The next meeting of the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar will be held on Friday 30 November in Room 349 (third floor) at Senate House, University of London, starting at 5.30. Our distinguished guest speaker is Angela Esterhammer of the University of Toronto, who will present a paper entitled Performance and Print Culture in the 1820s: Speculation, Improvisation, Identity. This will be followed by a discussion and a wine reception. The event is free and open to everyone, including postgraduates and members of the public. No booking is required.
Angela Esterhammer, FRSC, is Principal of Victoria College and Professor in the Department of English at the University of Toronto. She works in the areas of British, German, and European Romanticism and nineteenth-century culture, from perspectives that emphasize performativity, improvisation, and print culture. She is the author of Creating States: Studies in the Performative Language of John Milton and William Blake (1994), The Romantic Performative: Language and Action in British and German Romanticism (2000), and Romanticism and Improvisation, 1750-1850 (2008). Other publications include the edited volumes Romantic Poetry: Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages (2002), Spheres of Action: Speech and Performance in Romantic Culture (2009), and Romanticism, Rousseau, Switzerland (2015). Her current research project ‘The Late-Romantic Information Age: Improvisation, Speculation, and Identity in Print and Performance’ examines interrelations among fiction, periodicals, and theatre during the 1820s. In addition, she is General Editor of the Edinburgh Edition of the Works of John Galt.
Regarding the subject of her talk, Angela writes:
‘Features of 1820s literature and culture that once led literary historians to dismiss the era as superficial now make it look trend-setting for modernity: the market-consciousness of writers and publishers, the prominence of performativity, the emergence of new prose genres that blur the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. In this talk, I describe the metropolitan culture of 1820s London and Edinburgh using interrelated concepts and motifs that proliferated in the decade’s best-selling fiction, periodicals, popular theatre, and non-fictional discourses such as political economy. The concepts of speculation and improvisation were especially prominent – terms that suggest hasty, risky action oriented toward hypothetical premises, contingencies, and open-ended future possibilities. By emphasizing the improvisational and speculative nature of writing, acting, and publishing along with writers’ self-conscious experimentation with media, I propose that we can understand the 1820s as an “age of information” as well as a self-reflective “age-in-formation.”