Romantic Interventions: From Idealism to Activism

deadline for submissions: 
March 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
TU Dortmund University

Call for Papers

Romantic Interventions: From Idealism to Activism


February 11-13, 2021, TU Dortmund University, Germany

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The era of Romanticism is commonly understood as a time of unrest and change, perceptibly impacting the lives of individuals as well as collective entities across multi-faceted boundaries. In “interlocking interests”, as Raymond Williams claimed in his classic Culture and Society, “a conclusion about personal feeling became a conclusion about society, and an observation of natural beauty carried a necessary moral reference to the whole and unified life of man” (1958: 48). With the French Revolution at its centre, arguably the decisive historical moment of the era, certain structures of feeling emerged in liberal and revolutionary circles on the European continent. As the breaking-apart of Europe's ancien régimes sparked drastic changes on political and socioeconomic levels, Romantic thinkers sought to employ their texts and activities as contributions to a critical re-evaluation of the status quo. In a Wordsworthian manner, many Romantic poets understood themselves as prophets of the people, whose duty it was to intervene in dominant representational discourses and thereby challenge well-established hegemonic power structures. At the same time, however, Romantic movements must not be understood as having solely gyrated around the intellectual efforts of the elitist few. Fruitfully and mutually intersecting with the individual (and individualised) endeavours of poets, philosophers, scientists, politicians and entrepreneurs, elements of (popular) culture in a more general sense, such as consumer resistance, political cartoons, visual arts, fashion, aesthetics, or cultural rituals like the Grand Tour must also be taken into account to define the emerging formations of the time.

To understand the complex interplay of historical momentum, idealist visions of the future as well as Idealist philosophical conceptions that probed into the conditions of existence per se, and courageous activism, key concepts of cultural studies may offer valuable tools for analysis. What we seek to establish with this conference is an understanding of the sociology of Romantic consciousness via cultural materialism as a practice to recreate the zeitgeist of a historical period shaped by numerous forms of intervention. In contrast to approaches to the Romantic Era that take their cue primarily from literary studies, we would like to ask contributors to access the period via the methodologies developed by (British) cultural studies in order to consider Romantic interventions in a possibly new light. We therefore suggest to look at the decades before and after 1800 by way of concepts like: representation, discourse, power, hegemony, articulation, popular culture, identity/subjectivity, class, race, gender, age, production/consumption, place/space, etc.

While we encourage a broad interpretation of the theme of intervention, possible approaches may include the following:

  • Political Interventions (e.g. the London Corresponding Society, the Pamphlet War)
  • Social Interventions (e.g. riots, Chartism, consolidation/subversion of ideology of separate spheres)
  • Racial Interventions (e.g. the Abolitionist Movement, the Blue Stockings Society)
  • Economic Interventions (e.g. the suspension of the Gold Standard, the Great Recoinage of 1816)
  • Medical and 'Moral' Interventions (e.g. Moral Management)
  • Ecological Interventions (conceptualisation of Nature/Culture binary)
  • Philosophical Interventions (the politics of Idealism)
  • Historical Interventions (historiographical foundations of the idea of the nation-state)

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers and also welcome contributions by early career researchers and postgraduate students.

Abstracts of 250 words and a short biographical info (name, affiliation, current research) should be emailed to by March 31, 2020.