Currently, she is at work on two new projects. The first examines representations of Caribbean Women of Color produced in Europe and England between 1780 and 1840. The second explores relationships between narratives of black lives and the rise of the novel in Europe and the Americas in the eighteenth century.


Nurse Flora, in Jamaica” and her Afterlives 

In response to the twin impulse of Caribbean Studies to create counter-archives that demonstrate the significance of the region to global modernity and to forge cultural memory from what Derek Walcott understood as an ‘absence of ruins’, this paper takes a long view of one image from the Romantic-era Caribbean and examines its textual and visual afterlives in order to contribute to ongoing conversations about images of enslavement, colonial archives and what they reveal and conceal about Caribbean lives, as well as the conflicted nature of medical and natural knowledge on plantations. (Emily Senior)

A Secret History of the Sable Venus: Digital Analysis, Narrative Authority, and the Discourses of Race in European Novels with Afro-Caribbean Female Protagonists, 1808-1827

One of the benefits of digital literary analysis is the possibility of employing machine learning to offer new and compelling close readings of archival texts. Consequently, this talk will explore how close digital textual analyses, like topic modeling and Stylometry, can assist investigation of the variety of ways in which Black women were figured, written about, and represented in literature in Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Examining the appearance of mixed-race female Caribbean protagonists in five fictional texts: The Woman of Colour (1808), Zelica, the Creole (1822), Ourika (1824), Joanna, or The Female Slave (1824), and “Theresa, A Haytien Tale” (1827), the talk will focus on the how these intriguingly nuanced narrative portraits of ‘accomplished’ Black female subjects complicate our understanding of the development of discourses of race within the fiction of the Romantic era. (Nicole Aljoe)