Searching for Shelley’s Ghost on Shelley’s Birthday

Posted in anniversaries, on site by Editor on August 4, 2011

The storied poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was born on this day in 1792. This exhibition helps explain how some of those stories were framed by his grieving wife in the wake of his death. From Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum:

Shelley’s Ghost: Reshaping the Image of a Literary Family
Wordsworth Museum and Art Gallery, Grasmere, Cumbria, 7 July — 30 October 2011

Curated by Stephen Hebron

ISBN: 9781851243396, $35

Few families have such a remarkable reputation for their contribution to the literary and intellectual life of Britain as the Godwins and the Shelleys. In the course of their lives, each of the important writers in these families accumulated an archive of letters, notebooks and literary papers. After their death, surviving family members pored over this material, publishing some records and withholding others in an attempt to control that reputation.

Now, parts of this archive material are being brought together for display from two great Shelley collections – the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford and the New York Public Library, home of the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and his Circle. Shelley’s Ghost will open in the Wordsworth Museum on 7 July 2011, and show until 31 October. The exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the real lives of three generations of a family that was blessed with genius, marred by tragedy, and often surrounded by scandal. It begins with the relationship between Wordsworth’s radical friend William Godwin and the feminist campaigner Mary Wollstonecraft; it goes on to cover their daughter Mary’s elopement and subsequent relationship with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose expulsion from Oxford for the publication of The Necessity of Atheism and elopement four months later with the 16-year-old Harriet Westbrook had already caused notoriety; and it concludes with the roles played by the Shelleys’ only surviving child, Sir Percy Florence Shelley, and his wife Jane, Lady Shelley, as the guardians of the family papers.

A central theme of the exhibition is the effort made by the grieving Mary Shelley in 1822, immediately after Shelley drowned aged 29 in the Bay of Lerici, to collect and edit his work and create a compelling image of his character. Shelley expected posterity to judge him as a poet: the court, he said, was ‘a very severe one’, and he feared the verdict would be ‘guilty death’. Sir Percy and Lady Shelley went on to house the family manuscripts in a special ‘Shelley Sanctum’ alongside treasured family relics such as portraits, personal possessions and locks of hair. For years they guarded them closely, seeking to protect the images of Shelley and Mary that we see in the portraits: smiling, ethereal, other worldly. Much of this archive remained intact when it was gifted to the Bodleian in 1893, as a collection which now enables us to see the dramas of these years preserved in private letters and journals, written in times of great stress and recording the most painful emotions. The exhibition will therefore show how the deliberately selective release of the manuscripts on display, which have been the basis of many biographies, has shaped public knowledge of this great literary family. The exhibition will also include rare books and family possessions, the first draft of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the best-known portrait of Shelley, painted in Rome by the amateur artist Amelia Curran in 1819.

The exhibition’s interactive website is available here»

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About Dove Cottage:

Dove Cottage was the home of William Wordsworth from December 1799 to May 1808, the years of his supreme work as a poet. As with many old buildings, the early history of Dove Cottage is difficult to trace accurately; although the date of its construction is not recorded, this is likely to have been during the early 17th century. Its original use is also unknown, but during the second half of the 18th century it became an inn called the Dove and Olive. Many of the building’s distinctive features date from this time; its white-washed walls, flagstone floors and dark, wood panelling. However, in the early 1790s, the Dove Cottage was closed down. It seems likely that the building remained empty for the next few years, until William and Dorothy Wordsworth arrived as tenants on 20th December 1799.

In the building’s time as a pub, the downstairs bedroom would have been used as a drinking room, but for the Wordsworths, it was always used as a bedroom. Initially this is where Dorothy slept and it would have been here that she wrote much of her ‘Grasmere Journals’. In the summer of 1802 this became William’s bedroom in preparation for his marriage to Mary Hutchinson in October. The washstand displayed in this room belonged to William and Mary and is a rare example of a double washstand. (more…)

Acces to French Theses

Posted in resources by Editor on August 4, 2011

This free resource, theses.fr indexes some 6000 theses defended since 2006 with direct access to the texts in many cases. It seems that in most instances, there’s also an English summary.

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As noted at Le Blog ApAhAu:

L’ABES  (Agence Bibliographique de l’Enseignement supérieur)  a ouvert le 11 juillet 2011  theses.fr . Ce portail des thèses  françaises  inventorie environ 6000 thèses de doctorat soutenues depuis 2006 dans les établissements français, voire en collaboration avec des institutions étrangères. L’accès au texte intégral est disponible pour plus de 4000 thèses. Dans les prochains mois, theses.fr s’enrichira des données sur les thèses de doctorat en préparation, notamment celles disponibles dans le Fichier central des thèses ainsi que de la bibliographie nationale des thèses, répertoire exhaustif de toutes les thèses soutenues en France depuis 1985, disponible aujourd’hui au sein du catalogue Sudoc. Il a donc l’ambition d’être un portail d’accès unique aux thèses pour en améliorer la visibilité.

Les mots clés s’affichent lors de la recherche ; les réponses peuvent être triées par dates, établissements, écoles doctorales, disciplines, langues, directeurs de thèse, domaines. La recherche peut aussi cibler uniquement les thèses en ligne. Il n’y a pas de recherche experte disponible. On peut s’abonner à une requête effectuée via l’icône « s’abonner ».  Chaque référence comprend un résumé français et anglais ainsi que des mot-clés.

Quelques efforts restent encore à faire pour l’indexation. Il est, en effet, très difficile d’obtenir des réponses cohérentes pour les thèses soutenues en histoire de l’art. D’une part, la discipline fait l’objet de plusieurs entrées ; d’autre part, « histoire de l’art » utilisée comme mot-clé  renvoie aux titres des thèses comprenant les termes « histoire » « de » « l’art » avec des résultats pour le moins curieux  (par exemple : « Histoire et épistémiologie de l’art dentaire »).

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