BSECS Postgraduate and Early Career seminar series Back

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the annual BSECS Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher conference cannot go ahead as planned.

However, we are still keen to provide a platform for postgraduates and early career researchers in eighteenth-century studies to get together and present their research. Therefore, we proudly present this new monthly digital seminar series.

Last Thursday of each month, 3-4PM

Sessions take place via Zoom and are aimed specifically at postgraduate and early career researchers. Registration instructions will be posted soon.

For any queries, please contact the postgraduate representatives via postgrad@bsecs.org.uk

 

Programme

30 July 

Matthew Lee, University of Aberdeen: Resistance, rebellion and the amelioration of slavery in Hector MacNeill’s Memoirs of the Life and Travels of the Late Charles Macpherson Esq.

 

Tom Little, University of York: “quitting the public road”: Affective Atmospheres in John Thelwall’s The Peripatetic (1793)

 

27 August

Anthony Delaney, Newcastle University: Cotqueans: Queer Domesticity in Eighteenth-Century England

 

Hannah Weaver, University of Edinburgh: Illicit Space and Gender: Reassessing Urban Boundaries in Late Eighteenth-Century Edinburgh

 

24 September

Rebekah Andrew, University of Birmingham: ‘O that my Grief were Thoroughly Weighed’: Clarissa’s ‘Meditations’ and Jeremy Taylor’s Holy Living

 

Jeanette Holt, Kingston University: Marriage – Love or Money? The motives for marriage in Kingston upon Thames 1743 to 1763

 

29 October, 4-5PM (please note different time)

Ioannes P. Chountis, University of Athens: Party Politics and the Rhetoric of Opposition in Lord Byron’s Poetry and Speeches

 

Emily Seitz, University of Birmingham: Perfecting the Poet of Nature: Pope’s Cultivation of Shakespeare

 

26 November

Tilman Schreiber, Friedrich Schiller University: Classical avant-garde. Gavin Hamilton and the aesthetics of dilettantism

 

Keiko Kawano, Kobe University: Oppositions in the viewpoints of Dubos and Cahusac regarding ancient dance

 

Abstracts

30 July 

Matthew Lee, University of Aberdeen: Resistance, rebellion and the amelioration of slavery in Hector MacNeill’s Memoirs of the Life and Travels of the Late Charles Macpherson Esq.

 

Travel to and from the Caribbean was a prominent feature of Hector MacNeill’s life. MacNeill (1746-1818), made three journeys to the Caribbean during his lifetime. Although his contemporaries placed his writing in high regard, MacNeill’s life and works have slipped into relative obscurity. Little scholarly work has been undertaken on him in recently. However, consideration of his work provides insights into Scottish attitudes to slavery during the long eighteenth century. His time in the Caribbean had a marked impact on his life and engendered numerous literary responses that spanned poetry, political pamphlets and memoirs. This paper focuses on MacNeill’s fictionalised memoir The Life and Travels of the Late Charles Macpherson, Esq. (1800). Specifically, the paper examines MacNeill’s discussions of resistance and rebellion against, and amelioration of, slavery. The paper analyses two parables on slavery reform offered by MacNeill in Charles Macpherson: the first describes a failed attempt at reform that inadvertently encourages rebellion; the second offers MacNeill’s preferred model of amelioration, which encourages the development of sympathetic bonds between enslaver and enslaved. The paper argues that MacNeill used his discussion of resistance, rebellion and amelioration in an effort to influence contemporary political debates about slavery.

 

Tom Little, University of York: “quitting the public road”: Affective Atmospheres in John Thelwall’s The Peripatetic (1793)

 

