Plenary Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Robert William Rix 

Prof. Rix is associate professor at the University of Copenhagen. He has published widely in several areas relating to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: politics, religion, language, nationalism, Nordic antiquarianism, and print culture/book history. He has written a number of articles on William Blake, the focus of which has been the milieus of radicals, revolutionaries and religious enthusiasts who populated London in the 1790s. A theme he has also pursued is the dissemination of  Swedenborgianism in an international perspective. He has published the monographs William Blake and the Cultures of Radical Christianity (2007) and The Barbarian North in Medieval Imagination: Ethnicity, Legend, and Literature (Routledge 2014), as well as edited several collections of articles.

He is editor of the journal Romantik: Journal for the Study of Romanticisms and he has been Deputy Head of Department since 2014.


Bound for Botany Bay: The Poetics of Penal Transportation
The Romantic poet Robert Southey’s Botany Bay Eclogues (written 1794, collected 1797) were well received and widely reprinted in periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic. The speakers of the poems are convicted felons who have been transported to the penal colony of New South Wales (in what is
now Australia). Modern criticism has neglected the Botany Bay Eclogues, despite the fact that Southey’s imaginative engagement with exile illuminates a central theme in Romantic poetry. Drawing on late eighteen-century theories of crime and punishment, my presentation will specifically link
Southey’s interest in penal transportation with the radical William Godwin’s ideas of forced exile, which he saw as a benefit to the criminals: they would be ‘freed from the injurious institutions of European government’ and ‘begin the world for themselves’. I will examine how Southey translates Godwin’s
political ideas into poetry, using the landscapes of Australia to create moral narratives. If the landscapes are experienced as ‘barbarous climes’, they are also redemptive for the exiled speakers and will bring about repentance and new virtuousness. In analysing Southey’s poems, one should not neglect their
kinship with the many popular broadside ballads that also address transportation. These broadsides of social dislocation will form the backdrop for a comparative discussion of Southey’s poetry.

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany Bay
(London: R. Sayer & Co., 1792).

Finn Fordham

Finn Fordham is Professor of 20th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London.  He is a scholar of James Joyce, especially of Finnegans Wake which he co-edited for Oxford World Classics.  As well as numerous articles and editing journals focusing on a number of 20th Century writers, he has written two books, one on Joyce, one on textuality and selfhood.  He is currently working on a cultural history of a single day – the declaration of war against Germany in September 1939.


Against ‘networks’

“A lot of holes tied together with string” (Irish saying). 

The ‘network’ is a powerful concept and metaphor, a tool for and focus of much recent research and scholarship.  We envisage our very world as “networked”.  Interest in networks arose in the humanities arguably out of cultural history and sociology, as a means to displace an outmoded focus on the single author, the autonomous individual, the heroic genius by a ’social text’.  ‘The network’ also has aesthetic or formal possibilities: in the interconnected, reticular, knotted or participatory work.  Readers and texts are imagined forming together ‘networks’ of meaning, feeling, and judgement.


But do we take the concept for granted?  Powerful as a tool, is it also somewhat blunt?  Do we ever succeed in ‘mapping’ a cultural network, or describing one accurately?  Is the metaphor too knotty or nodal for the fluid forms it hopes to catch in its nets?   What is the function not of ‘the network’ itself, but of alluding to ‘networks’?  Might it be a means of entering a field of discourse, and of hoping to join a perceived network of readers? In unpicking the metaphor, we might not only question its precision, but broaden out to inspect metaphors in our analysis in general.


I will address these and other questions in my talk, referring in part to my own recent research that considers formations and disruptions of cultural networks and value at the outbreak of World War 2.