Author Archives: Catherine Engh

The Morgan Reading Room & James Gillray’s Satirical Prints

By: Catherina Sara Engh

Two Fridays ago, I visited the Morgan reading room where I looked at two oversized books of satirical prints drawn by the English caricature artist James Gillray. The experience was excellent, the librarians were helpful and getting into the reading room was as easy as could be expected. I was asked to stow my things—everything but a laptop, my iphone and a few papers–in a locker. I washed my hands and gave my driver’s license to a librarian to photocopy. Inside the reading room, someone had already pulled the two books that I requested and a librarian set one of them up for me on a stand.

The first book that I looked through was approximately two by four feet–very cumbersome—and consisted of 307 pages with Gillray prints pasted into the books’ pages. I stood to look at the prints and used a weight to hold the pages in place. The second book was much lighter, with fewer pages.

In her book The Golden Age of Caricature, Diana Donald argues that caricatures don’t fit neatly into the categories of high or low art. In the drawings, allegorical content is mixed with impolite subject matter. At the Morgan, for instance, I saw a print of the Queen of England on a Toilet titled ‘Patience on a Monument’—a line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The mixture of high and low formal qualities and the cross-class audience—in the 1790s and today—makes the status of caricatures on the art market complex. Seeing so many prints pasted into the pages of this book, I couldn’t help but think that whoever put the collection together did not consider these etchings very valuable. (The collection I saw was given to the Morgan by Gordon N. Ray, who acquired them in 1815, but it’s unclear who owned them before him.)

The visit was, as I had hoped, productive to my research and thinking. I’m working on a paper that focuses on representations of English women in the 1790s world of fashion. Before the visit, I made a list of all the caricatures that I hoped to see and I left having seen seven of ten. It was great to get photos of details that I won’t find in a Google image search.

photo 1 (4)

As I looked for the prints that I knew I wanted to see, I came across several that will help me prove my argument. This print –‘The Introduction’–pictures Frederick, the Prince regent, (in 1791) presenting his wife Charlotte to King George III and Queen Sophia. Charlotte’s apron is overflowing with gold coins. Behind her is an unfortunate depiction of an orientalized Prussian man who stands guarding more of her money.  I’ll have to see if I can find a good account of Charlotte and the dowry she brought into her marriage with the Prince. The laugh here is at the expense of the crown. The Prince was notoriously in debt to the crown and this marriage must have been a mercenary one. In my paper, I want to talk about how Gillray links marriage to the market and social spectacle to financial speculation. So, for my purposes, the print is great—it depicts marriage as a transaction. The King and Queen value Charlotte for the money that she brings to the marriage, regardless of where it came from.

The other great find was a series called ‘Progress of the Toilet’ which includes ‘The Stays’ ‘The Wig’ and ‘Dress Completed.’ In these drawings, a woman stands dressing before a mirror—a common enough setting for a Gillray print. But on the wall is a framed image depicting the time of day—morning, noon and evening in respective prints. Gillray exaggerates to comic proportions the time it takes this woman to get dressed, even with the help of a servant. In Catharine, or the Bower, Jane Austen uses a similar comic technique—she exaggerates a rakish character’s dressing time to indicate his foppishness and to suggest to her reader that he’s not morally serious.

It was great to see the prints as they were originally sized. I noticed details like the pictures of morning, noon and night in the ‘Progress of the Toilet’ series that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have noticed. The size of the prints made the intricacies of Gillray’s line and shading techniques more apparent and impressive. When people write about caricature prints, they usually discuss ‘supercharged features’ and, indeed, I noticed that the monstrous proportions of facial features instantly indicate who to laugh at or, more strongly, disdain. The queen, wherever she is pictured (see ‘The Introduction’), appears monstrous. I also noticed a lot of tavern drawings and admired up close the compositional arrangement of these overcrowded, busy scenes .

