In November 1997 we held at Sheffield Hallam a symposium in connection with the Corvey Project on Women’s Writing 1780-1850, titled ‘Using "Romanticism"’. A small number of fellow Romanticists and associates from nearby universities were asked to prepare a short discussion paper to be circulated in advance. In this case the common theme was canon revision, participants discussed in their papers the relevance or irrelevance of the term ‘Romanticism’ in their own work as researchers and teachers in this literary period. At the event itself on the day itself, there was a programme of issues arising from the papers, which were freely debated.
This year the 2nd Corvey Symposium will address the topic of 'Gender and Romanticism'. Again, participants were asked to address the topic out of their own experience as researchers and instructors, with particular reference to current projects. A number of general questions were raised in advance: How far do you think the analysis of gender in romantic-era writing has moved on since Anne Mellor’s ground-breaking volume of collected essays Romanticism and Feminism in 1988, or her own influential monograph Romanticism and Gender in 1993? Does the still-frequent citation of Stuart Curran’s essay ‘The "I" altered’ from the 1988 collection suggest that thinking on gender, especially with regard to women’s writing, has failed to move on: prone to the strategy of discovering female ‘traditions’, with its dangers of critical foreclosure? Curran is regarded as having opened up a whole new field. What has been constructed on it? Alternatively, what has been the role of gender analysis in recent criticism of male canonical writers? Is it just another ‘approach’ among a medley of others, or does it have a more profound and transformative potential? Phil Cox’s Gender, Genre and the Romantic Poets would offer a valuable vantage point for this discussion. Are the segregated literary works of ‘women writers’ or ‘male writers’ even a desirable object of study? Would it be an advantage to detach the examination of the textual politics of sexual difference from the ‘theological’ category of the author altogether?
A report on the event will follow.