An Edge Hill academic has been awarded funding worth nearly a quarter of a million pounds to take Romantic Studies from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Dr Andrew McInnes, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University, won financial backing from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through their Early Career Leadership Fellows scheme, for his two-year study on The Romantic Ridiculous.
His research project will use 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 of 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, and by shifting the 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.
“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 became a figure of ridicule in nineteenth-century and later satires.”
The project will include four ‘table talks’ inspired by the Romantic-period genre which recorded the conversations of famous writers like Coleridge.
These interactive workshops will be hosted by EHU Nineteen, Edge Hill University’s nineteenth-century research group, and will feature 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 The Wordsworth Trust and Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories, to present the new perspectives on Romanticism developed by the project.
Dr McInnes added: “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.”
The AHRC Leadership Fellows scheme provides time for potential 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.