Finally, I saw a number of dreamscapes—drawings of Tom Paine or the Prince Regent asleep in a bed, surrounded by dream imagery. In his essay ‘The Cartoonist’s Arsenal,’ E.H. Gombrich applies Freud’s theories of compression and displacement to his readings of caricature prints. Before this trip, I was a little skeptical of Gombrich’s Freudian approach. But seeing the many dream scenes included in the book of collected prints, I was convinced that the Freudian approach is a good one and that Gillray’s kind of comedy expresses a thorough knowledge of human psychology.


the material obsolescence of digital forms

I just watched the “run” of William Gibson’s poem “Agrippa” on The Agrippa Files website. I found it totally mesmerizing and a little bit haunting–I definitely recommend taking a look if you haven’t already.  The experience of seeing a 1992-era Mac desktop and watching the poem disappear made me think of Fitzpatrick’s comment that “digital forms may be more prone to material obsolescence than is print.” In Planned Obsolescence, she says:

Technologies move on, and technological formats degrade, posing a set of dangers to digital textual figures that the Electronic Literature Organization has been working to bring into public view, both through its “acid-free bits” campaign and through its more recent work with the Library of Congress to archive digital literary texts. (see, e.g., Liu et al. 2005; Montfort adn Wardrip-Fruin 2004). Without such active work to preserve electronic texts, and without the ongoing interest of and commitment by publishers, many digital texts face an obsolescence that is not at all theoretical, but very material.

Personally, the stack of CDs sitting in my closet is an example of so much data that, if I don’t convert soon, will become obsolescent. In any case, this has got me thinking about the urgency of preservation efforts, both private and public. Hopefully we’ll get to talk about this in class.

Annotated Bibliography: Theory, Austen/Gillray and Wordsworth/Coleridge Criticism

By: Catherine Sara Engh

I’ve annotated sources for two different papers that I’m working on. One is on representations of the frivolous woman of fashion, a social type pictured in James Gillray’s satirical prints and a minor character in Jane Austen’s early novels. The other paper is on trance, negative emotions and acts of first-person narration in Coleridge’s and Wordsworth’s lyric poetry. I’ve listed theoretical sources first, Austen/Gillray sources second and Coleridge/Wordsworth sources last.

Ngai, Sianne. Ugly Feelings. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2005. Print.

Sianne Ngai treats twentieth century art as a privileged location for the exploration of negative feelings. The negative feelings that Ngai identifies–envy, irritation, anxiety, animatedness–emerge where agency is suspended. These feelings are either objectless or ambivalent about their object. Unlike the “vehement passions” of canonical literature–anger, fear, elation–ugly feelings are weak. They do not occur suddenly, but persist over time. Central to Ngai’s argument is her definition of literary ‘tone’ as neither the subjective emotions a text calls up in the reader nor an emotion inside a text that the reader can analyze at a remove, but some combination of both. Ugly feelings manifest where there exists some confusion about the subjective or objective status of a state of being, a confusion that is the basis for that condition of not knowing how one is feeling. Ngai’s project is more theoretical than historical–she does not write a history of ugly feelings. Rather, she lays the groundwork for an approach to literary criticism that may motivate further historical research. Ugly Feelings is a useful source for those interested in bringing the problems of negative feeling to bear on their work.


Brison, Susan. Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2002. Print.

Susan Brison’s book is a first hand account of her experience of rape and its aftermath–the judicial process, the responses of her friends and family, her growing involvement in the activist community and her decision to have a child. Her first-hand account of her “working through” is accompanied by her research in the fields of cultural analysis, feminist criticism, philosophy and neurology. Brison posits that traumatic experience is tantamount to a radical loss of a self. Because Brison sees the self as intersubjective, the telling of one’s story to an audience of sympathetic listeners is essential to the trauma victim’s reconstruction of a self. Telling one’s story helps one regain a sense of control over one’s life. Brison’s first person account practices this essential component of her argument. She understands the self as narrative but also as embodied–because trauma is lodged in the body, it cannot be easily overcome by the mind. Brison situates her book inside a tradition of autobiographical accounts of rape and in relation to the fields of trauma studies, feminist criticism and philosophy. Her book is original for its integration of autobiography with extensive and diverse research. A must-read for feminists interested in issues of gender and embodiment.


