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Reading Group 2010/11

Below is a summary of reading group sessions organised by the Birkbeck Eighteenth Century Research Group in the academic year 2010/11.

Reading and Screening: 'Les Liaisons dangereuses'

    23 March 2011. Screening of Stephen Frears adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, followed by a ‘reading group session’ discussing the processes of adaptation in this (and other) film versions of Laclos’s novel. Led by Ann Lewis.

On William Blake's watercolour illustrations for the 1797 edition of Edward Young's 'Night Thoughts'. Led by Luisa Calè

    8 December 2010 - In this session we will discussed the 1797 edn of Edward Young's Night Thoughts, which reproduced the first four (out of nine) nights with 43 engravings by Blake. Blake disbound and mounted the pages of a copy of the 1742-5 Night Thoughts on larger sheets of paper and illustrated each page for a total of 537 watercolour surrounds.

    In the introduction, Luisa Cale compared the two versions and raised some questions that this edition opened up in her research project on 'The Book Unbound'. She focused on the material composition, poetics, and aesthetics of the composite page, on book practices, and on the different rhythms of reading and viewing in the two versions, and then looked at a couple of examples

On Diderot's 'D'Alembert's Dream'. Led by Dr Caroline Warman (Oxford) and Dr Phoebe von Held (IGRS/KCL).

    18 November 2010 - Dr Caroline Warman is Fellow and Tutor in French and University Lecturer, at Jesus College Oxford. She is a specialist on Sade, Diderot and the Encyclopédie, and materialism in the thought, literature, medicine and the emerging sciences from 1700-1900. She has published numerous articles in these areas, as well as the following books, Sade: From Materialism to Pornography (Voltaire Foundation,2002) and The Discursive Culture: Reaction and Interaction, Text and Context, ed. and introduction by Mark Darlow and Caroline Warman, SVEC 2007. Caroline collaborated with Phoebe von Held and Finn Fordham to translate and adapt Diderot's La Religieuse for stage, and recently completed a further translation, also with Phoebe, of Le Rêve de d'Alembert, which will be made into an experimental film.

    Dr. Phoebe von Held is a freelance director/adaptor, visiting fellow at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, School of Advanced Studies, London, and artist-resident at KCL. She has recently completed a book entitled Alienation and Theatricality: Diderot after Brecht, due to be published this year by Legenda, Oxford. She adapted and co-translated Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew and The Nun, which she directed and designed for the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. Her current work is on developing a stage-adaptation of Gracian’s Manual Oracle and an animation feature for the screen of Diderot’s D’Alembert’s Dream, for which she received two Wellcome Trust R&D grants.

Sexual Perversions in the Eighteenth Century led by Julie Peakman (Birkbeck)

    1 March 2011.

    Preparatory reading

    • Peakman, Julie, Sexual Perversions 1650-1890 (Palgrave 2009), Introduction
    • Cleland, Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
    • de Sade, 120 Days of Sodom

    Dr. Julie Peakman, Post-Doctoral Honorary Fellow and Tutor in the Department of History, Classics and Archaelogy, has worked on the influence of religion and science on the development of erotic material in the eighteenth century. From there, she developed an interest in the treatment of ‘different’ sexualities in history. She has researched prostitution and eighteenth-century libertine culture, and has most recently been considering perceived  ‘abnormal’ sexualities in eighteenth-century Britain and the emergence of female sexual pathologies.

    Her publications include Emma Hamilton (London: Haus, 2005), Lascivious Bodies. A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century (London: Atlantic, 2004), Mighty Lewd Books, The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003), and her new monograph Civilising Sex. She has edited Sexual Perversions 1650-1890 (Palgrave, 2009) and eight volumes of Whore Biographies, 1700-1825 (Pickering & Chatto, 2007), and A Cultural History of Sexuality (Oxford: Berg, 2010), a six volume collection going from classical Greece to the twenty-first century. (6 volumes from classical Greece to C21st).

On Conversation: Kate Retford and Jon Mee (Warwick)

    led by Professor Jon Mee (Warwick) and Dr Kate Retford (Department of History of Art and Screen Media, Birkbeck).

    Preparatory reading

    • the preface from William Godwin's Enquirer (1797)
    • the essay on politeness from William Godwin's Enquirer (1797)

    Preparatory looking:

    • Gawen Hamilton's portrait of 'The Du Cane and Boehm Families' 1734-5 in the collection at Tate Britain.

    Jon Mee is Professor of Romanticism Studies at the University of Warwick. His presentation stems from a Leverhulme funded research project on literature, conversation and contention, 1711-1832, which will be published by OUP in 2011 under the title, 'Conversible Worlds: Literature and the Idea of Conversation in the Eighteenth Century and Romantic Periods'. His previous publications include 'Romanticism, Enthusiasm, and Regulation: Poetics and the Policing of Culture in the Romantic Period' (Oxford University Press, 2003) and 'Dangerous Enthusiasm: William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s' (Oxford University Press, 1992), as well as a multi-volume edition of the sedition trials edited with John Barrell, and editions of Keats, Dickens, Wollstonecraft, and Hazlitt.

    Kate Retford is Lecturer in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century art history at Birkbeck. Her contribution to the reading group originates in her current book project on the conversation piece in eighteenth-century Britain. This was begun during a Leverhulme Fellowship in the History of Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, 2006-7.

    Her previous book, The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England, was published by Yale University Press in 2006. In addition, she has written a number of articles on topics relating to eighteenth-century portraiture, gender, and the country house art collection.

Julie and her Father: Text and Image in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's La Nouvelle Héloïse led by Ann Lewis (Birkbeck)

    This session was led by Dr Ann Lewis (Department of European Cutures and Languages)

    Preparatory reading
    • pre-circulated extracts and illustrations from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s novel, Julie; ou la nouvelle Héloïse, first published in 1761.

    Julie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse was illustrated many times over, from its initial publication in 1761, to the latter part of the nineteenth century. With few exceptions, critics analysing the novel’s illustrations have tended to focus on the first series by Gravelot, which were commissioned and directed by Rousseau himself. Ann Lewis focussed on a particular theme within the novel: Julie’s relationship with her father.  In particular, she compared the textual evocation of visual scenes dramatising this relationship, with its actualisation in the form of illustrations by various different artists (and their captions).

    Dr Ann Lewis is Lecturer in French in the Department of European Cultures & Languages, School of Arts, Birkbeck.  Her research and teaching interests are in the field of 18th-century French literature and culture and, in particular, the topic of sensibility, theories of reception and reader-response, and word and image relations (especially illustrations of 18th-century French fiction).

Thomas Paine on Duelling and Loyalist Cultures: Carol Watts

    Carol Watts introduced the essay teasing out questions about the significance of duelling in loyalist culture situating Thomas Paine's text in the context of her Leverhulme funded project on the culture of loyalist refugees in America during and following the revolutionary wars.

    Preparatory reading

    • Thomas Paine, 'Cursory Reflections on the Single COmbat or Modern Duel. Addressed to Gentlemen in every Class of Life', Pennsylvania Magazine (1775), available online through the Liberty Fund