CFP – Comic Verse of the 19th Century: Power, Politics, Poetics

Grove House, University of Roehampton, London
Wednesday 20th July, 2022

“A servant write verses!” says Madam Du Bloom;
“Pray what is the subject? — a mop, or a broom?”

⎯ from Elizabeth Hands, ‘A Poem, On the Supposition of an Advertisement Appearing in a Morning Paper, of the Publication of a Volume of Poems by a Servant-Maid’ (1789)

Please you, excuse me, good five-o’clock people,
I’ve lost my last hatful of words,
And my heart’s in the wood up above the church steeple,
I’d rather have tea with the birds.

⎯ from Charlotte Mew, ‘Afternoon Tea’ (1903)

Literary critics have increasingly argued for poetics as an especially fecund space for social comedy and criticism. Gillian Beer, for example, demonstrates rhyme as “dialogue, quarrel and undersong…with the helpless excess of possibility that poises it always on the brink of comedy.” As a period in which nonsense, nursery rhyme and light verse flourished, it is well-acknowledged that the long 19th century took humorous poetry seriously. ‘Humour has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of the poetic genius,’ wrote Carlyle in 1831. That this period was one of eclectic formal experimentation puts its verse and the comic into even more distinctive and exciting relation.

We are inviting papers for a one-day conference seeking to explore the rousing, revealing, and even radical partnership between comedy and verse throughout the long 19th century. We invite contributions on any topics related to the conference theme, to include, for example:

  • Class
  • Gender
  • Place
  • Science
  • Religion
  • Courtship
  • Marriage
  • Domesticity
  • Sexuality
  • Nature
  • Visual culture
  • Print culture

Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers to be delivered as part of panels. Individual proposals (250 words) and panel proposals (of up to 700 words) are warmly welcomed from scholars at any career stage. Please send abstracts to Dr Jasmine Jagger and Dr Heather Hind Deadline for submissions: 31st January 2022.

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