Archive Materials Programme

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On Wednesday (7th October) I’ll be presenting a paper at the Archive Materials research symposium. I’ll be talking about my research on A la Ronde and Plas Newydd in the context of the archive and writing feminist art histories. For more information see the project’s blog and the programme below.



Archive Materials: Feminism, Performance and Art History in the UK

Wednesday 7th October 2015, 1.30 – 6pm

Saunders Room, School of Art History, University of St Andrews

1.30 – 1.40pm Introduction

Victoria Horne and Catherine Spencer

1.40 – 2.00pm Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh)

2.00 – 2.20pm Kerri Offord (Watts Gallery)

2.20 – 2.50pm Discussion

2.50 – 3.10pm Coffee break

3.10 – 3.30pm Georgia Horgan

3.30 – 3.50pm Rachel Smith (University of York)

3.50 – 4.20pm Discussion

4.20 – 4.30pm Break with coffee refill

4.30 – 5.00pm Hilary Robinson (Middlesex University London)

5.00 – 6.00pm Discussion and roundtable

Oriana Fox Screening

6.00 – 6.30pm Wine reception

6.30pm Speaker dinner


Week in Review: August 28

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This article examining the material culture of abandoned psychiatric institutions: ‘Abandoned Suitcases Reveal Private Lives of Insane Asylum Patients‘.

This oral history project: ‘A Hackney Autobiography‘.

This blog post on first-world-war period sexuality by Lesley Hulonce: ‘A ‘Hotbed of Immorality’? World War One and Sexual Panic

New details for the Association of Art Historians’ textbook, Thinking About Art History.

This CFP on ‘Colonial Entanglements in the Production of Knowledge‘.

This event at the Black Cultural Archives: ‘Past Reflections: African History in England‘.

This series of podcasts examining Women, Gender, and Sex in the Ottoman World.

This CFP for Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies on ‘Life Writing as Empathy

New book on ‘Concepts of Value in European Material Culture, 1500–1900

The People’s Conclusion to #VoxPop2015.

Ushashi Dasgupta’s article on ‘voices from below’ in literary Victorian studies.

Storying the Past, a virtual reading group project ‘devoted to creative and innovative approaches to writing history’.

This exciting book – New Paths to Public Histories.

Difficult Women in the Long Eighteenth Century, 1680-1830

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I’m thrilled that I will be presenting my research on Anna Seward and poetic forms of gift exchange at the Difficult Women in the Long Eighteenth Century, 1680-1830 conference in November (University of York, 27-28 November, 2015 – further details can be found here).

I’ve included my abstract below, and will share a full copy of the conference programme once announced. Below is Sarah Ponsonby’s frontispiece to Anna Seward’s volume of poetry Llangollen Vale, with Other Poems (1796), the dissemination of which forms the subject of my paper.


Sarah Ponsonby, Frontispiece for Anna Seward,

Llangollen Vale, with Other Poems, published by G. Sael, London, 1796.

‘Pledges of an highly-prized friendship’: Anna Seward and the poetics of exchange[1]

This paper will focus on the production, dissemination, and publication of Anna Seward’s 1796 work Llangollen Vale, with Other Poems in relation to the ‘Romantic friendship’ cultivated between Seward and her numerous friends and correspondents. It will argue that the exchange of this collected volume of poetry testifies both to the genre’s affective nature as well as the complex material and social processes exemplified by contemporary gift exchange.

Comprising nine poems written by Seward and a prefatory sonnet by her friend, the Rev. Henry Francis Cary (1772-1844), the majority of the volume’s constituent poems were written whilst Seward was visiting the residences of, or places associated with, her intimates, and accordingly the volume is characterised by the sentimental nature of its inclusions. This affective function is demonstrated particularly by the volume’s titular poem Llangollen Vale, which eulogises Seward’s relationship with her close friends, Lady Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831), the so-called ‘Ladies of Llangollen.’

Specifically, the paper will consider how Llangollen Vale both constructed and reflected Seward’s prolonged acquaintance with Butler and Ponsonby, two women who had eschewed marriage by eloping from Ireland in order to live together in rural Wales, and whose queer reclusion mirrored Seward’s own ‘romantic friendship’ with her adopted sister Honora Sneyd (1751-1780). Having visited Butler and Ponsonby in their home Plas Newydd in 1795, Seward established a consistent epistolary communication with the women, marked by the exchange of objects, ideas, and sentiments, and in which poetry – in both its literary and material forms – was central. Whilst the term ‘romantic friendship’ has been dismissed by queer theorists for its sanitisation of potential lesbian interaction, this paper reclaims the expression, instead expounding the notion of ‘Romantic friendship’, to denote the cultivation of a creative and productive community between Plas Newydd and Seward’s home in Lichfield, characterised by the emotional attachment and intellectual pursuits of its participants. It will argue that this ‘Romantic friendship’ was primarily enacted through the exchange of poetic productions and gifted objects, which in the absence of their senders, functioned as agents of sentiment and respect, whilst simultaneously generating a dynamic literary and material Romantic culture centred amongst the women.

