print culture

1879-1880: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Early Transatlantic Network

In the eighth 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 previous posts I have discussed Stevenson’s early years of professional authorship, demonstrating his initial reliance on Sidney Colvin before his growing knowledge, confidence and connections in the literary industry enabled him to secure many of his own publishing deals. Once in America, with the vastness of the Atlantic separating him from the literary world of London, he once again became reliant on a few core members of his network. (more…)

CEIR Speaker, 21 Feb 2017: Carrie Smith on Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters

Carrie Smith (Cardiff University) will be presenting her paper, ‘Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters: An Archive of Writing’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 21 February 2017. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48, and will be followed by a wine reception.

Abstract
2016-05-smithThis paper will consider the manuscript drafts of British poet Ted Hughes’s final full-length collection Birthday Letters (1998). It will suggest that the proliferation of reported documents, photographs, journal entries and letters in the published collection is a result of Hughes’s re-encounter with these items when sorting through his late wife Sylvia Plath’s, and later his own, papers for sale. As a result Birthday Letters itself becomes a poetic archive curated by Hughes. From the opening poem, we are presented with accounts of documents that root the collection in the texture of real life. The collection works to preserve what will be lost when the papers are archived after his death; the memory-context of these photographs, drafts and objects. Hughes also provides incorrect biographical details throughout the collection. The substitution of an easily-checkable detail suggests that Hughes is creating a poetic archive of items that cannot be trusted; implying that poetry must always be questioned when mined for biography. The process of shaping his archive and literary legacy informs the collection’s focus on the fallibility of memory and the potential for documents and objects to deceive. The archive of papers tries to preserve the past, even as the arranging and destroying of the papers alters it; similarly in Birthday Letters, Hughes represents the past in poetry by using concrete items. He performs a synthesising of these items, akin to a researcher, by finding patterns in the papers. As this paper will show, the drafts of Birthday Letters form an archive of writing, placing the indeterminacy of the many variants of the manuscript page alongside the doubt over how to record a shared life in poetry.
(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…)

‘Out of my country and myself I go’: Stevenson and Literary Geography

In the sixth 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).

Edward Said writes that ‘none of us is outside or beyond geography; none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography’. The life and work of Robert Louis Stevenson is, perhaps more than most, intimately bound up with his geography. From the ambivalent relationship with his home town of Edinburgh, to his exploration of the conditions and effects of emigration in the New World, to his depictions of transculturation in the contact zones of the Pacific, issues of place and space, and their relation to identity, permeate both his biography and his writing. (more…)

Stevenson, the Savile Club and its Social Network

In the fifth of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a first-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 June 1874, Robert Louis Stevenson was elected as a member of the Savile Club, a prestigious gentleman’s club that welcomed promising young authors, as well as many members already firmly established in the London literary circle. Among these were Sidney Colvin (who proposed Stevenson’s election) and Andrew Lang, as well as editors like Leslie Stephen, John Morely and Charles Appleton. His acceptance into the Savile Club was the apex of the first few years of Stevenson’s literary career, immersing him in a literary milieu that presented new and exciting opportunities. (more…)