Just as I did last year, I wanted to make a post on this blog reflecting on 2017, whilst also looking forward to what’s happening in 2018. I find these kinds of posts interesting for a number of reasons, but primarily as an exercise in accountability (and specifically, for countering inaccurate feelings of ‘I didn’t do anything last year!).
2017 was a challenging but hugely rewarding year. It was a year of many exciting firsts. Travel-wise, it was my first time in America (on fellowships at the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale Center for British Art, and the Winterthur Museum), and my first time visiting Sweden, Umeå for the International Society for Cultural History 2017 Conference. I delivered my first lectures as part of Edinburgh’s History of Art 2 course, and I taught an honours course on my own for the first time, having previously taught at pre-hons for a number of years. I was also awarded my first postdoctoral fellowship, at IASH, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, and I received short-term research fellowships from the Harry Ransom Center and the Huntington Library. Perhaps most excitingly, the last few months of 2017 have also seen the acceptance of my first journal article (to be published next year, in the journal Eighteenth-Century Fiction), and, in the last few days (!), my first book (more to come on this asap).
I also taught. A lot. In fact, I taught six courses across three schools, although my teaching load has been massively reduced since beginning my Postdoctoral Fellowship at IASH in September. IASH is a wonderfully engaging and supportive scholarly community, and I’m glad to be there until August of next year.
Indeed, 2018 is looking just as busy as 2017.
In January, I will continue writing and revising an article on collage, masculinity and Modernism, which will also form the basis of my January 10th Work in Progress Seminar at IASH (details here). I’m also delivering a Research Successes Forum workshop on ‘Fellowships’ on January 22nd. January will also see me back to teaching, as I cover Prof. Viccy Coltman’s hugely exciting 4th-year course, ‘From Jacobitism to Romanticism: The (Re)invention of Scotland in Visual and Material Culture’.
Apart from teaching, February to May will see me do lots more writing – particularly for my article, ‘Reflective and Reflexive Forms: Intimacy and Medium Specificity in British and American Sentimental Albums, 1780-1850’, an abstract for which was accepted for Journal18: a journal of eighteenth-century art and culture‘s special issue on ‘Albums’, due late 2018.
I’ll also be writing and revising the remaining chapters of my first book at this time, as well as editing mine and Katie Faulkner’s special issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies on ‘Making Masculinity: Craft, Gender, and Material Production in the Long Nineteenth-Century’. The submissions we’ve had are hugely exciting, and I’m so looking forward to seeing this published next summer.
In April, our conference Collage, Montage, Assemblage: Collected and Composite Forms, 1700-Present, will be held at the University of Edinburgh. We received over 120 abstracts for the conference, attesting to the vibrant and dynamic nature of this area of research. We’ll be finalising speakers and the programme very soon, and I’ll post that here then.
In June and July, I’m back to America, this time spending two consecutive months away, at the Huntington Library and the Harry Ransom Center, respectively. In August, I’m back to Edinburgh for a final month at IASH, which will provide the perfect opportunity to round things off.
As last year, I’ll have to end my post at a fairly-uncertain-September 2018, but what I know for sure is that I’ll be desperately trying to finish my book at that point, which is due by the end of 2018.
What are your plans for next year? Let me know using my twitter handle @Freya_Gowrley.
Last week I was in London for the excellent Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period conference. In this post, I’ll try to cobble together some coherent thoughts generated by the event, particularly in terms of how the ideas raised relate to my own work on collage in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The conference marks the bicentenary of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poetry collection Sibylline Leaves, whose title references Virgil’s Cumaean Sibyl, and the ‘fragmentary and widely scattered state’ of her ‘leaves’. Indeed, the entire conference teemed with scattered, flying, volatile and fugitive leaves, and presented a range of approaches and ideas as to their interpretation.
Beginning with Seamus Perry’s keynote on Coleridge’s desultory nature (in terms of both his indolence and his variousness), the conference’s deep consideration of the language we use to discuss this material was incredibly evocative. Various terms were repeatedly mapped out, tested, and explored, but desultory was one to which a number of speakers returned. Likewise, Coleridge’s own play with words was also highlighted, particularly the irony in titling a collection of collected poems ‘Sibylline Leaves’, given that the Sibyll’s own leaves were never collected up again. Here then, the desultory might work as part of a self-conscious, self-reflexive consideration of the fragmented and the various.
