The Romantic Studies Association of Australasia (RSAA) presents

its third biennial conference






University of Melbourne, 23-25 July 2015


The biennial conference of the Romantic Studies Association of Australia and a supernumerary conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism


Re-reading is a key practice for the humanities: it is one of the most important ways in which, on the one hand, the past is made available to the present and, on the other hand, ‘new’ sign systems are forged. More broadly, re-reading (understood as the bivalent process sketched above) is a powerful mode of Romantic creativity and, in this guise, one of the chief ways in which modernity discovers and realizes ‘various possibilities of order on the basis of an increasing freedom and a growing distance vis-à-vis an established reality’ (Luhmann, Art as a Social System). William Blake’s re-reading of Swedenborgian and Moravian discourses, for example, produces a sign-system (a poetic/analytic discourse) that to a surprising degree draws apart from its sources, while remaining independent of conventional semiotic repertoires existing at the time. Although the sources are different, much the same might be said of Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Smith, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Robinson, William Wordsworth, and outside Britain, Olympe de Gouges, Germaine de Staël, Novalis, and many others. Romanticism itself has been the site of numerous re-readings, in which the same bivalent process can be observed; and Romanticism in its various guises continues to be re-read by important strands of contemporary culture. Most prominently, Romantic re-readings of earlier notions of imagination, passion, perception, nature, and things, exert a profound influence on, even as they are being re-read by, contemporary thought. Equally powerful forms of re-reading occur when European Romanticism crosses cultures and is read in China, India, Japan, and so on, and this is evident in the work of Rabindranath Tagore and Kenzaburo Oe, amongst many others. Seen in this light, re-reading converges with contemporary discourses of imagination, innovation, and creativity, whether deployed for politically conservative or progressive ends. Given its importance, it is surprising that so little attention is given to re-reading (as distinct from, say, intertextuality or the study of influence) and that so few accounts of re-reading engage with the bivalent process sketched above. It is our hope that ‘Re-reading Romanticism’ will begin to redress this balance, by providing an opportunity to explore this topic and its significance for the Humanities today. The work of Marilyn Butler will be one of the foci of our discussions. Butler’s strong re-reading of Romanticism has shaped the field we inhabit today, and this conference is intended to honor her memory.

Topics may include:



Deadline for proposals: A 250 word abstract, accompanied by a brief CV, must be submitted before 1 March 2015. Proposals for panels are welcome and should be submitted direct to the conference organizers before 1 February 2015.


Symposium on ‘Forests’:
Re-reading Romanticism’ will immediately follow a one-day symposium on ‘Forests’, to be organized by Dr. Grace Moore for the Centre for the History of Emotions at Melbourne University. (

The organizers of the RSAA conference are:
Peter Otto (The University of Melbourne) --
Claire Knowles (Latrobe University) --
Deirdre Coleman (The University of Melbourne) -- 



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