The Cowper and Newton Journal Call for Papers – 2018 special issue
Two years ago, the editors announced an extension of the Journal’s scope to cover ‘all relevant aspects of the long eighteenth century – literary, artistic (including, as befits the Journal’s origins in the Museum, aspects of material culture), religious, historical, political, horticultural’, while still retaining Cowper and Newton at the heart of the publication. In that spirit, we now invite contributions to the 2018 edition of the Journal, a special issue devoted to the theme of ‘home and away’.
The theme offers an intriguing way of exploring the differences and similarities between Cowper and Newton; the one almost obsessively tied to a material ‘home’, the other famous for an extraordinarily rootless early life. The Christian resonances of ‘home’ invite further investigation; the heavenly home is in some ways adumbrated by domestic happiness on earth, yet in other ways renders such material pleasures irrelevant, even dubious. Similarly, the domestic kind of heroism which Cowper’s oeuvre seems to embody is at odds with the Christian rejection of worldly attachments so powerfully conjured in many of the Olney Hymns.
There are other ways in which ‘home’ is problematic in the world of Cowper and Newton. It can be restrictive, imprisoning, disappointing, even cruel. The gendered aspect of the private/public binary also complicates the idea of ‘home’ for the poet or clergyman. Similarly complex is the notion of the ‘household’ – a collection of material objects, family members, servants, friends, and pets, all bound up within a network of economic and emotional relationships. The garden represents a curious extension of the home, and the interest in imported exotics which bears fruit in many of Cowper’s poems is another promising research area. Several recent critical accounts of Cowper have highlighted the layered complexity of his engagement with global issues from his ‘sequestered’ life in the heart of the English countryside. David Higgins has suggestively written about Cowper’s ‘glocal vision’ – its valorization of the ‘physically static’ poet who ranges far and wide through reading and imagination – as an influence upon later Romantic writers, and it might be productive to investigate precursors of this poetic and moral stance. Although Cowper’s engagement with global politics and empire may now seem to be a well- ploughed furrow, contributions which extend or complicate existing scholarship on this theme will be welcome. Coming from a different angle at Cowper’s imaginative identification with the writings and experiences of travelers, including Newton, it may be productive to explore not only the exotic appeal of ‘away’ but also its more disturbing resonances.
Contributions may take the form of a full-scale article or a shorter note, and may – in the spirit of ‘home and away’ – focus on a specific text or object, or range over a wide area. Please send synopses for proposed submissions to guest editor Katherine Turner at email@example.com by 30 September 2017. Completed articles should be submitted by 31 December 2017 and should follow the style of the Journal as set out on its website: http://www.cowperandnewtonmuseum.org.uk/journal-2/