The Nineteenth-Century Research Group

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

Month: November 2019

Weds 4th Dec, Dr. Renée Ward on ‘The Earliest Beowulf for Victorian Children’

Our final C19 of 2019 features Dr. Renée Ward talking on ‘The Earliest Beowulf for Victorian Children: E. L. Hervey’s “The Fight with the Ogre”’. The session will take place on Weds 4th Dec in MB3201. Refreshments will be served from 4pm, with the paper due to start at 4.15pm.


This talk introduces to modern audiences the short story “Roderic’s Tale: The Fight with the Ogre,” by Eleanora Louisa (Montagu) Hervey (1811-1903), a forgotten but prolific and well-known children’s writer in the nineteenth century. This previously unrecognized and unexamined tale, which appears in Hervey’s volume The Children of the Pear-Garden (1878), may, in fact, be the earliest known adaptation in English for children of the Old English poem Beowulf, as it predates more widely recognized early adaptations. Hervey’s story, “The Fight with the Ogre”, speaks directly to the nineteenth century’s heightened fascination with and concern for heritage, history, and empire, transforming its source into an highly condensed narrative, one which effaces much of the original’s material that grapples with questions of humanity, identity, and otherness (racial, behavioural, and religious). It ignores narratorial digressions (genealogies and contextual tales); eliminates the final battle between Beowulf and the dragon; and employs a heavily Christianized tone. Presented as an entry in an ornamental gift book, the story includes an illustration of Grendel as far more human than the original poem or Hervey’s adaptation suggest. Additionally, the story-telling framework positions the male child as the precursor to the adult patriarchal head and provides instruction on how he should rule himself and his household.


My research has two main branches: medieval and post-medieval. Much of my research on the medieval period concerns the literature and culture of the high to late Middle Ages, with particular emphases on monsters; the romance genre and its cultural contexts; and relationships between English and Continental narratives. My published works to date on medieval romance explore embodiments of liminality and their connections to violence, and investigate how medieval authors use these representations to challenge or reinstate social hegemonies. These interests likewise inform my current book project, The Werewolf in Medieval Romance (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan) and my research on medieval outlaw figures.

4pm, 6th November, MB3201 – ‘”I am God from Eternity to Eternity”: reading William Blake’s The Four Zoas’


The next session of the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Research Group will take place at 4pm on Weds 2nd October in MB3201 (Minvera Building).

Annise Rogers

‘”I am God from Eternity to Eternity”: reading William Blake’s The Four Zoas’

Vala, or The Four Zoas is one of William Blake’s most over-looked and under-read works. An unfinished manuscript containing an epic prophecy of over 4000 lines, that was not published in its entire (highly edited) form until 1893, this poem forms the connection between the earlier Lambeth prophecies and the later, much longer epics of Milton and Jerusalem. The Four Zoas is the hinge between the two differing styles and forms, showing the development of Blake’s mythological structure as well as his poetic techniques. Due to the new digital versions, the poem is now becoming more available to the wider public in its original form.

By placing The Four Zoas in its historical connection to Blake’s illuminations of Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, I will consider how these two texts work together to create a new way of reading both; linking artwork with artwork, as well as text. This connection between texts to create new ways of reading is then expanded to include my PhD research on linking The Four Zoas and Jewish Biblical poetry. Whilst Blake’s poem is usually considered a Christian epic, it is important to consider how the poetic techniques of the Old Testament influenced the text, changing how we read and understand each text.


Annise Rogers is a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Lincoln. Her thesis research focuses on William Blake’s The Four Zoas, the poem’s place within the canon of Blake’s works, and its connections to Jewish Biblical poetry.