Tis double-volume, special issue of La Questione Romantica brings to completion a process of historical and literary recovery that began a good number of years ago. In due course, thanks to a laborious and wonderfully collaborative effort, scholars from the international scientific community and from across a variety of disciplines have been brought together, as well as artists and the local community of Liverpool, to re-appropriate and celebrate the long-silenced and enthralling legacy of Romantic-era labouring-class poet, committed intellectual and political activist Edward Rushton (1756-1814). The multi-focal project on the occasion of Rushton’s Bicentennial Anniversary in November 2014 involved many individuals and institutions. A partnership of Liverpool Museums, third sector organization DaDaFest, and the Universities of Liverpool and Bari, created a series of three coordinated exhibitions, which were hosted at the International Slavery Museum, the Museum of Liverpool and the Victoria Gallery & Museum, with the financial support of Heritage Lottery Funding;1 the Bicentennial Conference ‘Edward Rushton and Romantic Liverpool’ was co-organized by the University of Liverpool and the University of Bari, with the collaboration of the University of Bologna, and the involvement of two Research Centres – Eighteenth-Century Worlds at Liverpool and Centro Interuniversitario per lo Studio del Romanticismo at Bologna/Bari. The editors of this special issue – Paul Baines, in his turn, the scrupulous and penetrating editor of the first modern edition of The Collected Writings of Edward Rushton (Liverpool University Press 2014) and Greg Lynall at the University of Liverpool, together with Lilla Maria Crisafulli and myself – have all been actors in the process, alongside Alex Robinson, who contributes an essay to this volume, and for whose role we all owe her special thanks. Our collaboration also extended in time and scope, to encompass the artistic project of Unsung, the splendid play based on Rushton’s life by John Graham Davies and James Quinn, directed by Chuck Mike, which premiered at the Everyman Playhouse on 9 March 2016, and a taste of which is included in the Poet’s Corner for this volume. From a purely scholarly point of view, our work has been directed towards activating two different processes – recovering and uncovering Edward Rushton. The construction of the first modern edition embracing virtually all the writings of a forgotten hero – to evoke here the appropriate title of Bill Hunter’s militant vindication of Rushton [Hunter 2002] – implies, quite evidently, a laborious and painstaking process of recovery, which is no less concrete and physical than immaterial and intellectual – given the fragility and, sometimes, the tenuousness of the connections ‘under construction’, as it were. All we had originally was the printed text – which, literarily if not literally, exploded, uncovering an extraordinary wealth of ramifications, disseminated throughout the conceivable range of publishing venues marking out late eighteenth-century print culture. These include broadsides, individual chapbooks and pamphlets, anonymous or acknowledged reprinting in anthologies and chapbooks, cross-references in the form of intertextual poetic dialogue, and – most importantly – newspapers, particularly located in the new-born nation the United States. The same process, indeed, has also occurred in the exercise of criticism – which is the intellectual locus par excellence for the uncovering of increasingly complex layers of meaning; intense intellectual associations; and delicate language constructions. Recovering and uncovering Edward Rushton as a remarkably complex poetic voice and a committed intellectual, fully immersed in the Age of Revolution, has been our scholarly task throughout, underlying the Bicentennial Celebrations, and the Conference, too. This is also the task attending labouring-class poetry scholarship as a whole, which has been directed, in John Goodridge’s words, introducing the online Database of Labouring-Class Poets (1700-1900), to «discover and recover […] an important and extensive tradition that has been hidden or marginalised» [Goodridge, accessed 30.12.2016]. The phase of recovery – intended as sheer accessibility to writers and their work – has now been substantially advanced thanks to the combined impact of the amazing Database of Labouring-Class Poets, the landmark multi-volume Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Labouring Class Poetry anthologies of the early 2000s, the expanding digitization of rare material, as well as the increasing number of new, scholarly editions of individual writers and the emergent experimentation in the Digital Humanities methodologies and instruments. On the other hand, as John Goodridge and Bridget Keegan point out in their Introduction to the forthcoming Cambridge History of British Working Class Literature, the recovery process entails more than rendering the material that had previously been erased accessible. It implies engaging in the construction of increasingly complex, systemic frames for recognizing and interpreting the phenomena that are under our lens. This special issue of La Questione Romantica does engage in that complexity, tracing numerous possible trajectories that help refine both our knowledge and awareness of Edward Rushton’s contribution as a poet and as a politically committed individual, and the intricacies of the worlds that were being shaped in the ‘there and then’ of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Liverpool, no less than his enduring legacy for the ‘here and now’ of our times.

