Parody of 'The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog' painting showing the wanderer tripping overWhat does it mean to feel ridiculous? How can ridiculousness help us to develop new perspectives on the Romantic period, 1750-1850? Dr Andrew McInnes, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, has been awarded Arts and Humanities Research Council Early Career Leadership Fellow funding, worth nearly a quarter of a million pounds, to find out.

The AHRC’s Early Career Leadership Fellows scheme provides time for potential future research leaders to undertake focused individual research alongside collaborative activities which have the potential to generate a transformative impact on their subject area and beyond.

The Romantic Ridiculous is a two year research project using the nineteenth-century philosopher Jean Paul Richter’s argument that feeling ridiculous can bring groups of people together in joyful communion to shed new light on Romantic period perspectives on nature, society, and childhood.

Dr McInnes explained:

When people think of Romantic poetry, the image of a lone genius up in the mountains is still very powerful. This project seeks to challenge that by shifting Romantic Studies from the sublime to the ridiculous. I’m going to focus on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as a famous example of exactly the kind of ingenious poet who spent a lot of time climbing mountains, and explore a different side to him – Coleridge responded to Richter’s arguments, writing and lecturing on the ridiculous, as well as sometimes feeling ridiculous himself, and becoming a figure of ridicule in nineteenth-century and later satires. By shifting focus from the sublime to the ridiculous, we can see that many of the ideas about individuality, creativity, and imagination from the Romantic period were developed in conversation and collaboration with others.

The project will also include four ‘Table Talks’, inspired by the Romantic-period genre recording the conversation of famous writers like Coleridge. These ‘Table Talks’ are interactive workshops hosted by EHU Nineteen, Edge Hill University’s nineteenth-century research group, and involving conversation and activities led by Dr McInnes and leading scholars from around the country.

The Romantic Ridiculous will culminate in the summer of 2022 with a travelling exhibition, ‘Ridiculous Romantics’, co-produced by Dr McInnes and A-level students from local schools, in collaboration with Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam, and Stories and The Wordsworth Trust, presenting the new perspectives on Romanticism developed by the project.

Dr McInnes said, ‘I’m thrilled and delighted – and a little nervous – about starting the research. The project has been designed to embody my belief in the importance of collaboration and community – not only in the Romantic period – but in contemporary Higher Education too.’