Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters: An Archive of Writing
Carrie Smith, 21 February 2017, CEIR Seminar Series
In the second paper of the 2017 Centre of Editorial and Intertextual Research Seminar Series, Dr Carrie Smith, a lecturer here at Cardiff University, used the manuscript drafts of Ted Hughes’ final full-length collection, Birthday Letters (1998), to suggest that the collection itself becomes a poetic archive. Drawing on her soon-to-be-completed monograph, Smith argued that from its opening poem, Birthday Letters presents us with accounts of documents that cement the collection in the texture of real life.
Smith began her paper by discussing how archives are organised. Focusing specifically on the British Library and Emory University Library (the latter holds the private library of Ted Hughes), Smith argued that these spaces are usually perceived to be ‘neutral’ in their layout. However, as Smith pointed out, the archive offers a ‘promiscuity of meanings’ because it exists on the border between excision and excess, the limited and the unlimited.  While archives attempt to reserve the past, Smith in her discussion of Birthday Letters revealed that they are inherently unstable. Human decision is involved in how a collection is organised, leading to questions of whether it should be user-friendly (as in the British Library), or if it should respect the original order of the material (as in Emory University Library)? And does either way influence our understanding of the documents? Given these variations, Smith suggested that the archive must be read as a document in itself. (more…)
In the second paper of this year’s CEIR series, held in collaboration with the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS), Dr Emily Rohrbach drew on her current research on voice and dispossession in ‘Gothic’ literature from Britain, Europe and America to examine its influence on the Romantic period. Rohrbach, in her usual critical style which as Dr Jamie Castell stated ‘pays attention to the small details when addressing the big questions’, analysed aspects of the narrative voice that dramatise self-reflexively its own otherness. (more…)
In the first of an ongoing series of posts, Katherine Mansfield, a second-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, introduces her project: Sensationalising the New Woman: Crossing the Boundaries between Sensation and New Woman literature, 1859–1901.
Critical discussion regarding Sensation fiction has tended to focus on the genre itself, examining its main themes, such as the devious and criminal wife, and the bigamy and murder plots; in contrast, New Woman studies has placed the genre in relation to other fin-de-siècle movements, for example decadence and first-wave feminism, but has not paid much attention to links with earlier developments. Equally, the first phase of Sensation and New Woman fiction has remained within strict time boundaries; 1860-1880 for Sensation fiction, and 1880–1900 for New Woman literature. In my PhD project I seek to move beyond these limitations to conceptualise and explore the connections between Sensation and New Woman fiction, investigating the extent to which Sensation literature is a forerunner to the early development of the New Woman novel; and consequently how the two genres blur, or cross, temporal and conceptual boundaries. (more…)