In her introduction to John Thelwall’s mixed-form work The Peripatetic (1793), Judith Thompson refers to the “panic-stricken and paranoid atmosphere of late 1792” (23). Such broad claims about the felt atmosphere of the 1790s are common among historicist critics. Yet, these claims are usually reflexive, made with little interrogation either of the pervading affects attributed to the period, or the properties of “atmosphere” itself. Recent interest in theorising atmosphere, both physical and affective, gives scholars of the 1790s an opportunity to evaluate these claims. This paper brings new theoretical work to bear on The Peripatetic (1793), in order to complicate Thompson’s account of the atmosphere in which it was written. I argue that Thelwall uses the language of affective atmosphere to generate a complex account of his republican protagonist Sylvanus Theophrastus’s felt awareness of loyalist surveillance. The felt atmosphere in Thelwall’s book is not universally paranoid, instead changing when certain physical atmospheric boundaries are crossed: particularly indicated by changes in air quality between city, suburb and country. Theophrastus’s felt perception of threat changes in different physical atmospheres, indicating the inseparability of physical and affective atmospheres. However, his awareness of threat often resurfaces within calmer atmospheres, indicating that affective atmospheres can create a false sense of security. I conclude that claims about the monolithic, totalising, felt “atmosphere” of the 1790s should be replaced with a more nuanced account of affective atmospheres that vary geographically and are politically contested.

 

27 August

Anthony Delaney, Newcastle University: Cotqueans: Queer Domesticity in Eighteenth-Century England

On 21 December 1732 John, Lord Hervey turned the key in the door at 31 Great Burlington Street, London. The bricks and mortar were familiar to him, for he had lived there not too long ago himself. In recent months however, following the transfer of the lease, letters had flown back and forth between Lord Hervey and the new resident discussing the choice of linens, wallpapers, fabrics, furniture and other trappings to make the refurbished house a home. Improvements now complete, Hervey wrote again to his committed correspondent Stephen Fox to share his delight; “It is quite finished, and looks the smuggest, sprucest, cheerfulest thing I ever saw. Nothing can improve it but a piece of moveable goods of my acquaintance, which I expect home with more impatience than I can tell you.”

The study of eighteenth-century domestic masculinity has received much attention in recent years, although leading historians have tended to adopt an unproblematic, heteronormative approach in their analysis and, as a result, significant oppositions to these dominant narratives have been excluded from studies of the home. This paper asks if it was possible for non-conforming men to find domestic expression in eighteenth-century England and, if so, what form did this take? What were the consequences of this, both for the men themselves and their families? This paper will examine queer inversions of the familial trope, queer domestic space, queer domestic influence and begin an important new historiographic conversation around queer experience in the eighteenth century.

 

Hannah Weaver, University of Edinburgh: ‘Illicit Space and Gender: Reassessing Urban Boundaries in Late Eighteenth-Century Edinburgh’

 

Eighteenth-century Edinburgh is commonly associated with Enlightenment philosophy and polite sociability. Yet, relatively little scholarship has explored impolite behaviour in the city and its potential to offer insight into historical understandings of gender, sexualities and transgressive behaviour.

The latter half of the century, in particular, is a period of rapidly changing parameters regarding socially acceptable behaviour. The decline of religious moral policing, combined with the expansion and commercialisation of public entertainment, resulted in new definitions of non-normative behaviour. Locating these social parameters in language, geography and visual sources can uncover the intersecting worlds of the polite and impolite.

Geography heavily shapes social behaviour and first-hand accounts of Edinburgh’s lively taverns and theatres evidence the rowdy reputation of the Canongate and its association with violence, drunkenness and promiscuity that contrasted with the refined ‘New Town’. Beyond these sites of ‘bad’ behaviour, lay the wynds, secretive passages, integral to Edinburgh’s architecture and the city’s sex trade described in Ranger’s List of Edinburgh’s Ladies of Pleasure (1775). During the day, many of these sites were places of polite sociability, but at night, they transformed into hubs of illicit behaviour.

Despite historical assumptions of Scotland’s religious aversion to performance in the eighteenth century, the theatres were significant sites of riot, protest and sexual assignation, closely linked with popular concepts of ‘scandal’. The religious context of Scottish Presbyterianism, combined with the illegality of theatre in Edinburgh until 1767, creates a distinct social dynamic that would serve as a comparison to London in the eighteenth century.

