Ann Radcliffe at 250: Gothic and Romantic Imaginations

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Emma Clery, University of Southampton

Fred Botting, Kingston University

Jane Stabler, University of St Andrews

Sponsored by BARS (British Association for Romantic Studies) and the University of Stirling

Organising committee: Angela Wright (Sheffield), Dale Townshend (Stirling); Madeleine Callaghan (Sheffield); Andy Smith (Sheffield); Liam Firth (Sheffield); Fern Merrills (Sheffield); Hamish Mathison (Sheffield); Joe Bray (Sheffield); Mark Bennett (Sheffield); Kate Gadsby-Mace (Sheffield)

More than any other writer, Ann Radcliffe consolidated, enriched and developed the form of the romantic novel in British fiction during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  For many, in fact, her name was synonymous with romantic fiction in its entirety: as Sir Walter Scott in his retrospective appraisal of her work in 1826 put it, “Mrs Radcliffe has a title to be considered as the first poetess of romantic fiction” (Williams 1970, p. 103); of all authors, Scott continued, Ann Radcliffe has “the most decided claim to take her place among the favoured few, who have been distinguished as the founders of a class, or school’” .  In Thomas De Quincey’s words, Radcliffe was ‘The Great Enchantress’, and as countless published responses to her work attest, this perception of the writer’s almost supernatural powers of description seems to have prevailed among most of her contemporary readers.

To celebrate the 250th birthday of Radcliffe and the launch of a co-edited collection of essays Ann Radcliffe, Romanticism and the Gothic , eds. Townshend and Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) an international conference will be held at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. The conference aims to draw in an international list of speakers to mark the birthday of Radcliffe and the launch of this essay collection. In addition to launching this collection, there will be further opportunity for participating delegates to publish their work: the organisers have secured no less than three special journal issues to celebrate the 250th anniversary: Romanticism (eds. Callaghan, Firth and Merrills); Women’s Writing (eds. Smith and Bennett) and Gothic Studies (eds. Mathison and Smith).

Radcliffe’s family came from Chesterfield, so the location of this conference in Sheffield is particularly apposite. In addition to hosting plenaries, papers and roundtables, there will also be a conference excursion which takes in Chesterfield and ends at Hardwick Hall, which Radcliffe visited and where she commented so boldly upon the portraits of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. One of the plenary lectures will take place at Hardwick Hall, and the conference meal will also take place at this beautiful, historical site.

We now wish to solicit panel proposals and individual papers abstracts (of no more than 500 words) by 30th November 2013. Please send all abstracts to 

Paper and panel proposals are welcomed on but not exclusive to the following topics:

  • Radcliffe’s novels
  • future directions for Radcliffe studies
  • Radcliffe’s legacies (a special panel to be convened by the Romantic Heirs early careers network)
  • Radcliffe in Europe
  • Radcliffe and poetry
  • Dramatic adaptations of Ann Radcliffe
  • Radcliffe and her contemporaries
  • Radcliffe and print culture
  • Radcliffe and politics
  • Radcliffe and travel
  • Radcliffe and visual culture

The roundtable sessions will discuss:

  • Teaching Ann Radcliffe
  • Screening Ann Radcliffe

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