Woloch, Alex. The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel. Princeton UP, 2003. Print.

Alex Woloch intervenes in a debate between literary critics over the interpretation of character. Placed at the intersection of story and discourse, his concepts of character-space and character-system integrate conflicting accounts of character given by structuralists and humanists. With chapters focusing on the novels of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Henri de Balzac, Woloch argues that the nineteenth century realist novel is often aware of the disjunction between a minor characters’ implied being and the manifestation of this being in the fictional universe. Woloch claims that the realist novel situates a well-developed central consciousness in an extensive social world inhabited by minor characters and, in doing so, tells us of a social system in which theories of democracy and human rights were maturing as inequality persisted. Woloch’s authority is grounded in the numerous 18th century realist novels he reads–he moves fluidly from Middlemarch to Madame Bovary to In Search of Lost Time–and in the work of relevant theorists–Luckas, Marx, Barthes, Watt, Forster. This book will be of special interest to those interested in narratology and/or realist aesthetics and the 19th century novel.


Donald, Diana. The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Age of George III. New Haven: Yale UP, 1996. Print.

Diana Donald’s book gathers British satirical prints produced and sold during the reign of George the III, or, as she says, in the “golden age of caricature.” She argues that the mixed aristocratic, middle-class and working class audience for the prints and the juxtaposition of educated allusion with impolite subject matter in the prints themselves make it difficult to situate the caricature prints of Gillray, Cruikshank, Rowlandson and others as either ‘high’ or ‘low’ art. Donald traces the formal origins of the style developed by caricaturists during this period and her close readings of the prints are materially grounded in the production and distribution processes. This book gathers a vast range of caricatures that are otherwise hard to access and organizes the images in respective chapters on social and political satire. Donald was the first scholar to write a book on this material and her text is a must-see for anyone interested in graphic satire in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Harding, D.W. Regulated Hatred and Other Essays on Jane Austen. Ed. Monica Lawlor. London: Athlone, 1998. Print.

“Regulated Hatred” is the title of a lecture on Jane Austen that the psychologist and literary critic D.W. Harding gave in 1935. “Regulated Hatred” changed the course of Austen criticism by replacing the Victorian’s “gentle Jane”–an authoress who, above all, valued civility–with an Austen who sharply, even mercilessly, criticized the conventions of her society. The collection of essays included here were written over the course of sixty years; some published in Harding’s lifetime, some not. The scope of the book is limited by Harding’s biographical/psychological approach but his observations on the formal qualities of Austen’s novels remain relevant. This book will be valuable to anyone interested in the history of Austen criticism or the formal attributes of her work.


Beer, John. “Coleridge, the Wordsworths, and the State of Trance.” The Wordsworth Circle 8.8 (1977): 121-38. Print.

Beer’s basic claim in this essay is that there was a system behind William Wordsworth’s and S.T. Coleridge’s usage of the term “trance.” Beer focuses, for the most part, on the early poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge–the Lyrical Ballads, The Prelude and Coleridge’s conversation poems. But he also incorporates material from the journals of Dorothy and the notebooks and letters of Coleridge. Drawing on the etymology of the word “trance,” Beer proposes that, in Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s poetics, the word may refer to the noun “entrance”–a passage of some kind–and to the verb “entrance”–a transport of feeling. Also important is the affiliation of trance with death, a signification that will later be picked up by Keats. Through close readings, Beer argues that as Wordsworth and Coleridge became disenchanted in personal relationships, the social and sexual implications of the term were de-emphasized and trance was associated with childhood and the psychological extremes of calm and agitation. The absence of contemporary “theory”–much of which hadn’t been written in 1977–and the emphasis on close readings of verse and prose make for an essay remarkably different in approach to what is now published in the same journal.