Other panels over the two days explicitly engaged with the practices of notebook making and commonplacing, literary processes that my own work on collage also touches upon. Ruth Abbott, for example, presented fascinating work on Wordsworth’s notebooks, stressing the importance of reading such objects as whole, creative documents; whilst stressing the familial and collective nature of their production; and considering transformations of poetry, to prose, and back again.
The conference also had a ‘reading group’ type session in the middle of its first day, where we discussed Michael Gamer’s work on self-collecting in the creation of works like the Sibylline Leaves. Interestingly, Gamer employs frameworks from the history of collecting in his discussion, something I wish to adopt/adapt in my own work on literary self-fashioning and production.
Other papers stressed the materiality of Romantic literary production, from Jeremy Elprin’s wonderfully rich paper on Coleridge’s ‘Sonnet in nubibus’, which highlighted how Coleridge had transcribed the poem on a piece of seaweed, to Deidre Shauna Lynch’s magisterial second-day keynote, ‘Loose Leaves, Floral Slips and the Romantic Book’. Lynch’s keynote was particularly interesting for me as she discussed many of the objects that I have just been looking at at YCBA, and other volumes that I’m intending to see at Manchester, New York, and the Houghton Library in the future. What I was particularly struck by in Lynch’s paper however, was her emphasis on not merely the compilation of such volumes, but their related disentanglement: ranging from the moment of their acquisition (i.e. before their integration within the album/volume/book); ideas surrounding their ‘clippability’; or the potential of these gathered leaves to become loose once more. This was a revolution in my thinking, as my definition for collage in my postdoctoral project has been almost wholly concerned with the coming together of objects to make a new whole; disparate elements, brought together in a new formulation. Yet Lynch’s paper highlighted that these were indeed ‘Sibylline Leaves’, papers that behaved badly, and whose very precarity was actively reflected upon and visually acknowledged by their makers.
I presented my own research on the commonplace books of Ellen Warter at the end of the first day of the conference (my abstract is available here), and received some very provocative and encouraging feedback. I’m excited to use some of the frameworks I encountered at the event in developing this research further, particularly Lynch’s emphasis on the highly self-aware nature of the Romantic album.
Programme: ISCH 2017 Conference ‘Senses, Emotions & the Affective Turn Recent Perspectives and New Challenges in Cultural History’
For the next few days I’ll be in Umeå, Sweden for the 2017 Annual Conference of the International Society for Cultural History. This year’s theme is ‘Senses, Emotions & the Affective Turn Recent Perspectives and New Challenges in Cultural History’, and it promises to be a fascinating conference. I’m really excited to experience a range of approaches dealing with the emotions within cultural history, which I’ve no doubt will be hugely beneficial to the writing of my first book, on domestic material culture, sociabilities, and emotions. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking in Panel 8, ‘Materialising Love and Loss: Objects and Identity in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Britain’. The full programme is available here.
Image via The Conversation
Perhaps the most significant event this week, was the passing of the great art critic John Berger, whose hugely influential book and tv series ‘Ways of Seeing’, has been a touchstone of art historical and critical enquiry since its publication in the 1970s. Many excellent articles and obituaries of Berger were published this week, including this, this, and this.
I was excited to see that Joanne Begiato’s article ‘Tears and the Manly Sailor in England, c. 1760–1860‘, in the Journal for Maritime Research is free access. Download it here.
I greatly enjoyed the post, ‘Feel free to call me Dr.’ on the Tenure, She Wrote blog. It’s excellent on the politics of nomenclature in academia, and the importance of these issues for academics who are from minority backgrounds. I also enjoyed Dr Kieran Fenby-Hulse’s post, ‘From 2016 to 2017: Thoughts on Research Practice, Embedding Creativity, Punk Academia, and Work-Life Balance‘, which is also great on issues of identity within the academy.
