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ECLS Research seminar

We run a series of seminars intended to provide a forum for discussion of literary research projects underway both within and outside of the department. The programme timetable and schedule changes annually.

The programme for 2018–2019 will appear here at the start of the academic year. Our Research Seminar convenor is Dr Jonathan Schroeder.

Wed 20 Feb, '19
Book Workshop with Nicholas Gaskill
Social Sciences 0.19

Professor Nicholas Gaskill (University of Oxford) will be leading a workshop on his new book, Chromographia: American Literature and the Modernization of Color (Minnesota, 2018). Staff and graduate students are encouraged to come.

In Chromographia, Gaskill tells the story of how color became modern and how literature, by engaging with modern color, became modernist. The only study of modern color in U.S. literature, Chromographiapresents a new reading of perception in literature and a theory of experience that uses color to move beyond the usual divisions of modern thought.

If you'd like to participate in the workshop, please send Jonathan Schroeder an email letting him know you'd like to come and he'll put you down on the list.

In the workshop, will be discussing the introduction and a chapter or two from Nick Lawrence's recently published book, Chromographia: American Literature and the Modernization of Color . Here are two of the most important passages on the philosophical, historical, and material histories that the book recovers:


[I]n the early twentieth century color emerged as a privileged sign of modernity. The new synthetic dyes that unleashed chromatic and linguistic chaos altered the very stuff of color, its materials no less than the economic networks that brought it to consumers. Educational and scientific endeavors to organize these brilliant, chemical colorants generated dynamic accounts of color perception that unseated long-held philosophical beliefs about the feeling body and the sensory world. Color at once changed the perceptual feel of modernity and provided a paradigm for its most distinctive philosophical and artistic formulations. [This book] bring[s] into view the multiform and overlapping concerns that made color an essential part of what it meant to feel and be modern—or, by contrast, "primitive"—in the United States in the decades between 1880 and 1930.


In other words, the book addresses three major topics:


[T]he emergence of a relational model of color experience, made explicit in psychology and philosophy but on display in a range of color practices; the proliferation of synthetic dyes and their impact on the materials and meanings of color; and the formulations of a distinct 'color sense' that could be enhanced through training or diminished through neglect, a distinctive faculty for feeling colors that many believed marked a perceiver as 'primitive' or 'civilized.'


Wed 6 Mar, '19
Dr. Jennifer Baker, “Soundscapes of Death in Nineteenth-Century Literature”
Humanities 5.45

This is a working paper offering some of my thoughts on the characteristics of the sounds, silences, and echoes of dying, death, and the afterlife relating to child death in Anglophone literatures of the nineteenth-century. I will look at the ways in which bereavement accounts by public figures such as Charles Darwin and Samuel Iraneus Prime, infant elegies by writers such as Felicia Hemans, David Macbeth Moir, and Lydia Sigourney, and prose works by Charles Dickens and Harriet Beecher-Stowe attempted to capture, record, and recall these sonic aspects in written form as a means of positively manifesting the intangible experience of loss into something more material, and as part of a wider cultural endeavour offering consolation in the idea of a shared collective grief.


At the same time, through an examination of some of the same elegies and through prose works such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘A Nurses’ Story’, Mary Wilkins Freeman’s ‘The Lost Ghost’, and M.R. James’s ‘The Lost Hearts’, I will suggest that something darker is revealed in their mournful dirges; bitterness toward a cultural movement that glorified child death as an immortalisation of beauty, innocence and piety, or as salvation from a life of misery on earth, and anxiety and fear that the afterlife for children was not a space of eternal happiness, play, and singing. It is my contention however, that all of these auditory markers should, nevertheless, be read as social constructs – not inherently associated with children, but cultural indicators that contributed to the idealisation and silencing of ‘the child’ during this period.