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The final C19 session of this academic year will take place on Thursday 14th April in MB1012. Sibylle Erle (Bishop Grosseteste University) will talk to us on ‘War, Napoleon and the Panorama’.


Refreshments will be served from 5pm and the paper will begin at 5.15pm.




Sibylle’s abstract and biography are below.




Robert Barker, the originator of the panorama, patented his invention which successfully represented a view of 360° in 1787 and opened a purpose-built rotunda in Leicester Square in 1793. The first panorama shown at Leicester Square was the Grand Fleet at Spithead, being the Russian Armament in 1791. Like the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy it was opened by George III.  According to Henry Aston Barker’s Memoirs (1857), Joshua Reynolds, the president of the Royal Academy, though initially skeptical of the invention, came to support and admire it – as did his successor Benjamin West. When Barker’s patent expired in 1801, a rival venue opened in the Strand; several other venues operated across the country. They were never in competition as they shared resources and coordinated showings. The panorama has been discussed as inferior art, mass entertainment, a precursor of the cinema and virtual reality. This talk will discuss the interaction between war and society within the space of the panorama as well as explore the development of panorama’s visual technology, its representation of war and commentary on the French Napoleonic wars. Sketches have survived but none of the original paintings. What we have to go by are reviews, eye-witness accounts and the schematic reproductions at the back of the narrative programmes. This talk seeks to establish the Panorama as a space in which visitors were inadvertently encouraged to critically engage with the topic represented: it will historically situate the panorama and determine how the ambitions of the panorama painters helped shape and promote very specific ideas about the French Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon.


The battle of Waterloo not only marked the end of the French Napoleonic wars, its significance lies in the high number of causalities. In Waterloo and the Romantic Imagination (2002) Phil Shaw points to the perceived failure of language to express what had happened, which is why, he explains, many took recourse to the aesthetic of the sublime, while gauging the battle’s meaning for the nation. Responses to Waterloo generally were ambivalent, wavering between elation about the victory and dejection about the suffering. Simon Bainbridge in Napoleon and English Romanticism (1995) compares the different poetic responses to Napoleon, i.e. how interpretations of Napoleon’s destiny and character sit with governmental or official narratives and radical counter-narratives. This talk is part of a project on Lord Byron’s, Walter Scott’s and Charlotte Eaton’s first responses to the field of Waterloo as well as the visual strategies of the panoramas to make sense of ‘Waterloo’. Most of the primary research on the Waterloo panoramas dates back to Panoramas, 1787-1900: Texts and Contexts (2012) with Laurie Garrison as general editor.





Sibylle Erle, FRSA, is Senior Lecturer in English at Bishop Grosseteste University Lincoln, author of Blake, Lavater and Physiognomy (Legenda, 2010), co-editor of Science, Technology and the Senses (Special Issue for RaVoN, 2008), volume editor of Panoramas, 1787-1900: Texts and Contexts (5 vols., Pickering & Chatto, 2012) and co-editor of The Reception of William Blake in Europe (Bloomsbury, 2017). She co-curated the display “Blake and Physiognomy” (2010-11) at Tate Britain and devised an online exhibition of Tennyson’s copy of Blake’s Job for the Tennyson Research Centre (2013). Apart from Blake’s reception, she is working on ‘character’ in the Romantic period, writing on Tennyson, Mary Shelley and the Panorama and collaborating with Jim Cheshire, Ewan Jones and Phyllis Weliver on a project which will digitally archive objects of the Tennyson Archive.



On the 17th March, the C19 Interdisciplinary Research Group will feature two Lincoln PhD students talking about their current research.


We will be in room MB1012. Doors open at 5pm and the papers will begin at 5.15pm. Refreshments will be available.


Please find details of the two papers below.




Michelle Poland, “A Perilous Prognosis: Introducing ‘Ecological Dismemberment’ in the Franklin Expedition and Mary Shelley’s The Last Man


The EcoGothic is an emerging subcategory of critical inquiry uniquely equipped to capture fears about human produced environmental degradation.  It is curious, then, that the Anthropocene has been thus far largely neglected by the EcoGothic, given its perilous prognosis.  This paper begins by considering just one of the ways in which this new geological epoch might recast our readings of Gothic narratives, revealing the nightmarish underside to humanity’s exploitative ways.  By borrowing some theoretical framework from Carol J. Adams’ thesis, The Sexual Politics of Meat, I tentatively introduce the concept of ‘ecological dismemberment’ and briefly explore the ways in which it pervades the culture and literature of nineteenth century Britain, a period of seismic industrial, mechanical, and technological growth.  Drawing on the 1845 Franklin expedition and Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826), I argue that Adam’s theory of dismemberment, one that links the carving up of meat and sexual violence, a “cycle of objectification, fragmentation and consumption”, can be further applied to the oppression of the broader more-than-human world.  As discussion unfolds, it becomes clear “the earth is a single vast ecosystem that we destabilise at our peril”