 

24 September

Rebekah Andrew, University of Birmingham: ‘O that my Grief were Thoroughly Weighed’: Clarissa’s ‘Meditations’ and Jeremy Taylor’s Holy Living

 

The influence of Jeremy Taylor’s Holy Dying (1656) over Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa (1748) has been widely noted. However, the influence of Taylor’s companion work, Holy Living (1656) has been discussed less frequently. Specifically, it appears not to have been noted that Taylor writes prayers to be recited by the sick and dying wholly composed of biblical references similar to Clarissa’s ‘Meditations’ while she prepares herself for her perfect Christian death. This paper will primarily explore some of the subtleties of Clarissa’s meditations, according to Joshua Swidzinski (2014) ‘wholly unoriginal’, in fact they are comprised of carefully selected biblical verses from a wide variety of sources and translations, cropped, changed and altered to fit Clarissa’s personal situation. Discussing particularly Meditation 22 from Richardson’s additional Meditations Collected from Sacred Books (1751) as both typical and atypical, and Clarissa’s meditation written to Lovelace which is unacknowledged and unanalysed, I will explore how Clarissa uses biblical verses to come to terms with her situation as she prepares herself for death and attempts to warn Lovelace of the fate which awaits him beyond the grave.

I shall compare Clarissa’s ‘Meditations’ with those of Taylor, who provides a precedent for Richardson’s composition of these devotional prayers especially for the dying, shedding light on the idea that the form of Clarissa’s Meditations was one familiar to an eighteenth-century audience and not a new expression of prayer invented by Richardson for the purposes of providing a glimpse into his heroine’s private devotions. 

 

Jeanette Holt, Kingston University: Marriage – Love or Money? The motives for marriage in Kingston upon Thames 1743 to 1763

 

Authors from Lawrence Stone and Roy Porter through to Sally Holloway have demonstrated the transition in the eighteenth century from parentally led, fairly mercenary marriages to marriage which was largely motivated by love. The sources for this, however, come largely from the upper classes and eighteenth century novels so it is not representative. Another generally held view is that only the well off married by license. Through a study of Kingston upon Thames between 1743 and 1763 this paper will examine motivations for marriage across the whole spectrum of society by looking at social mobility at the time of marriage. A wide variety of sources are used to understand the circumstances of individuals from birth to marriage and make comparisons between the couples concerned. This particular date range is intersected by the 1753 Hardwicke Marriage Act which may also have had an impact on marriage practices. In the eighteenth century Kingston upon Thames was a well established market town with its own corporation. Being close to London it housed a large number of gentry as well as people from the lower orders. In addition to assessing social mobility, this paper will also assess the use of marriage licenses by a much wider array of people than has originally been supposed. This paper will look at the reasons for this and the implications for marriage among people from all walks of life.

 

29 October, 4-5PM!

Ioannes P. Chountis, University of Athens: Party Politics and the Rhetoric of Opposition in Lord Byron’s Poetry and Speeches

 

Party politics and political controversies are often reflected in the poetry of Lord Byron. He actively participated as a member of the House of Lords in the political debates of Regency Britain for a short period of time (1811-1813) and remained a Whig, although not a mainstream one, for all his life. The three parliamentary orations he delivered related to traditional Whig loci classici, namely the upraising of the Luddites, Catholic Question and parliamentary reform. Additionally, in his satirical poems and private correspondence Byron commented on contemporary political events.

This paper shall indicate three critical elements of Byron’s politics: first, we will discuss how his Whig convictions interplayed with the possibility of a social revolution in England after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Furthermore, we will transcribe Byron’s depiction of party politics in two satires, The Vision of Judgement and The Age of Bronze, the first focusing on the early years of George III’s reign and the other on the post-Napoleonic Europe. In conclusion, by examining the characteristics of his rhetoric of opposition, we shall prove that it bore the same contradictions of the early 19 th century Whig strategy against the Tories.

