Thursday, April 19, 2012
An all-nineteenth-century programme this term, by coincidence! We are once again stationed in the English Faculty's Seminar Room A (ex-Meyerstein) at 5.15pm.
Hope to see you there!
7 May (Third Week): ‘Feeling for Depth: The Water-Babies in and around the Victorian Sea’. Matthew Kerr, Somerville
On the last page of his popular Glaucus or, The Wonders of the Shore (1855), Charles Kingsley tells his readers that, if they cannot get to the seaside themselves, they may purchase a special mixture of ‘salts’ needed to manufacture ‘Mr. Gosse’s artificial sea-water’—this, he is satisfied, ‘will form a perfect substitute’. What was in Gosse’s salt is not clear, but it is easy to imagine that some Londoners may have found alternative uses for it. Richard Rowe, for one, may have been glad of the recommendation: the sound of London costermongers made him ‘pine so for a whiff of “the briney”’ that he found he ‘must undress and give myself a second tub, and put some Tidman’s sea-salt in it’. For the Victorians, the sea magnetically drew both thoughts and bodies towards itself. In this paper Matt, a final-year D.Phil. candidate at Somerville, considers the ambiguities of, and contexts for, Kingsley’s own longing for immersion as expressed in his famous children’s novel The Water-Babies (1863).
21 May (Fifth Week): ‘“The Laughing Philosopher”: Thomas Hood’s Comic Imagination and Its Place in Nineteenth-Century Children’s Literature’. Karen Williams, Roehampton University
The figure of the child is central to the work of the nineteenth-century poet and illustrator Thomas Hood. Representing an ambivalent blend of innocence and wisdom, Hood uses his child figures to present laughter and play as an antidote to the drudgery and hardships of life in an increasingly industrialised London. This paper discusses how, by connecting the laughing child with the classical trope of Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher, Hood employs seemingly innocuous humour and simple childlike forms—ballads, nursery rhymes, fairy tales—to interrogate serious issues in contemporary society. In so doing, Hood writes an extensive canon of literature both for and about children that deserves much greater recognition in the wider trajectory of children’s literature. Karen is currently undertaking her PhD at Roehampton’s National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL).
4 June (Seventh Week): ‘“Not Classic, But Quite Correct”: Reinventing Classical Mythology for the Nineteenth-Century Juvenile Drama’. Dr Rachel Bryant-Davies, University of Cambridge
Juvenile Dramas, often based on popular London shows, cover an astounding variety of venues, genres, and topics. Their backdrops and character cut-outs offer unparalleled evidence for reconstructing these performances, both in the theatre and at home, and assessing their reworkings of classical antiquity. This paper will consider two key examples: Planché’s first classical extravaganza Olympic Revels (1831) and an ‘equestrian burlesque’ The Siege of Troy (1833). While the former proudly introduced ‘authentic’ classical costuming, the latter delighted in its carnivalesque confusion of multiple ancient pasts. These now obscure spectacles and their souvenirs not only show diverse audiences interacting with this recreated antiquity, but also reveal children as active agents of classical reception.
Posted by Hannah