The Nineteenth-Century Research Group

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

Author: Owen Clayton (page 2 of 10)

6th March, Dr. Kate Hill on ‘Professionalization, Status, and Masculinity in Provincial Museums’

Next week’s C19 meeting will feature Dr. Kate Hill (History, Uni of Lincoln) talking on the topic of ‘Professionalization, Status, and Masculinity in Provincial Museums, c.1870-1930’ . Kate is a great speaker, so please do come along!


As usual, refreshments will be from 4pm with the paper to start at 4.15pm. Kate’s abstract and biography are below.



4pm, 6th March



‘A rather undefined social position and public recognition’: Professionalization, Status, and Masculinity in Provincial Museums, c.1870-1930’


The figure of the lower middle-class man was rarely seen as particularly masculine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; he appears both at the time and in the work of subsequent scholars as an overly-domesticated ‘Pooterish’ type. But how might occupational identities – particularly new ones – contribute to their own sense of, and others’ perceptions of, manliness, especially at a time when women were starting to encroach on the lower ranks of the professions? This paper will examine regional and provincial museum curating, especially in municipally-funded museums, a field which grew from virtually nothing in about 1850 to supporting a professional association by the end of the century, to explore how occupation, remuneration and cultural capital put limits on curators’ ambitions to be part of the ‘learned (manly) professions’, and how they attempted to assert a particular version of masculinity in the face of class and gender challenges.



I am a principal lecturer in History here at the University and am a historian of museums and collecting in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; my most recent book was Women and Museums, 1850-1914: Modernity and the Gendering of Knowledge (MUP 2016 – now out in paperback!). I’m currently working on a project on children and museums (going through all the demographic categories as you can see)

Weds 20th Feb: Frankenstein and Keats

Next week’s C19 is a joint session featuring two Ph.D students. It sounds fascinating, so please come along! Details below.


C19 Research Group

20th Feb, MB1019

Refreshments at 4pm, papers to begin at 4.15pm



Eleanor Bryan, University of Lincoln, ‘ “My Hideous Progeny”: Re-imagining Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Since its initial publication in 1818, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has found itself subject to continual adaptation. It has been ceaselessly rewritten, reproduced, and redesigned over the subsequent two centuries to the point where there are now over eighty dramatic adaptations of the story and even more derivative films; tropes of which have become decidedly more fore-grounded in public consciousness than the original storyline. This paper concerns adaptations of Frankenstein, and looks to examine, from both a theoretical and historicist standpoint, the alterations made in the process of adapting the text. A Bakhtinian approach to adaptation will be assumed, in line with the theory that adaptive works do not silence or correct a previous work, but are rather informed by the original work and antecedent adaptations in order to establish a dialogue that extends in both directions.

Whilst the abundance of Frankenstein adaptations has prompted many studies on the differences between the novel and the films, scholarly research has neglected to examine the story’s transition from the original novel, to the nineteenth-century dramatizations, to the 1831 rewriting of the novel, to twentieth-century films. Rather than restrict analysis to one version of the novel and one medium of adaptation, this paper will approach the adaptations holistically in order to provide a new perspective in arguing that the nineteenth-century plays adapted from the 1818 novel shaped its 1831 rewriting and, ultimately, later cinematic adaptations. Significant deviations from Shelley’s storyline will be evaluated in terms of how they update the Frankenstein story for a more contemporary audience, and how their changes add to or detract from the societal concerns that Shelley originally aimed to emulate.


Eleanor Bryan is an Associate Lecturer on the Late Victorian to Edwardian Literature module and a PhD student studying Gothic adaptations. Her research primarily concerns dramatic adaptations of Frankenstein and Dracula; interrogating their propensity for adaptation, their enduring relevance, and the malleability of their characters in accurately transmuting changing social anxieties. Wider research interests include romanticism, fin de siècle literature, cinematic adaptation, and literary representations of monstrosity. Eleanor is active in the dissemination of her research, presenting her work at many national and international conferences, and last year she was awarded the Stephen Copley research award by the British Association for Romantic Studies.