 

Emily Seitz, University of Birmingham: Perfecting the Poet of Nature: Pope’s Cultivation of Shakespeare

 

Alexander Pope, in his 1725 The Works of Shakespeare, highlights Shakespeare’s ‘Beauties’ and degrades Shakespeare’s ‘Faults’ through his editorial process. Pope’s goal is to highlight both Shakespeare’s ‘Beauties and Faults’ in his edition of Shakespeare’s works in order to present Shakespeare as a writer both deserving of praise and critique, at times presenting opposing views of Shakespeare. By selecting some of Shakespeare’s passages as ‘Beauties,’ Pope is refining Shakespeare’s plays by his own aesthetic taste. In examining what Pope deems are Shakespeare’s ‘shining passages,’ my chapter uncovers how Pope’s taste presents some of Shakespeare’s ‘Beauties’ as not only aesthetically pleasing passages, but as representative of Pope’s own eighteenth-century philosophies of gardening and the natural world. In analyzing the ‘Beauties’ that involve metaphors of nature, my paper shows how Pope constructs Shakespeare as an author capable of representing nature as a complex feature in writing, that can be both aesthetically pleasing and a source for reason, judgement, and structure. My examination of Pope’s writings about horticulture and nature as keys to his critical response to Shakespeare is a new approach, and through my new analysis, I uncover how Pope’s dual role as both a horticultural and literary critic forms a whole coherent aesthetic system where ‘cultivating’ and ‘editing’ become interchangeable terms. 

 

26 November

Tilman Schreiber, Friedrich Schiller University: Classical avant-garde. Gavin Hamilton and the aesthetics of dilettantism

 

There is a genuine paradox regarding Gavin Hamilton’s status in art history. On the one hand, his pictures are full of allusions to classical antiquity and old master imagery. On the other hand, his way of approaching mythological themes by focussing on the emotional, i.e. the genuine human dimension seems unprecedented. Already the Scottish painter’s contemporaries were aware of his status as a sort of ‘classical avant-gardist’. Hamilton was “uno de’ principali ammiratori dell’antichità” [‘one of the great admirers of antiquity’] and simultaneously a main protagonist of the “risorgimento del gusto” [‘renewal of taste’]. This tension characterises especially a group of works which represents the Olympic gods as individual figures or in pairs, as e.g. Hamilton’s Apollo and Artemis (around 1770). Until now, these paintings got almost no attention in art historical research. The paper I would like to deliver at the BSECS conference, therefore, aims for a first exploration of them against the aesthetic background described. Furthermore, it would like to introduce the category of the ‘dilettante’ to explain the works’ ambivalent character.

Of course, referring to dilettantism in the case of Hamilton’s painting is as such, not innovative at all. It was especially the (self-declared) English dilettanti to whom the artist sold his and other works. However, art historians are usually interested in these persons with regard to their role within a historic network of dealing. In contrast, my paper would like to understand the dilettante as a model of reception. More precisely: a way of confronting aesthetic objects, which is equally based on classical knowledge and sensuous or emotional examination. Hence, there is a sort of elective affinity between Hamilton’s ‘classical avant-gardism’ and the ideal of the dilettante with ‘taste’. Both represent models which are at the same time genuine to the 18th century and nourished by the heritage of classical art. They are ancient and modern.

 

Keiko Kawano, Kobe University: Oppositions in the viewpoints of Dubos and Cahusac regarding ancient dance

 

This article investigates how the concept of the dance transformed throughout the 18th century by examining the oppositions in the viewpoints of Dubos and Cahusac regarding ancient dance. In 1733, Dubos reissued his work Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et sur la peinture by adding a new volume devoted to music and dance. In this volume, he examined ancient theories on music and suggested that the ancient concept of musical art was broader than that of his time, as it encompassed dramatic poetry, art, and dance and highlighted this trinity. Moreover, Dubos’ suggestions sustained the rise of body movement in the theatrical representation of the 18th century as the ballet d’action. Thus, several 18th-century authors of articles/essays related to dance refer to these suggestions. Among them, the most notably was Cahusac who published La Danse ancienne et moderne ou Traité historique de la danse in 1754. Cahusac, however, reexamined the ancient theories himself and opposed Dubos’ viewpoints. Dubos claimed that modern dance moves away from ancient dance due to its complex technique and its distance from the discourse or poetic narration, whereas Cahusac proposed that no gap exists between them and that modern dance finds its roots in antiquity. Hence, the abovementioned oppositions in the viewpoints revealed the transformation of thought on the narrative by body movement. While Dubos supposed that the narrative body should be subordinate to discourse, Cahusac evaluated the possibilities of dancing narrative on the basis of the new and modern form of body movement.