Calls for papers for conferences taking place in March 2024

Romanticism and Rock Music – International Conference.
Université d’Artois, Arras (France), 28-29 March 2024.
Deadline for abstracts: 15 September 2023.

Textes et Cultures (UR 4028), équipe interne “Translittéraires”, en association avec l’ENS, la SERA, et LOOP

Thursday, 28th – Friday, 29th March 2024

Organised by Adrian Grafe (Université d’Artois) and Marc Porée (ENS/PSL)

Over the decades, and right up to the present, rock musicians have shown a marked interest in Romantic poets and poetry. In the wake of previous scholarly examinations of the topic—one which the conference organisers believe may best be explored in a live, intermedial setting—this conference seeks to delve into the reasons for this, and to consider how these musicians’ creativity is inspired by Romantic poetry and imagery lyrically, musically and other ways. This includes back-projections whereby Jane Campion’s film Bright Star (2009) figured Keats as a Romantic rock star, while Susan Wolfson’s A Greeting of the Spirit (2022) refers to “La Belle Dame sans Merci” as a “bluesy ballad”. The closeness of Romantic poetry to the art of song could hardly be greater, from Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience to Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads to Keats’s odes and sonnets and Byron’s “We’ll Go No More A-Roving” (sung by Leonard Cohen, among others, in a rock mode) and explains, in part, the attraction which these poems, among many others, hold for rock artists. The subject has constantly proved its dynamism, and even since the publication of James Rovira’s 2018 Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth and Rock from Dylan to U2, rock musicians have continued to display their interest in Romantic poetry and tropes.

How do these two cultural worlds – Romantic poets and poetry, and the modern rock business – apparently quite unlike each other, come together? The topic suggests a tension between continuity on the one hand and influence on the other. Is, or was, rock music a continuation of values laid down and expressed by the Romantic poets, so that a rock musician can be a Romantic poet unbeknownst to herself? Or is it valid to discuss the influence of Romanticism on rock musicians only if they have read the Romantics? What is it the underground subculture phenomenon of the late 1970s that came to be called by the name of “New Romantic”, in reaction to the punk scene of the time, characterized by austerity and anti-fashion views, owed, not so much to glam rock stars of the decade as to early-nineteenth-century poets such as Shelley, Keats or Wordsworth?

While the answer, my friend, might be blowin’ in the wind, there are several explanations which come to mind. It might be thematically, or quite literally, that (dis)“Satisfaction”, to give it its title (but ennui, Weltschmertz, taedium vitae, anxiety, longing, would also do the trick), acts as an enduring line of inspiration. Or, again, it may have to do with the cult of celebrity, famously launched by Lord Byron (cf. Fiona MacCarthy’s 2002 biography). It will be found that love is another binding, albeit hardly original, force. A more trenchant political line of Opposition (which, in the eyes of William Blake, is “True Friendship”), re-enacted and updated in the various Rock against, say, racism (RAR) movements, will also come to mind.

Our contention is that, while all of these notions may be relevant, they hardly touch upon what we find to be central to the “Romantic Connection”, as it were, namely the resilience of the written poetic word when electrified (electricity, a key romantic notion if one goes by the views of Tristan Garcia, La vie intense: Une obsession moderne, 2016), when sung, when set to the pulsations—to the beat—of Rock.

Frith and Goodwin allude to “the central place of romanticism (its language of art and genius) in rock ideology” (in On Record: Rock, Pop and the Written Word, 1987). Our Rom-Rock Conference intends to shed light on the persistence, on the musical scene, of romantic tunes.

We welcome papers on, without being limited to:

  • Close readings/close listenings of rewritings, borrowings and adaptations of Romantic writings
  • Questions of intermediality: transfers of poems from the page to the stage, recording studio, screen or digital resources
  • Rock-culture allusions to Romantic writers (cf. the Italian band “The Quincey” naming themselves after the author of The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater)
  • Musicological and poetological approaches to setting poems to music and to the musical performance of such works
  • Rock iconicity and personae as a post-Romantic inheritance
  • Romantic painting and rock album covers, posters, films, etc
  • Hauntological perspectives: romanticism as haunting rock music

Last but not least, for sheer fun and enjoyment, we would love to foster interest in musicians and singers willing to come and perform live versions/adaptations of Romantic works.

Please send 150-word abstracts for twenty-minute presentations in English or
French and a brief biobiblio by September 15th 2023 to Adrian Grafe (adrian.grafe@univ-artois and Marc Porée (marc.poree@ens.psl.).

Scientific Committee

  • Raffaella Antinucci (Parthenope University, Naples)
  • Dr Laure-Hélène Antony (Université de Bourgogne)
  • Caroline Bertonèche (Université Grenoble Alpes)
  • Adrian Grafe (Université d’Artois)
  • Matthew Graves (AMU)
  • Dr Claire Hélie (Université de Lille)
  • Dr Marion Leclair (Université d’Artois)
  • Dr Andrew McKeown (Université de Poitiers)
  • Dr Emily Taylor Merriman (Amherst College)
  • Marc Porée (ENS/PSL

(Posted 8 May 2023)