Berkeley, Richard. Coleridge and the Crisis of Reason. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print.

Richard Berkeley critiques Thomas McFarland’s analysis of Coleridge’s encounters with German philosophy in Coleridge and the Pantheist Tradition (1969). McFarland sees Coleridge’s interpretive dilemma as one between two ways of doing philosophy–philosophical inquiry as originating with the phrase ‘I am’ (rationalism, Jacobi) or ‘it is,’ (pantheism, Spinoza). Berkeley sees this as too simple an approach to the problem, one that distorts the philosophy of Spinoza and Jacobi and the controversy over pantheism that Coleridge would have been familiar with. In Berkeley’s view, the pantheism controversy orbited around the status of reason in Spinoza’s philosophy. Coleridge was not wrestling with two ways of doing philosophy, as McFarland claims, but with conflicting ways of interpreting Spinoza. In Chapter one, Silence and the Pantheistic Sublime in Coleridge’s Early Poetry Berkeley argues that Coleridge’s early conversation poems–“the Eolian Harp,” “On Leaving a Place of Retirement”–articulate a tension between reason and faith that was at the heart of the pantheism controversy. Berkley shifts the conversation about Coleridge and pantheism from one about influences to one about anxieties over the status of reason. This book intervenes in a very specific area of Coleridge studies and will be of interest to anyone working on Coleridge or Spinoza.


Larkin, Peter. “‘Frost at Midnight’–Some Coleridgean Intertwinings” The Journal of the Friends of Coleridge 26. (2005): 22-36. Web. <>.

Larkin generates a phenomenological reading of Coleridge’s 1798 conversation poem ‘Frost at Midnight.’ Drawing on the work of Avatal Ronnell, Larkin compares a good reading of a beautiful poem to a greeting–rather than overwhelming a poem with our learning, we should allow our experience of the poem to enable us to ask new questions, to bring what we know into conversation with the poem. What emerges is not a finalized and definitive explication, but a precarious questioning process. The structure of Larkin’s essay enacts this ‘greeting.’ He reads ‘Frost at Midnight’ and then considers the affinities between Coleridge’s thought and the claims of phenomenology. He applies the work of Merleau-Ponty in The Visible and the Invisible to ‘Frost at Midnight,’ finding phenomenological reversals–or intertwinings–between a perceiving subject and its object in ‘Frost at Midnight.’ Central to his reading is the idea that the subject–Coleridge–perceives in objects the forms of transcendence but that something of the object world remains hidden and inaccessible. Larkin’s authority derives from his knowledge of philosophical concepts and contexts–the influences and precedents to Coleridge’s and Merleau-Ponty’s thought. He speaks fluently about Coleridge’s concept of the primary and secondary imagination and Merleau-Ponty’s notion of ‘the flesh.’ Much Coleridge criticism that I have come across–books like Berkeley’s Coleridge and the Crisis of Reason and Ramonda Modiano’s Coleridge and the Concept of Nature–limit the extrinsic material they bring to bear on Coleridge’s writing to work written in or before Coleridge’s time. Larkin’s application of more contemporary claims of phenomenology to Coleridge’s work is refreshing.


Fulford, Tim. Landscape, Liberty and Authority. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. Print.

In Landscape, Liberty and Authority, Tim Fulford takes a new historicist approach to the poetry and prose of Thompson, Cowper, Gilpin, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Landscape, Liberty and Authority is concerned with ‘discourses on landscape’–literary representations of nature but also writing that uses the motifs of landscape description to make critical and political arguments. The poets and writers Fulford discusses ground their authority in the landscape, which emerges as a site where power struggles, particularly over the status of gentlemanly taste, erupt. Fulford maintains that Coleridge and Wordsworth were the first to explicitly attack the aesthetic and political values of the gentleman. However, these romantic poets, like Thompson and Cowper before them, maintained a vexed relationship to a readership that still espoused many of the values they were criticizing. Fulford brings an extensive knowledge of political contexts–party politics, the politics of enclosure and the French Revolution–to bear on his readings. He is great at working through ideological nuances, uncovering influences and explaining how these writer’s social/political stances differed from those of writers who came before them.