There were a number of events that drew my attention this week, including the Centre for the History of the Emotions‘ 2017 Seminar Programme , the upcoming event ‘Living With Feeling in the Nineteenth-Century‘ at Royal Holloway’s Centre for Victorian Studies, and the Cruising the 1970s project’s event ‘Between the Sheets: Radical print cultures before the queer bookshop‘.
The following CFPs also caught my eye:
Call for Submissions: Anthology on Arab Masculinity
CFP: Moving Beyond Paris and London: Influences, Circulation, and Rivalries in Fashion and Textiles between France and England, 1700-1914 (Paris, October 13-14, 2017)
CFP: Remembering the Dead: Slavery and Mortality through Visual Culture in Comparative Perspective, AHA 2018 Panel (Washington D.C., 4-7 January 2018)
Call for Submissions: Museums Journal (theme: ‘Small’)
Call for Participation: Material Culture Caucus at 2017 ASA Conference
CFP: “Hope and Fear”: Interdisciplinary Conference in the Humanities
CFP: Milestones, Markers, and Moments: Turning Points in American Experience and Tradition
CFP: International Postgraduate Port and Maritime Studies Conference (20-21 April 2017, University of Bristol)
CFP: Classical Antiquity & Memory (19th – 21st Century)
I also really enjoyed the following interview with the design historian Glenn Adamson, titled, ‘The Object as Reality-Check’. It’s a fascinating read that ties discussions of material objects, past and present, with their political contexts. Specifically, Adamson discusses this in relation to his recent course ‘Objects of Dispute‘, a 10 session-long intensive seminar offered as part of the MA in History of Design and Curatorial Studies, run jointly by The New School’s Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, and in so doing, teases out the pedagogical issues of teaching about contentious material culture in the current political climate.
Tonight, I listened to my colleague Christian Weikop’s fascinating Radio 3 programme, Kandinsky – A Story of Revolution. It’s available on iPlayer now.
Finally, I note that Yale Center for British Art is advertising its Curatorial Research Fellowship opportunity – there’s just a few more days left, so submit your applications while you can!
Inspired by a number of reflective end-of-year blog posts (including this and this) I thought I’d map out my aims and activities for 2017. If you’d like to gain a sense of what I achieved in 2016, you can check out my series on being a year post-phd here, here, and here.
Yale Center for British Art
As always seems to be the case, 2017 is shaping up to be a very busy year.
In January, I’m primarily working on editing my PhD thesis for publication: firstly, I’m editing the sample chapters of my book that will be submitted for review, and secondly, I’m revising an article on needlework and visual culture, which is currently at revise and resubmit stage with a peer-reviewed journal. As a broader research aim, I also want to develop a sustainable daily writing habit during this month.
January is also the month in which I return to teaching, and this term I’m teaching four courses, one of which is completely new to me. I’m excited (and slightly apprehensive) about the challenges of a heavier teaching load, and interested to find ways of balancing my time between teaching and research commitments. Indeed, while teaching and marking dominate the months of January, February and March, I’m also planning on revising another article, this time on the interior decoration of A la Ronde, during this time. In February, I’m working on hosting a public event on Queer Material Heritage to tie in with this year’s LGBT History Month theme.
In April, I’ll be finishing off some marking, but more excitingly I’m off to Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library for a two week-research trip. I’ll be researching an exciting mixture of things for both my monograph project, as well as my postdoctoral project on collage in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Directly following on from this, I’m spending the month of May as a Visiting Scholar at Yale Center for British Art, during which time I’ll also conduct research for the collage project, this time on composite albums, botanical paper collages, and a number of mourning objects.
In June I’ll be travelling to Umeå, Sweden for the International Society for Cultural History 2017 Conference, which this year is on ‘Senses, Emotions and the Affective Turn: Recent Perspectives and New Challenges in Cultural History’. My presentation, ‘Lost Objects & Loss Objects: Intersections of Absence and Presence in Eighteenth-Century Material Culture’, will hopefully provide the perfect opportunity to tease out some of the key issues for the Introduction of my book.
In July, I’m off to another conference, this time in London. At Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period, I’ll be presenting my recent work on Romantic commonplace books, which has functioned as a sort of pilot study for my collage project.