Carly Stevenson, University of Sheffield, ‘Looking in Keats’s Lamia


John Keats’s 1819 narrative poem Lamia is concerned with ways of looking: it begins with Hermes’s ‘amorous’ quest to find a hidden nymph and ends with Lamia’s retreat from the ‘watching eyes’ of Apollonius. Not only is Hermes the agent of Lamia’s metamorphosis from snake to woman, he is the conduit through which the reader’s gaze is mediated. Moreover, the bodily autonomy Lamia gains from her bargain with Hermes (she reveals the nymph to him in exchange for the restoration of her woman’s form) is short-lived, as she cannot disguise her true ‘gordian’ appearance from Apollonius. In this paper, I will explore the ways in which Keats reimagines the figure of the Lamia, and, in doing so, interrogates the femme fatale motif that was gaining currency during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, accelerated by the publication of Gothic texts such as Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796) and Coleridge’s Christabel (1816). By focusing on the power of seeing in Lamia, Keats acknowledges a ‘knotty problem’ at the root of the Gothic-Romantic obsession with transgressive female figures.


Carly Stevenson is a PhD student in the School of English at the University of Sheffield, under the supervision of Prof. Angela Wright and Prof. Andrew Smith. Her research is concerned with John Keats and the Gothic Aesthetic. Before joining the PhD programme at Sheffield, Carly completed both her undergraduate and Masters Degrees at the University of Lincoln.

Nineteenth Century Research Group Programme, Semester B

Here is the (slightly delayed) C19 programme for this Semester. There’s lots to look forward to, so we hope to see you there!


4pm Weds 14th Nov, MB1019: Debbie Whelan on ‘Controversial clerics and rambunctious rebels’

The final C19 Research Group seminar of 2018 will feature Debbie Whelan (University of Lincoln) talking on the subject of ‘Controversial clerics and rambunctious rebels: Lessons in relationship, race and the retrospective lens. James Allison and Langalibalele in 19th century Natal’. The session will begin at 4pm (paper to start at 4.15pm) on Weds 14th November in MB1019. All welcome. Details below.




‘Controversial clerics and rambunctious rebels: Lessons in relationship, race and the retrospective lens. James Allison and Langalibalele in 19th century Natal.’


James Allison was a controversial Wesleyan minister who established a number of Mission stations in the colony of Natal, South Africa, in the mid-nineteenth century. He is noted for his expulsion from the Wesleyan Ministry and was ultimately ejected from the Edendale African Mission at Georgetown, near Pietermaritzburg. A milliner by trade, he had crossed the subcontinent, dragging converts with him as he went.

Part of his journey to ultimately settle in Natal Colony took him through the upper Mzinyathi region, around the present day town of Utrecht. Here he stayed for a while with the Hlubi chief Langalibalele, later to achieve notoriety in the Colony for his uprising in 1873 as a result of gun laws. These men it would seem, formed a link which perpetuated, connecting the Hlubi chief with the missionary and ultimately informing indirectly, a heritage of resistance moving into the twentieth century.

This very interdisciplinary paper will discuss the relationship between Langalibalele and Allison, and comment on the fragments of the past which can construct new, alternative dialogues in a contemporary South Africa obsessed with race and oppression rather than the practise of humanity and the everyday.



Debbie is a trained architect who subsequently wandered into the realms of anthropology and history. She was awarded undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in architecture at the University of Natal in Durban, and a BA in archaeology, anthropology and English from UNISA. Her PhD studies (London) investigated traders in Zululand in the 20th century, and as such, inculcated a further interest in interdisciplinary work. Whilst carrying out PhD fieldwork, Debbie ran a research company carrying out heritage impact assessments as well as investigating land claims. These endeavours allowed for a greatly extended field of research expertise which has allowed synthetic works such as this one on Allison and Langalibalele, to come together. Her interests are vernacular and indigenous architectures, intangible heritage, hybrid cultures, and other subaltern areas: her architectural interests revolve around the unseen – electrical substations, municipal structures, and architectures of exclusion, particularly relevant to South Africa.

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”.

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