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…)
Six Notebooks in Search of an Editor: Samuel Beckett’s Murphy
Andrew Nash, 26 Apr 2016, CEIR Seminar Series
Claiming that he has no critical authority in the field of Samuel Beckett, Dr Andrew Nash (University of Reading) confessed that his paper would shed no new light on Beckett’s writings. The paper was, instead, a thought-provoking account of the changes taking place in manuscript research, the increasing emphasis on the materiality of the manuscript, and the technological conditions (writing instruments and papers) that influence literary production. Nash’s research also provided the centre with an invaluable insight into the status of the modern literary manuscript as an artefact of considerable commercial value, and, in the case of Beckett’s Murphy notebooks, the ways in which the commercial and the scholarly are indelibly intertwined.
Professor Carl Phelpstead introduces Dr Andrew Nash
In July 2013, the University of Reading successfully purchased at auction six manuscript notebooks, detailing the composition of Beckett’s first novel Murphy (1938). Justifying their bid of £950,000, the University maintained that the acquisition of the manuscript would solidify its reputation as a central archival resource for Beckett’s work, and attract more scholars and researchers to Reading. (more…)
Pip at the Fingerpost: Nineteenth-Century Urban Conflict and the Regional Reception of Great Expectations
Mary Hammond, Tuesday 12 Apr 2016, CEIR Seminar Series
In The Country and the City (1973) Raymond Williams examines how rural and urban life has been depicted in English literature since the sixteenth century. Arriving at Cambridge University as an undergraduate from his hometown in the Welsh Black Mountains, Williams discovered that the way rural life (a life he knew very well) was represented in literature was nothing like the reality. In fact, Williams argued that rural life, as portrayed in the literary canon, was a construction that served the social order of the times. The country was Edenic, whilst the city was a thriving metropolis of capitalist production.
Dr Mary Hammond
It is a binary that Dr Mary Hammond (University of Southampton) unpicked (or, at least reduced), in her recent paper at the Centre. Taking a highly nuanced approach, Mary used Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861) as a lens to think about cultural change during the novel’s initial reception context. Arguing that Victorianists often only refer to London-based media to understand a text’s immediate historical significance, Mary suggested that we begin to interrogate the rural press, as well, to enhance our understanding of how the novel signified to different audiences. Great Expectations is the perfect text to explore these reactions as the pivotal moment in the novel is when Pip leaves the Kent countryside of his childhood for London in order to become a Gentleman. (more…)
Andrew Nash (University of Reading) will be presenting his paper, ‘Six Notebooks in Search of an Editor: Samuel Beckett’s Murphy’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 26 April 2016. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 4.43, and will be followed by a wine reception.
Abstract In 2013 the University of Reading was unexpectedly successful in acquiring at auction six manuscript notebooks which had for almost eighty years remained in private hands. The notebooks were those in which Samuel Beckett had written, over some ten months between August 1935 and June 1936, the first draft of what was finally to emerge in 1938 as his first published novel, Murphy. This talk will outline the unusual provenance history of this literary manuscript and discuss the status of the notebooks as commercialised, heritage and research objects. It will reflect on the experience of helping to transcribe and edit the notebooks, examining their distinctive material features which shed important new light on Beckett’s composition process and on the ‘archaeology’ of modern literary manuscripts more generally. (more…)
Mary Hammond (University of Southampton) will be presenting her paper, ‘Pip at the Fingerpost: Nineteenth-Century Urban–Rural Conflict and the Regional Reception of Great Expectations’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 12 April 2016. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 3.58, and will be followed by a wine reception.
Abstract This talk explores the surprisingly varied responses of contemporary reviewers to one of the key narrative turns in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860–61): the moment when Pip, the main character, leaves the rural marshes of Kent to begin a new life as a London gentleman. This scene has often been characterised by modern critics as a Miltonian moment of prelapsarian hubris which underpins the novel’s broader themes of selfish ambition and lifelong regret. But contemporary reviewers saw it—and the novel’s message—very differently, and the variety of their responses is remarkable. Metropolitan reviewers’ hostility towards Dickens’s unflattering portrayal of the urban upper classes contrasts sharply with the much more sympathetic stance taken in most regional newspapers. Many of these regional papers also reproduced pirated extracts carefully selected to highlight rural characters and interests and paint London in an unflattering light. This talk demonstrates how the reception history of the text points directly to a significant animus and rivalry in rural–urban perceptions, and points to the value of studying changing urban and regional responses to a literary work over time to enhance our understanding of the potential plurality of its impact, and of the ways in which relationships between the rural and the urban were perceived by contemporaries in an age of mass migration and rapid social change. (more…)