Articles

The Instability of the Archive

Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters: An Archive of Writing

Carrie Smith, 21 February 2017, CEIR Seminar Series

Birthday LettersIn 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. [1] 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…)

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Neo-Victorianism: Traces and Touches in Sarah Perry and A.S. Byatt

Material Traces and Tactility in Neo-Victorian Literature and Culture

Rosario Arias, 6 February 2017, CEIR Seminar Series

scaled-0x200_arias_rosarioLeaving the warm shores of Malaga, Spain, and braving the wind and rain of Cardiff in February, Rosario Arias presented the first paper of 2017 for the Centre of Editorial and Intertextual Research. Drawing on her research for an upcoming book project, Arias focused her discussion on neo-Victorian literature and culture in relation to tactility and material traces.

Beginning by acknowledging the pervasiveness of haunting in neo-Victorian fiction and culture, Arias goes on to suggest that, in recent years, this emphasis on the presence of the spectral past has shifted to include a conceptualisation of the actual textual and material remains of the past. As she explains, the Victorians are at once ghostly and tangible in contemporary culture, both their philosophical and physical, or material, legacies retaining a strong affective presence in modern Britain. It is the material legacies of the Victorians that Arias focuses on in this paper, considering the overflow of the past into the present through materiality in contemporary literature. Employing critical approaches such as thing theory, affective materiality and phenomenology, her research is concerned with literary texts that emphasise the sensual interplay between contemporary Britain and Victorian culture. (more…)

Narrative Voice and Gothic Otherness

Voice and Dispossession: A Comparative Poetics

Emily Rohrbach, 8 Nov 2016, CEIR Seminar Series

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…)

‘The Clyde to California’: Robert Louis Stevenson in America

In the seventh of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a second-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, discusses the early steps of her project: a book historical study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s global literary networks. Harriet’s project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW-DTP).

In 1879, Stevenson boarded a steamship to New York in pursuit of a married woman, who, less than a year later, would become his wife. Despite spanning little more than a year, this period of Stevenson’s life has been seen by many commentators as a watershed moment, for both his literary career and his sense of himself in the world. This life-altering journey began on 6 August 1879 in St Pancras Station. From here, Stevenson took a night train to Glasgow, and the next day left the Clyde for New York on the steamship the Devonia. He was following Fanny Osbourne, who had returned to California and her husband a year before. (more…)

Location, Location, Location … and Literature

Stories by the City, Stories by the Sea: Locative Literature and Narrative Archaeology

Verity Hunt, 25 Oct 2016, CEIR Seminar Series

Unless you are extremely adept at avoiding news on popular culture, you must have, in one way or another, encountered the mobile sensation that is Pokémon Go. In the past six months this augmented reality phenomenon has launched location-based gaming into the public consciousness. In the first paper in this year’s CEIR series, Dr Verity Hunt began by encouraging us to imagine if our smartphones alerted us to nearby voices from the past, rather than the presence of Pikachus. What if your phone could provide you, for example, with a story about the Victorian world set in the place you are standing, incorporating the archaeological traces of nineteenth-century narratives that permeate the built landscapes of our cities?

This is exactly what a team at the University of Southampton are achieving with the Story Places project, combining story-telling skills with the location-based technology behind Pokémon Go to create interactive historical landscapes. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the project has built a location-aware, storytelling application for smartphones, which supports situated stories interwoven with the places they are read. The team worked with a range of creative writers, including undergraduate and postgraduate students, taking three case study places as way to explore the potential of the application: Southampton Old Town and Docks, the Bournemouth Natural Science Society and the Crystal Palace Park in South London. (more…)