Ann, Bermingham. “The Picturesque Decade.” Landscape and Ideology: The English Rustic Tradition 1740-1860. Berkeley: U of California, 1986. Print.

Ann Bermingham conducts an Althusserian reading of English landscape paintings from 1740-1860, focusing on the landscapes of Gainsborough, John Constable, the picturesque painters and the Pre-Raphaelites. Bermingham stages Landscape and Ideology as an intervention in a field of art history that, in 1986, typically situated landscape painting in a familiar history of stylistic development. Traditional approaches problematically assume historical neutrality. In contrast, Bermingham believes that there exists a relationship between landscape paintings and the dominant social and economic values of a time when the growth of industrial capitalism was changing the socio-economic order in the English countryside. In chapter two, “The Picturesque Decade,” Bermingham discusses the social anxieties of Knight and Price–gentlemen whose system of landscape gardening privileged rusticity and an appearance of wildness. She elaborates the paradox of a situation in which the very men who were enclosing the land were building gardens that nostalgically returned to a time before the land was enclosed. Since Landscape and Ideology was published, ideological approaches to landscape have become more common–Fulford’s book is a good example of a similar approach applied to representations of landscape in poetry.

 Sources in French

Gould, A. (1975). The English Political Print, From Hogarth to Cruikshank. Revue de L’Art (France), (30), 39-50, 98-101. Retrieved from

Focusing on stylistic development, this article traces a history of the British political print and engraving, starting with Hogarth and ending with Rowlandson and Cruikshank. Gould argues that Gillray paved the way for the political cartoon, placing him at odds with Diana Donald. While Donald emphasizes Gillray’s importance, she situates him at the latter end of the heyday (1760-1820) of political caricatures in England. For Donald, Gillray was a particularly well-educated and skilled innovator of the form, but one who was nonetheless influenced by cartoonists who came before him. Gould, as is now common, starts his discussion of political prints with Hogarth. This article came before Diana Donald’s book and demonstrates that scholarly work was being done in France on this medium before the 90s.


Emma Eldelin, “Exploring the Myth of the Proper Writer: Jenny Diski, Montaigne and Coleridge”, TRANS- [En ligne], 15 (2013). Web. <>

This essay explores the relationship between the British author Jenny Diski’s On Trying to Keep Still (2006) and two epigraphs that frame this book. One is from Coleridge’s poem ‘This Lime Tree Bower my Prison’ and one is from Montaigne’s Essays. Eldelin is interested in how the epigraphs integrate Diski’s book in a literary tradition, comment on the text and mark her genre. She sees both epigraphs as enunciations related to the plight of the solitary writer and explores what it means to bring the voices of old texts to bear on a contemporary piece of writing. This article is unique in its focus on epigraphs and in its movement across periods and genres. Research-wise, I suspect this essay would not be considered rigorous enough to be published in a journal like Studies in Romanticism or The Wordsworth Circle.

State of the (Romantic) Field

By: Catherine Sara Engh


Studies in Romanticism

The Wordsworth Circle

European Romantic Review

Modern Language Quarterly

Essays in Romanticism

Books Published in the Last Two Years

Saeko Yoshikawa, William Wordsworth and the Invention of Tourism, 1820-1900–Review:

Monika Class, Coleridge and Kantian Ideas in England, 1796-1817–Review:

Jane Stabler, The Artistry of Exile: Romantic and Victorian Writers in Italy–Review:

Ian Haywood, Romanticism and Caricature–

Nancy Yousef, Romantic Intimacy–

Annual Conferences

NASSR 2014: Romantic Organizations–

22nd Annual Meeting of the British Women Writers Conference–

Coleridge Summer Conference–

International Conference on Romanticism–

University Press Series

Oxford University Press, Women Writers in English 1350-1850–

Cornell Univesity Press, Reading Women Writing–

Cambridge University Press, Studies in Romanticism–

Speaker Series

NYRFS Dinner with Jeff Cowton, MBE, Curator of the Wordsworth Trust

When: Monday November 3, 2014 6-8 pm // Where: O’Casey’s, on 41st Street between Fifth and Madison

Kevin Gilmartin: Being Critical or Being Nothing: Hazlitt against Legitimacy

When: Friday November 14, 2014 5-7 pm // Where: Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus, 155 W 60th St, New York, NY, United States

Evan Jones: Hegel, Patmore and the Turn of Rhythm

When: Friday November 7, 2014 4-6 pm // Where: The Graduate Center, CUNY, 5th Avenue, New York, NY, United States English Department

Scholarly Blogs

Blithe Sprits–

Romantic Circles–

Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net–

Twitter Accounts Maintained by Scholars in the Field

Jim Kelly, Lecturer in Romanticism–

Tim Milnes, Romanticism–

Jon Dent, Romantic Imagination–

 Twitter Accounts Maintained by Institutions Related to the Field

British Association for Romantic Studies–

Romantic Circles–

The British Society for 18th Century Studies–



Why Literary Periods Mattered: a difficult read

At the beginning of class today, we talked about the difficulty of Why Literary Periods Mattered. Professor Gold suggested that Underwood’s study is demanding because he addresses ways of thinking. I completely agree and I’d add that Why Literary Periods Mattered feels specialized, in part, because Underwood’s narrative relies on period-specific knowledge.

While Graff keeps to the conflicts over methodology articulated by those within English departments, Underwood extends his discussion to literary texts themselves–arguing that literature has influenced the way we’ve come to study it.  Underwood (tenuously?) ties the introduction of the period survey course in British Universities to the kind of historicism introduced in romantic novels and lyrics. He goes on to link the ideas about history that emerged in Romantic-era texts to the long-term endurance of periodization in English departments. In a passage that is as difficult as they come, he affirms:

Period style continued to play a central role in literary pedagogy from the second half of the nineteenth century through much of the twentieth. In the concept of period style, late-nineteenth-century aestheticism merges with romantic historicism, which had used literature’s evocative power to immortalize vanished social system. Subjective and social approaches to art unite in the deeply appealing conceit that individual aesthetic cultivation dramatizes the timeless dimension of history. Because of this synergy between an aestheticism that emphasizes style, and a mode of historicism that emphasizes the evocation of specific vanished moments, the practice of periodization has exerted a more pervasive, systemic and enduring influence on literary studies than on the discipline of history itself (112).

In class, Elissa mentioned that she enjoyed Underwood’s discussion of Radcliffe and Scott because it aligned with her interests. I, too, enjoyed the first chapter for this reason. But Austin, who is an Americanist, was disappointed that Underwood didn’t address modes of historical consciousness introduced in American literature.  It strikes me that, in this way, Underwood appeals to the interests of students, critics and scholars with a specialized knowledge of British romanticism and/or late 18th century lit.

For me, Underwood’s attention to “late-nineteenth-century aestheticism” and “romantic historicism” made his call at the end of the book for a gradualistic approach to the study of literary and historical change feel kind of tacked on. His proposal—though interesting!–seemed out-of-place on the heels of two chapter-length discussions of specific literary periods and genres—the Romantic novel/lyric and, later, the Postmodern historical novel/film.

All this aside, Underwood’s eclectic research interests fostered interesting discussions—in-class and on this blog–about everything from how we might teach etymology to the necessity—or lack thereof–of disciplinary cohesion to the question of what interests should take priority in teaching–students’ advancement in the institution or their engagement with issues relevant to their lives and struggles. I came out of class feeling like the pressing questions that Why Literary Periods Mattered raises make it a valuable project despite the incongruities we might identify in Underwood’s approach.