Swinburne's _Poems and Ballads_ at 150, 29-30 July 2016

full name / name of organization: 
St John's College & The Faculty of English, University of Cambridge (UK)

Swinburne's _Poems and Ballads_ at 150

a conference to be held at St John's College, Cambridge (UK) on the 29-30 July 2016

Call for Papers:

William Michael Rossetti writes: 'If Shelley is "the poet for poets", Swinburne might not unaptly be termed 'the poet for poetic students':

'His writings exercise a great fascination over qualified readers, and excite a very real enthusiasm for them: but these readers are not of that wide, popular, indiscriminate class who come to be moved by the subject matter, the affectingly told story. Mr. Swinburne's readers are of another and a more restricted order... [who prize] the beauty of execution'.

A century and a half since Rossetti first felt moved to publish his defence of _Poems and Ballads_, Swinburne's poetry continues to prove divisive. While few critics fail to recognise Swinburne's technical achievement, technique remains a central area of controversy, either admired for its own sake, dismissed as mere virtuosity, or made to act as a function for larger narratival, thematic or historical analysis. Students of poetry continue to wrestle with the status of Swinburne as a 'prosodist magician'—as George Saintsbury described him.

This conference proposes further consideration of Swinburne's achievement. By focusing on his most notorious work, we aim to provoke new ways of thinking about the significance of this collection to the development of English poetry during a period of staggering prosodic experimentation. It is for this reason that we are soliciting papers which foreground questions of form, style and technique.

Possible guiding questions for papers include, but are not limited to:

• How stable are the conventions of genre—the link between lyric and subjectivity, for example, or between epic and empire—over time?

• What can renewed attention to _Poems and Ballads_ teach us about Swinburne's apprenticeship to poets such as Baudelaire, Shelley, the troubadours, and medieval forms?

• How did _Poems and Ballads_ influence subsequent generations of poets as diverse as Hardy and Hopkins, Yeats and the Rhymers' Club, H.D. and Eliot, Veronica Forrest-Thomson and Dylan Thomas?

• In what sense might _Poems and Ballads_ present a crisis in the lyric mode?

• How far can _Poems and Ballads_ be considered a test-case for the existence of the 'Pre-Raphaelite' poem? How does Swinburne work within the contexts of 'Pre-Raphaelitism', 'Aestheticism' and 'Decadence', and in what ways ought we to think of these terms in relation to his work?

• How does the poetic technique of _Poems and Ballads_ engage questions of religion and theology, secularity and anti-theism?

• What can we learn about form and genre from the discussions of Poems and Ballads in the period, by both canonical critics and the popular press?

• What is the significance of imitation and translation for the forms, genres, and metres of Poems and Ballads and subsequent responses to it?

• What can we learn from Swinburne's adoption of classical metres? How (in comparison with other poets of his age) does he negotiate the tensions between classical quantitative verse and English prosody? And, even outside of the poems in classical metres, what does Swinburne learn from Latin and Greek versification?

• What influence did parallel developments of poetic genre in other European countries have on _Poems and Ballads_?

• What can we learn by thinking about the style and form of these poems in relation to the visual arts? What are the most useful terms in which to see this relationship?

• What is _Poems and Ballads_' significance for fin de siècle, modernist, feminist or queer receptions?

• What is the function of poetic translation in Swinburne's _Poems and Ballads_?

• Are there unique formal features of erotic poetry (that of Swinburne, for example) that suggest a challenge to social norms?

We mean this conference to bring together established scholars, early career researchers, and graduate students working on, or in relation to, Swinburne's poetry. Attendance by graduate students will be encouraged by means of a reduced fee and by a number of available slots to deserving proposals. We hope to hear from classicists, modern linguists, and art historians as well as academics from both the language and literature sides of English Studies, and we are especially seeking the perspectives of those interested in the history of English prosody.

Website: https://swinburne2016.wordpress.com/

Deadline: Please send proposals of no more than 500 words to poemsandballadsat150 [@] gmail.com no later than the 30th January 2016.