Events Archive

QMCRLE Events Archive

Seminar in Religion and Literature 2017:

10 May 2017: Dr Mark Knight (Lancaster): George Eliot and the Key to Evangelical Mythologies
Evangelicalism is widely acknowledged to have played a major role in the socio-political life of Victorian Britain but little has been written about the influence of this pan-denominational religious movement on nineteenth-century literary culture. My talk will explore the methodological questions that face those of us who want to examine the influence of evangelicalism on the Victorian novel. For the limited number of scholars who have worked in this area, the starting point has often been George Eliot. But while characters such as Mr Bulstrode and Dinah Morris offer plenty of material and moments of insight, they lead, I argue, to a methodological dead end rather an interpretative key.

21 June 2017: Prof. Alison Shell (UCL): ‘Raiment of needlework’: ornament and the church in 17th-century English literature
The Reformation engendered radical uncertainty about the legitimacy and function of ornament. The Protestant desire to go back to basics, especially in its Calvinist manifestations, sheared away everything that was deemed unnecessary from the fabric of the church, modes of worship and the doctrine underlying that worship; often enough, superfluity was twinned with idolatry. The reaction from this way of thinking brought about Counter-Reformation appeals to the senses, and the liturgical fastidiousness of Laudians and other high-churchmen.  Using a series of case-studies drawn from 17th-century English literature, this paper will explore how, against this background, the very notion of ornament became the focus of ideological instability, doublethink and unease.

5 July 2017: Prof. Emma Mason (Warwick): Kinship and kenosis: Christina Rossetti’s originary grace
This paper locates grace at the heart of Christina Rossetti’s writing, one she invokes as a way to shatter subjectivism to return the Christian worshipper to a primordial level of engaged existence in which subject/object have not yet been differentiated. I suggest this is an ecological move that posits grace as an originary state that gathers the universe into a corporate existence: grace is not an experience for Rossetti, but a calling in which all created things come into themselves by belonging together. As a Tractarian, Rossetti follows an Anglo-Catholic understanding of nature and the cosmos as always already graced, wherein all created things share an ontological kinship with a divine origin with which they participate through grace. With reference to her religious prose writing and final collection of poetry, Verses (1893), I show that Rossetti understands all creation as oriented towards God through grace, a movement broken only by the de-sacralizing logic of secularism in the guise of capitalism and empire. I argue for a specifically Tractarian reading of grace in her writing, one that promotes communion and fellowship through a disclosure of grace suited to poetry and art, which both track the gift of grace and give it back in a recognizable form.

Seminar in Religion and Literature 2016:

1. 1 June 2016

Dr Alison Searle (Sydney), ‘Spirit and Body in Seventeenth-Century English Nonconformist Women’s Writing’

This paper will examine the spiritual and corporeal experience of nonconformist women in seventeenth-century England as recorded in their diaries, letters, biographies and prophecies, focusing specifically on the role attributed to the Holy Spirit. Subjects will include Briget Cooke, Mary Franklin and Anne Wentworth amongst others.

2. 15 June 2016

Dr Cecilia Muratori (Warwick), ‘ “Public Highway to the Perfect Regeneration”: Jacob Böhme in Christopher Walton’s Theosophical Library’

The theosophical library of Christopher Walton (1809-1877) contains many books by and on the German mystical philosopher Jacob Böhme (1575-1624), alongside notes on the reception of Böhme in England and even drawings to elucidate his complex work. Walton built up his theosophic collection (amounting to around 1000 items) by purchasing books at public auctions as well as from the heirs of one of the most famous English readers of Böhme, William Law (1686-1761). With the intention of keeping the collection open to the public, Walton’s theosophic library was donated to Dr Williams’s Library at the time of Walton’s death, and in fulfilment of his wish it was (and still remains) catalogued separately.

This paper will discuss the aims of this section of Walton’s collection, showing that it was designed both to assist with interpreting Böhme, and to serve as an aid for English speakers for whom Böhme’s original writings were inaccessible. The paper will also show that this collection sheds light on the reception of Böhme in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with special regard to the networks of both English and German readers of Böhme that operated in London.

3. 6 July 2016

Dr Veronica O’Mara (Hull), ‘Saints’ Lives for East Anglian Nuns: From the Medieval Period to the Eighteenth Century’

This paper will focus on a collection of twenty-two Middle English saints’ lives from the end of the fifteenth century that are currently being edited by Virginia Blanton (University of Missouri-Kansas City) and Veronica O’Mara (University of Hull). These lives, all but two of which concern women, are a complex mixture of native English and international saints whose sources may be partly identified. They survive in a single manuscript that was owned in the eighteenth century by a recusant family in Norfolk, a family that sent its daughters to be professed on the continent in the post-Dissolution period. This unique collection, which may be associated with a range of East Anglian convents and was at one time owned by a member of the royal family, provides links between medieval Catholic England and eighteenth-century England, between Norfolk and the capital, between Europe and England.


Lunchtime Seminar:

In the academic year 2016-17, our meetings were as follows:

5 October (joint with work-in-progress
Kirsty Rolfe, English ‘“To bee even sicke againe with sorrow”: Emotional responses to news in 1620s sermons’

19 October: work in progress
Eyal Poleg, History ‘“The Skins of Beasts”: A Material History of the Bible in Late Medieval and Early Modern England’

16 November (joint with external speaker
Nikki Clark, Royal Holloway  ‘Musical Tombs: the Howard women, commemoration, and the Dissolution of the Monasteries’

14 December (joint with external speaker
Rachel Willie, Liverpool John Moores University  ‘Private Grief and Public Passion: Anatomising the King’s Two Bodies’

25 January: (joint with work in progress
Emily Vine, English/History ‘Death, remembrance and religious ritual – examples from the Huntington Library

15 February: (joint with external speaker
Liesbeth Corens, Cambridge ‘Community and continuity: English Catholic counter-archives’

8 March: work in progress
James Vigus, English ‘A Victorian Friendship: The Correspondence of Sara Coleridge with Henry Crabb Robinson’

22 March: external speaker
Timothy Whelan, Georgia Southern University ‘Mary Hays, William Godwin, and the Dissenting Tradition of Women’s Correspondence’


In Spring and Summer 2016, our meetings were as follows:

20 January
Welcome lunch

3 February
Ben Dawson, [ ]thing

17 February [meeting in ArtsOne, 3.14]
Lucy Razzall, “Thrust into the Trundle-bed of the last two lines”: Typography, Argument, and the Space of the Early Modern Page
Caroline Bowden, Editing Convent Chronicles for Modern Readers: Some Practical Issues

9 March [beginning at 1.10pm]
Reading group: Friedrich Schleiermacher, ‘On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultural Despisers’ (1799), speech 2 ‘On the Essence of Religion’ introduced by Mike Gilbert

23 March
Joint session with Lisbeth Corens on Catholic counter-archives

4 May [meeting in ArtsOne, 3.08]
Reading group: Talal Asad, ‘Formations of the Secular’ (extract) introduced by Suzanne Hobson

18 May [meeting in ArtsOne, 3.08]
Alison McNaught, Stock in Trade: Evidence of quantities of Bible and Common Prayer stocks from the Probate Inventory of William Fenner, printer to the University of Cambridge 1731-1734
Isabel Rivers, Two popular Bible editions: John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament (first published 1755) and Thomas Scott’s The Holy Bible . . . with Original Notes, and Practical Observations (first published 1788-92)

Dr Williams’s Centre Events Archive 2005-2015