Thank you so much to all of you who came to our conference ‘The Brontës, Elizabeth Gaskell and the Legacy of Romanticism’ on the 1st June. It was wonderful to see so many of you in Cambridge. It is widely acknowledged that the Brontës and Gaskell were enormously inspired by the generation of Romantic writers who preceded them, but this conference set out to explore the manifestation of these Romantic legacies in depth. Gaskell and the Brontës’ lives intersect so closely, and yet politically and theologically they differ significantly, making a comparison between their internalisation, re-fashioning and resisting of Romantic tropes such a rich ground for discussion.
Simon Avery set the tone for the conference with his fantastic keynote lecture on the Brontës’ 1846 collection of poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, drawing out a variety of Romantic legacies within these poems and teasing out many themes that were unravelled by our panellists throughout the day.
In our first panel, Clare Walker Gore and Lucy Hanks tackled Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë, scrutinising Gaskell’s attempts to comprehend Charlotte’s position as a post-Romantic female writer.
After a continued discussion over tea and coffee, Marie Moxon began our next panel with an analysis of Gaskell’s Ruth and the influence of Wordsworthian poetics of nature, before Ann-Marie Richardson introduced us to the Romantic poet Henry Kirke White and his impact on Emily Brontë’s poetry. Elena Violaris rounded off the panel with an invigorating paper on imagining imagination in Villette, Shirley and Jane Eyre.
In our final panel, Edwin Marr placed Branwell Brontë’s poetry in the tradition of proto-Romantic graveyard writing, before Lucy Sheerman closed the day with a deeply nuanced paper on the Byronic hero.