Emily Brontë Bicentenary Conference in York: 7-9 September

For the bicentenary year of Emily Brontë, the Brontë Society are hosting a three day conference in York titled Emily Brontë: A Peculiar Music. The conference will take place from 7-9 September. Full details can be found here, for what promises to be a fascinating event.




Women Writers Summer Course 2018

Literature Cambridge is hosting a summer school in July this year exploring the works of five great female novelists. The novels are:

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)

Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922)

Elizabeth Bowen, To the North (1932)

For more information, please click here.


The Brontës, Elizabeth Gaskell and the Legacy of Romanticism – Call for Papers

The Brontës, Elizabeth Gaskell and the legacy of Romanticism

Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.

1st June 2018

Keynote Speaker: Simon Avery (University of Westminster)


(Illustration from 1943 Random House edition of Jane Eyre, illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg)

…we can now find something to muse on in the humble daisy, and something to see on a desolate moor. (Branwell Brontë, ‘Thomas Bewick’)

The above quotation, taken from Branwell Brontë’s published article in the Halifax Guardian on the Northumbrian artist Thomas Bewick, demonstrates the extent to which Branwell, and indeed all the Brontë family, had internalised the tropes of Romanticism, finding something worthy of poetic reflection even in the humble flower that would hitherto have been trodden underfoot. In fact, the very first chapter of Jane Eyre finds the eponymous heroine reading Bewick’s A History of British Birds (1794-1804). Despite her tyrannous upbringing, the young Jane declares, ’With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy.’ The book with its celebration of the natural world takes Jane out of the wretched Gateshead Hall and allows the flight of that thing celebrated above all else by the Romantics: her imagination. Agnes Grey also promotes a post-Romantic view of nature, with Agnes’ plea to ‘Remember, the birds can feel as well as you’. Charlotte Brontë urges her friend Ellen Nussey not to ‘be startled’ by her recommendation to read Byron, or at least the tamer parts. Meanwhile, Wuthering Heights, Villette, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, all engage with the darker side of Romanticism through their gothic themes, whilst the trope of the Byronic hero haunts many of the Brontë novels, and a significant portion of their Juvenilia.

Elizabeth Gaskell too was hugely influenced by the Romantic poets and artists, writing of Wordsworth ‘my heart feels so full of him I only don’t know how to express my fullness without being too diffuse’, and expressing a similar sentiment to Branwell’s article, with Gaskell lamenting how ’the beauty and poetry of many of the common things and daily events in life in its humblest aspect does not seem to me sufficiently appreciated’. Irene Wiltshire has been more specific, arguing that Wordsworth’s greatest impact on Gaskell’s writing was ‘his belief in the importance and universality of feeling…and, in particular, Wordsworth’s alignment of nature with feeling and moral growth’. Certainly, one can see such emphasis on feeling within Wives and Daughters, Ruth, Sylvia’s Lovers and her shorter fiction such as ‘Lizzie Leigh’. However, it is not just the universality and intensity of feeling that Gaskell borrows from Wordsworth, but the focus on previously disenfranchised individuals too, most notably in Mary Barton and North and South. Moreover, as with the Brontës’ work, one can also find traces of the Byronic hero, the gothic, and the celebration of the natural world throughout Gaskell’s novels and short stories.

In this the bicentenary year of Emily Brontë, arguably the most overtly Romantic out of Gaskell or the Brontë siblings, this one-day conference seeks to re-evaluate some of the ways in which these writers responded to, reacted against, or elucidated their Romantic inheritance. It also seeks to compare and contrast how the Brontës and Gaskell responded to Romanticism in their unique ways, foregrounding how their differences in politics, religion and attitudes towards the moral role of literature more generally, influenced their reactions towards and development of Romanticism.

We welcome 250 word abstracts for 20-minute papers from all Brontë and/or Gaskell researchers and enthusiasts. Topics may include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Representations of liberty and the imagination.
  • Romantic versus Victorian attitudes towards sentiment and sentimentality.
  • The role of Romanticism in the industrial North.
  • Textual allusions to Romantic literature.
  • The legacy of Romanticism on depictions of the poor.
  • Representations of Romanticism in Gaskell’s and/or the Brontës’ correspondence.
  • The celebration, critique or reshaping of the Byronic hero.
  • Romantic self-fashioning on the part of the author.
  • The relationship between Gaskell’s Unitarianism and the Brontës’ Evangelicalism, and their reading of Romantic literature.
  • Post-Romantic responses to nature, animals and/or science.
  • Gaskell and/or the Brontës’ re-working of dark Romanticism and gothic elements.
  • Politics in the wake of Romanticism.
  • Romanticism in adaptations of the Brontës’ and/or Gaskell’s works.
  • Post-Romantic attitudes towards children and childhood.

All proposals should be emailed to Edwin John Moorhouse Marr via edwin.marr@pgr.anglia.ac.uk no later than 20th April 2018. Please feel free to email with any questions, and we look forward to reading your abstracts.

Events in February to celebrate the centenary of women obtaining the vote

Researchers and students at Anglia Ruskin, including several from the 19th Century Studies Unit, will be involved in some exciting events that have been organised to celebrate the centenary of women obtaining the vote.

On February 3rd an international conference on Women’s Suffrage and Political Activism organised by Murray Edwards College and the Anglia Ruskin University Labour History Research Unit will convene to retrieve and analyse the history of the women’s suffrage campaigns. The keynote speakers are Jill Liddington, Sheila Rowbotham and Elizabeth Crawford. The organisers want to make the conference fully accessible and are offering bursaries to allow unwaged women to attend.

Other events coming up in February include a talk by Dr Helen Pankhurst, granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, at Lucy Cavendish College and a film about Sylvia Pankhurst’s work. There is a suffrage walk by Dr Deborah Thom, a presentation on two Asian suffragettes by Shahida Rahman, an illustrated account of the suffrage campaigns in Cambridge by Sue Slack, an evening of suffrage poetry and music, a screening of the film Suffragette at Anglia Ruskin University with a panel discussion; and a tour of Newnham College to look at buildings, books and artefacts associated with its co-founder Millicent Garrett Fawcett. There will be a public lecture on suffrage art and posters by Elizabeth Crawford and Cambridge University Library will also display its unique holdings of suffragette banners to the public. Volunteers from the Cambridge Museum will organise banner-making in February.

For more information about all of these events, please see: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/100-years-of-votes-for-women

There is also a Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=cam%20vote%20100


Reading Group Semester 2 2017-18

For our reading group this semester we will be moving into the future by around 50 years from our last text, Shirley, and will be reading Sarah Grand’s The Beth Book (1897). All are welcome to come along and discuss this intriguing, fin de siècle text by an author known for pushing the conventions of nineteenth-century literature. The group will meet on alternate Thursdays, 17:00-18:00 in HEL112.

For those of you who need a copy, there are some good quality second hand Virago editions of The Beth Book on Abe Books still available at a very modest price. Or, for those of you who prefer a digital edition, the Kindle version can also be bought on Amazon for £3.59.


WEEK 1: 1st Feb: Chapters 1-8 (led by Lizzie Ludlow)

WEEK 3: 15th Feb: Chapters 9-16 (led by Kathy Rees)

WEEK 5: 1st Mar: Chapters 17-23 (led by Raj Mann)

WEEK 7: 15th Mar: Chapters 24-33 (led by Chris Lyon)


WEEK 9: 12th Apr: Chapters 34-43 (led by Anna Phillips)

WEEK 11: 26th Apr: Chapters 44-52 (led by Marie Moxon)