Finally, in August, I’m spending a month as a research fellow at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. Other than providing a gorgeous setting for research, I’ll be using the Wintherthur’s library and museum collections to conduct research on a form of paper collage known as ‘scrapbook houses’. I’ll definitely be posting about all my research trips so stay tuned!
I’ll also be running Edinburgh’s Eighteenth-Century Research Seminars again this year (with the first session on Jan 25th) and Katie Faulkner and I are hoping to develop a project from #WaysofSheing, which will look at the contribution of female art historians across history – watch this space.
From September onwards, things are a little more hazy, although I’m a hundred per cent sure that I’ll be working on publications as much as possible, having kept various articles and the book ticking over during the first 8 months of the year. So 2017, let’s do this.
I was thrilled to find out that I’ll be presenting my paper ‘A literary inheritance: Romantic family histories and textual afterlives in the commonplace books of Ellen Warter’ at next year’s Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period conference. This exciting conference brings together a number of fascinating approaches to Romantic cultural and material practices, and focuses on ‘the composition, publication and reception of romantic poetry in relation to a diverse range of collections and composite texts: miscellanies, anthologies and beauties, multi-volume or serialised fiction, magazines and newspapers, annuals and albums, common-place books and notebooks, catalogues and guidebooks, encyclopaedias and dictionaries.’ My abstract for the conference is included below.
A literary inheritance: Romantic family histories and textual afterlives in the commonplace books of Ellen Warter, Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh)
This paper will focus on two commonplace books made c.1885 by Ellen Warter, the granddaughter of the Romantic poet Robert Southey, now held at the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh. Though at first glance the volumes denote Warter’s participation in the rather usual Victorian practice of album production, sustained attention to the books and their compiled contents suggests their deeper significance for studies of nineteenth-century literary culture. More than the sum of their parts, Warter’s commonplace books are not only a collection of individual details and textual clippings, but also evoke the broader contexts of authorship, celebrity, and collaboration.
Warter’s commonplace books are quite unlike ‘conventional’ examples of the genre, which traditionally compile excerpted texts from a broad array of writers on a variety of topics. Instead, Warter devoted over 300 pages of her volumes to the lives and literature of the Brontë family, who were the objects of her sustained estimation, affection, and documentation. This specific emphasis upon the Brontës relates Warter’s albums to a specific type of album-making: namely, the production of volumes dedicated to literary celebrities, a practice enacted throughout the nineteenth century. Beyond this fascination with the Brontës however, the practice of commonplacing was firmly intertwined with Warter’s own family history. As the granddaughter of Robert Southey, she was part of a family whose own commonplacing and album-making spanned several generations. Warter’s grandfather, aunts, mother, and father all made, or contributed to the production of, composite volumes, a literary inheritance that places Warter’s own productions within a longer history and set of material practices. Crucially, such practices were also enacted within the broader Romantic circle, with Southey contributing to the volumes of his friends’ daughters, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Caroline Bowles, Charles Lamb, and Edward Quillinan reciprocally adding poems to the albums of Edith Southey, Warter’s mother. For Warter then, commonplacing was not only an educative practice, but an inherently social one, with her compilation of ‘Brontëana’ consistent with the collective practices of her own extended literary family.
Employing the framework of the object biography, the paper will consider Warter’s commonplace books in terms of literary assemblage, tracing the volumes’ constitutive elements as they passed from one literary form into the next. At the same time, the paper will demonstrate how the books were inherently biographical objects, redolent with potent familial association, both of Warter’s own family, and that of the Brontës. The paper will accordingly situate Warter’s commonplace books in relation to both contemporary examples of ‘Brontëana’ and the broader album production of the Southey family and social circle. In so doing, it will highlight the importance of composite works to collective Romantic literary production, as well as their enduring legacy in the late-nineteenth century, thereby troubling traditional divisions between the Romantic and Victorian literary traditions, and demonstrating the disruptive nature of periodization.
Storify for The (After) Lives of Things: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Material Culture, AAH 2016
I’ve now Storified our AAH 2016 panel, The (After) Lives of Things: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Material Culture, which is available here. We’re currently working on a publication from the session, so watch this space for details of this as they come.