"La Questione Romantica" Special Issue: Edward Rushton’s Bicentenary - Cultural History/Legacy

DELLAROSA, Franca;
2015

Abstract

Tis double-volume, special issue of La Questione Romantica brings to completion a process of historical and literary recovery that began a good number of years ago. In due course, thanks to a laborious and wonderfully collaborative effort, scholars from the international scientific community and from across a variety of disciplines have been brought together, as well as artists and the local community of Liverpool, to re-appropriate and celebrate the long-silenced and enthralling legacy of Romantic-era labouring-class poet, committed intellectual and political activist Edward Rushton (1756-1814). The multi-focal project on the occasion of Rushton’s Bicentennial Anniversary in November 2014 involved many individuals and institutions. A partnership of Liverpool Museums, third sector organization DaDaFest, and the Universities of Liverpool and Bari, created a series of three coordinated exhibitions, which were hosted at the International Slavery Museum, the Museum of Liverpool and the Victoria Gallery & Museum, with the financial support of Heritage Lottery Funding;1 the Bicentennial Conference ‘Edward Rushton and Romantic Liverpool’ was co-organized by the University of Liverpool and the University of Bari, with the collaboration of the University of Bologna, and the involvement of two Research Centres – Eighteenth-Century Worlds at Liverpool and Centro Interuniversitario per lo Studio del Romanticismo at Bologna/Bari. The editors of this special issue – Paul Baines, in his turn, the scrupulous and penetrating editor of the first modern edition of The Collected Writings of Edward Rushton (Liverpool University Press 2014) and Greg Lynall at the University of Liverpool, together with Lilla Maria Crisafulli and myself – have all been actors in the process, alongside Alex Robinson, who contributes an essay to this volume, and for whose role we all owe her special thanks. Our collaboration also extended in time and scope, to encompass the artistic project of Unsung, the splendid play based on Rushton’s life by John Graham Davies and James Quinn, directed by Chuck Mike, which premiered at the Everyman Playhouse on 9 March 2016, and a taste of which is included in the Poet’s Corner for this volume. From a purely scholarly point of view, our work has been directed towards activating two different processes – recovering and uncovering Edward Rushton. The construction of the first modern edition embracing virtually all the writings of a forgotten hero – to evoke here the appropriate title of Bill Hunter’s militant vindication of Rushton [Hunter 2002] – implies, quite evidently, a laborious and painstaking process of recovery, which is no less concrete and physical than immaterial and intellectual – given the fragility and, sometimes, the tenuousness of the connections ‘under construction’, as it were. All we had originally was the printed text – which, literarily if not literally, exploded, uncovering an extraordinary wealth of ramifications, disseminated throughout the conceivable range of publishing venues marking out late eighteenth-century print culture. These include broadsides, individual chapbooks and pamphlets, anonymous or acknowledged reprinting in anthologies and chapbooks, cross-references in the form of intertextual poetic dialogue, and – most importantly – newspapers, particularly located in the new-born nation the United States. The same process, indeed, has also occurred in the exercise of criticism – which is the intellectual locus par excellence for the uncovering of increasingly complex layers of meaning; intense intellectual associations; and delicate language constructions. Recovering and uncovering Edward Rushton as a remarkably complex poetic voice and a committed intellectual, fully immersed in the Age of Revolution, has been our scholarly task throughout, underlying the Bicentennial Celebrations, and the Conference, too. This is also the task attending labouring-class poetry scholarship as a whole, which has been directed, in John Goodridge’s words, introducing the online Database of Labouring-Class Poets (1700-1900), to «discover and recover […] an important and extensive tradition that has been hidden or marginalised» [Goodridge, accessed 30.12.2016]. The phase of recovery – intended as sheer accessibility to writers and their work – has now been substantially advanced thanks to the combined impact of the amazing Database of Labouring-Class Poets, the landmark multi-volume Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Labouring Class Poetry anthologies of the early 2000s, the expanding digitization of rare material, as well as the increasing number of new, scholarly editions of individual writers and the emergent experimentation in the Digital Humanities methodologies and instruments. On the other hand, as John Goodridge and Bridget Keegan point out in their Introduction to the forthcoming Cambridge History of British Working Class Literature, the recovery process entails more than rendering the material that had previously been erased accessible. It implies engaging in the construction of increasingly complex, systemic frames for recognizing and interpreting the phenomena that are under our lens. This special issue of La Questione Romantica does engage in that complexity, tracing numerous possible trajectories that help refine both our knowledge and awareness of Edward Rushton’s contribution as a poet and as a politically committed individual, and the intricacies of the worlds that were being shaped in the ‘there and then’ of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Liverpool, no less than his enduring legacy for the ‘here and now’ of our times.
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