NPG D18654; 'The lawyer; the client' by John Kay


Grace Harvey, “Robert Bage and The Economics of Friendship”


Throughout the late eighteenth-century Robert Bage, a radical writer and paper-maker from the West-Midlands, relied significantly upon his friends to avoid financial ruin; however, these friendly interventions would have far-reaching consequences into their sympathetic relations. Paying particular attention to Bage’s relationship with his childhood friend William Hutton, a central figure in West-Midlands radicalism and Bage’s sole customer, this paper will consider how questions of obligation and the distribution of power, that arise from their financial transactions, have a clear influence upon their friendship. Their correspondence reveals how these concerns trouble Bage and more significantly include his explicit attempts to reconcile their friendship.


Further questions will consider how these letters begin to illuminate readings of Bage’s 1792 novel, Man as He is. Like Bage attempts to navigate the demands of obligation to both his customer and his friend, so to do protagonists Sir George Paradyne and Mr Lindsay, who compel us to question what motivates action, and whether this is anchored in sympathy or financial prosperity. His fervent discussion of these complexities culminates in the notion that friendship is necessary to these commercial endeavours in the attempts to overcome antagonistic class politics.



The next meeting of the interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Research Group will be a group discussion on the Manifesto of the V21 Collective. This will take place in MB1012 at 5.15pm on Thurs 25th Feb.


The V21 Collective claims that ‘Victorian Studies has fallen prey to positivist historicism’, the symptoms of which include ‘a fetishization of the archival’. The group seeks to redefine Victorian Studies for the Twenty-First Century.

The V21 Manifesto has been controversial (see, for example, this response from Martin Hewitt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJP-8vG2ypk), so please do come along to discuss its merits and demerits. Refreshments will be provided to aid the smooth flow of debate.

If possible, please read this page beforehand, including the comments at the bottom: http://v21collective.org/manifesto-of-the-v21-collective-ten-theses/

We will print out copies of the Manifesto, so there’s no need to bring your own unless you really wish to do so.


At our next research seminar, on Thursday 28th Jan, Julia Podziewska (Sheffield Hallam) will talk to us on the topic of ‘Lost Property: Political Economy, Inheritance and Plot in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White and All the Year Round‘.

We are in room MB1012 (1st floor Minerva Building). There will be refreshments from 5pm and the paper will begin at 5.15pm. Please find Julia’s abstract below:



Inheritance plots proliferate in the mid-Victorian novel. Rare is the novel without a lost, hidden or destroyed last will and testament; a case of intestacy; a complicating codicil; or transfer by entail upset by the unexpected deaths of heirs apparent. Despite this plethora of post-mortem property plots, in recent decades it has been biological inheritance – the matter of heredity versus environment – that has held centre stage in scholarly debate (Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots, 1983; Jenny Bourne Taylor, In the Secret Theatre of Home, 1988). The inheritance of property has frequently been side-lined as little more than a plot device (Reed, Victorian Conventions, 1975); or its specificities have been occluded when it has been subsumed under the heading of women’s property issues more broadly. This has even been the case with the work of Wilkie Collins, whose canonised novels from the 1860s are each primarily structured by an inheritance plot.

This paper demonstrates that inheritance plots merit far more consideration. Reading The Woman in White in conjunction with All the Year Round, the second of Dickens’s magazines that Collins had written for, and the magazine in which the novel first appeared, serialised between Nov. 1859 and Aug. 1860, I gauge Collins’s preconceptions about his readers’ familiarity with inheritance law, show how his plots play with his readers’ awareness of property matters and argue that understanding the complexities of inheritance enables us to account for Collins’s famously dense, intricate plots. My paper further considers the appearance of life assurance as an alternative to inheritance, both as it features within the novel and as it appeared on the pages of the periodical press.

The paper closes with reference to the silence that surrounds inheritance and plot in general in Collins scholarship, advocating instead a critical practice that enables plot to be recognized as an historical form.

Dr Jane Darcy is talking at BGU on ‘Light & Shade: Contemporary Portraits of Tennyson’ on Thursday (26th Nov). Please click on the poster for further details:

Jane Darcy's poster

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