Embracing narratives of circulation, transcription, and commemoration, this paper will therefore argue that the exchange of Llangollen Vale, with Other Poems was a complex literary and affective transaction. As suggested by the creative and material responses to this gifted poem, its dissemination was part of a reciprocal poetics of exchange – not merely a literary act, but a social one that cultivated an intellectual, sentimental, and material network of decidedly Romantic friendship between the women.

[1] A. Seward, Letters of Anna Seward: Written Between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: George Ramsay & Co. 1811), Vol. 4, p. 131.


Week in Review: August 21

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Love Me, Love My Cat, Print made by James McArdell, ca. 1729–1765 after Philippe Mercier, 1689 or 1691–1760. Mezzotint, Sheet: 12 7/8 x 8 3/4 inches (32.7 x 22.2 cm). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.
Love Me, Love My Cat. Print made by James McArdell, after Philippe Mercier, c.1765. Mezzotint, Sheet: 12 7/8 x 8 3/4 inches (32.7 x 22.2 cm). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

This CFP for ‘Felines and Philosophers in the Eighteenth Century‘, a proposal for a panel at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies annual conference, Pittsburgh, PA, 31 March–3 April 2016.

This networking session for those collecting materials or carrying out research on Muslim history or heritage – Why don’t we just talk to each other? Building Cross-Sector Connections to Make Muslim Heritage More Accessible.

Imperial & Global Forum’s post ‘Top Picks in Imperial & Global History’.

This advisory post for PhD students commencing their studies by Pat Thomson on ‘working with literatures‘.

This workshop at the Bodleian Libraries Catholic Legacies, 1500-1800: Uncovering Catholic lives and records.

This book history CFP Books & Print between Cultures, 1500-1900 (18-19 September, Amherst College).

Amanda Littauer’s post for Notches Blog “What can I do to be normal?” Queer Female Desire in Letters to Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

Research Blah, a collaborative blog which grew from a training workshop: ‘Research Blogging in the Arts and Humanities’.

The Schomburg Center Scholars-in-Residence Program for Research in Black Culture.

This wonderful-sounding CFP Fabricating Truths: African-American Women and Clothing in the 19th Century August 28, 2015; March 17-20, 2016.

Week in Review: August 14

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Things that have caught my eye this week:

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All of the posts from the wonderful The Voices of the People online symposium. Check them out at

CFP: for the Heritage, Arts & Culture strand of  RADICAL HISTORIES/HISTORIES OF RADICALISM (a major conference and public history festival): 

CFP: Long-Eighteenth-Century Research in Progress Seminar (Michaelmas Term 2015)  

CFP: History of Women, Genders and Sexualities, June 1-4, 2017 

CFP: The Art of the Book, Cardiff University, December 4-6 2015

CFP: THE “POETESS” IRL: The World, Work, and Performances of Nineteenth-Century Women Poets

This excellent Gender History Bibliography from Charles Upchurch

This blog post by @willpooley on the importance of the character of the historian – ‘Make Yourself A Character?‘

And the latest addition to the Association of Art Historian’s brilliant Oral Histories project: ‘Interview with Martin Kemp

Activating Archives! Feminism, Performance and the Materials of Art History

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ActivatingArchives-page-001 I’m excited to have been asked to speak about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women’s material culture and the archive at the Activating Archives! Feminism, Performance and the Materials of Art History workshop, to be held at the University of St. Andrew’s on 7 October 2015. More details and a workshop programme to follow shortly.

CFP AAH 2016 Session – The (After) Lives of Things: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Material Culture

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Jane & Mary Parminter, bricolaged specimen table (comprising shells, polished marble, lapis lazuli, micromosaics, plaster casts, and a mourning plaque), 1790s, A la Ronde, Devon. (Photo author’s own)

CFP AAH 2016 Session – The (After) Lives of Things:

Deconstructing and Reconstructing Material Culture


Sarah Laurenson, University of Edinburgh, 

Freya Gowrley, University of Edinburgh,

Material things have been used to fashion identities and form social relationships throughout history. This panel seeks to shed light on the intersecting histories of materiality and process in the production and consumption of material culture. It invites papers that examine how physical and intellectual practices such as collecting, repurposing and remaking conveyed materially embedded messages about the subjective experience of their owner-makers, as well as the period in which they were undertaken more broadly. Such practices performed not only physical but semantic changes upon these objects which, due to their revised contexts, reciprocally enacted changes upon their possessors. Examining how these processes allowed individuals to construct identities, spaces, and social bonds, this panel will address issues central to the ‘material turn’ that has characterised recent scholarship within the humanities and, in particular, that of art history. Papers concerning all geographical areas and time periods – from the beginning of human history to the present day – are welcome. Potential topics could include, but are not limited to:

• object biographies

• construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction

• adaptation and alteration

• quotation and pastiche, bricolage & photomontage

• movement: mobility, translation, and geographical transformation

• composite forms of artistic production: quilting, shell/feather/paper-work, collaging

• affective, familial, and emotional objects

• modes of acquisition: collection, found objects, inheritance, and gift exchange

• the relationship between mass production and personal identity

We invite abstracts of no more than 250 words. Email paper proposals to the session convenors by 9 November 2015. Download a Paper Proposal Guidelines here.

– See more at: