The Nineteenth-Century Research Group

Promoting an interdisciplinary approach to the nineteenth century at the University of Lincoln

Month: October 2018

5pm Weds 24th, Prof Jason Whittaker on ‘Cleaving: Blake, Whitman and the aggravations of influence’.

This Wednesday’s session, which takes place in MB1019 at the slightly later time of 5pm, will feature Professor Jason Whittaker (University of Lincoln) talking on ‘Cleaving: Blake, Whitman and the aggravations of influence’. 


Whitman's tomb


Blake began and ended in Blake. Horace TraubelWith Walt Whitman in Camden, vol. 2, p. 99 

We should perhaps not make too much of the observation by Horace Traubel, visiting Walt Whitman in the 1880s, that the poet used a volume of Blake for a footstool. More significantly, writing privately in 1868 on the publication of Algernon Swinburne’s William Blake: A Critical Essay, Whitman noted that while both he and Blake were mystics and “extatics“, the differences between them were vast – that the author of the Song of Myself “never once lost control, or even equilibrium” (Clews and Indirections, p.53). 

This talk will not return to the exhausted discussions of what influence Blake had on Whitman; as Ryan Davidson observes, most of the supposed “points of contact” between the two were not available to Whitman when began writing Leaves of Grass. Rather, it will propose a more dynamic alternative to Bloom’s theory of influence, one which considers less the effects of one “strong” poet reading a predecessor and which instead examines the impact of “strong” readers who insist upon similarities between one writer and another. Contemporaries such as Swinburne, William Rossetti and Anne Gilchrist saw clear resemblances between Blake and Whitman: for Harold Bloom (another reader who linked Blake and Whitman as the most “daemonised” poets), clinamen is a swerving away in the search to establish an original voice, but in many cases it may be better thought of as the process of cleaving to the precursor via the responses of others, whether this be welcome to the poet or not. 

Davidson suggests that we consider an affinity of influence rather than adversarial conflict, alongside which Raymond Williams’s notion of “structures of feeling” can be helpful in considering ways in which transatlantic confluences during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries gave rise to similarities between Whitman and Blake. More than this, however, the paper will explore some of the ways in which specific activities in the book trade brought greater awareness of Blake after publication of Leaves of Grass, enabling a generation of critics to construct networks of reception between the two poets as well as offering a material apophrades for Whitman, who first grudgingly came to appreciate Blake via the printed quality of Gilchrist’s Life of William Blake and eventually commissioned his tomb in the shape of the Romantic’s engraving of “Death’s Door”. 

To readers in England in particular, it seemed that Blake and Whitman shared a common affinity – as Whitman remarked somewhat sardonically to Trabel, “A number of the fellows in England are off after Blake“. The irony is that had the former poet’s works been more widely available in the years immediately following his death, the later writer would certainly have swerved away from the earlier influence. That Whitman did not know of Blake’s works when composing Leaves of Grass is, then, what enabled later readers to cleave the two together more closely.


Professor Jason Whittaker is Head of the School of English and Journalism at the University of Lincoln. He has written extensively on William Blake, particularly with regard to his posthumous influence, and his books include William Blake and the Myths of Britain (1999), Radical Blake: Influence and Afterlife since 1827 (with Shirley Dent, 2002), Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture (with Steve Clark, 2008), Blake 2.0: William Blake in Twentieth-Century Art, Music and Culture (with Steve Clark and Tristanne Connolly, 2012), and William Blake and the Digital Humanities (with Roger Whitson, 2013). He is currently working on a book dealing with the past hundred years of the hymn “Jerusalem”.

‘Frankenstein at 200’, 31st Oct, Lincoln Drill Hall

‘Frankenstein at 200’, a Public Event in the city of Lincoln 


Digital Poster Frankenstein at 200


Venue:  the Lincoln Drill Hall, Free School Lane, Lincoln. LN2 1EY

Date: 31st October 2018 (9.30am-4pm)

Keynote speaker: Professor Mark Jancovich (University of East Anglia)

Ticket price: £7.50 (including a light lunch). Available from


In celebration of the bi-centenary of the publication of the first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the University of Lincoln is holding a public event, to which all are welcome.

The morning session (10am-1pm) comprises a programme of papers, with questions from the audience.

The afternoon session (2-4pm) comprises a work in progress performance by Chamelon 53, followed by a Round Table discussion (with audience participation) titled ‘Frankenstein’s Relevance to the C21st’, chaired by Professor Lucie Armitt (University of Lincoln).


Programme of Papers:

Prof. Mark Jancovich (University of East Anglia): ‘Frankenstein’s Hideous Progeny: Science Fiction, Horror and Political Discourse.’

Bysshe Inigo Coffey (University of Exeter): ‘A Study, the Senses and the Soul’

Eleanor Bryan (University of Lincoln) ‘Hideous Progenies: Reimagining Frankenstein’s monster’

Lauren Christie (University of Dundee): ‘Monstrous Legacies: Literary Adaptations of Frankenstein for Young Readers’

Dr Kelly Jones (University of Lincoln) ‘Adaptations of monstrous “liveness” in contemporary theatrical representations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’


Enquiries and further information: Lucie Armitt ( or Eleanor Bryan (


James Yeoman on ‘Memoir and Autobiography in the Spanish Anarchist Movement’

The first C19 session of this year will be James Yeoman (Uni of Sheffield) talking about memoir and autobiography in the Spanish anarchist movement. The session will take place in the Minvera Building, MB1019 at 4pm this Wednesday (3rd Oct). We hope to see you there.

Please find James’ abstract and biography below.

Urales Anarchist Autobiographies

Writing the Revolutionary Self: Memoir and Autobiography in the Spanish Anarchist Movement


This paper will discuss life-writing within the Spanish anarchist movement. It focuses the creation of identity through the creation of autobiographies and memoirs, texts in which memory interacts with the multiple, shifting discourses of both the movement, and of Spanish culture more broadly. As such it draws upon historical works on selfhood and ‘ego-documents’ (e.g. Summerfield, 1998; Voglis, 2002; Hellbeck, 2006) drawing comparisons with different genres (such as oral history, diaries and letters) and across different international contexts. Key questions to be discussed include:

  • What this material can and cannot tell us
  • How anarchist autobiographical writing changed and developed over the shifting political and social contexts of turn-of-the-century Spain
  • How authors related anarchist ideology to their experiences through their writing, in areas such as gender, and the relationship between the individual and collective


This paper will focus on one example of anarchist life-writing in particular: volume I of Mi Vida (3 vols., 1929-1932), the autobiography of the eminent publisher and theorist Federico Urales (1864-1942). Urales’ work provides an engaging and colourful example of how childhood, self-realisation, success and failure were framed within a discourse of a ‘good anarchist life’, set in the context of late nineteenth-century Spain, in which the individual and ideological merged to form an ethical, exemplary self-narrative.



Biography: James Michael Yeoman (University of Sheffield)


James is a teaching associate in Modern European History at the University of Sheffield. His work has examined the formation of the anarchist movement in Spain, with a particular focus on the role of print culture in the development of anarchist ideology and practice. His current research and most recent publications have emphasised transnational connections and exchanges between radical movements across Europe and Latin America. In 2016 James guest-edited a special edition of International Journal of Iberian Studies (29:3) with Dr Danny Evans (University of Leeds), which includes his article ‘Salud y Anarquía desde Dowlais,’ which presents a case study of Spanish anarchist migration to South Wales in the early twentieth century. He has also contributed a chapter on the Spanish Civil War for the recently-published Palgrave Handbook of Anarchism (2018).