MALLE Mapping Seminar: Spectatorship and The Wild Irish Girl
The MALLE Research Seminar Series presents guest lectures from Bath Spa University members of research staff and MALLE tutors. Current MALLE student, Hannah Polland, reports on a special mapping event.
On the evening of March 10th, Dr. Tracey Hill and Dr. Nicky Lloyd presented their current research and discussed how mapping has played a role in their projects. While these projects differed, both speakers examined the value of historical maps in relation to the literature that was being written at the same time.
Dr. Tracey Hill’s presentation centered on the role of spectatorship in early modern London. Tracey has discovered that life in early modern London, especially in the area of Cheapside, was heavily influenced by spectating. Cheapside was filled with many forms of spectating including the royal entry and public punishment, to name a few. But the large and busy street was shaped by the different types of spectators: the people on the street and the people viewing from the upper windows, which created a distinction between a solitary and communal form of spectatorship.
Tracey explained that while these spectators were often characterized as ‘nosy women’, the different depictions of Cheapside and other locations in literature show a great variety of spectators that was not totally gendered and could be quite communal at times. Tracey also discussed how spectatorship began to change with the introduction of coaches. Coaches drew much attention with their aristocratic airs and they created a privacy that made spectators all the more curious. Dr. Tracey Hill had many other interesting points during her presentation. It is interesting to consider how humans take so much joy in watching others and how we may have altered rural and urban landscapes in order to accommodate this still beloved pastime.
Dr. Nicky Lloyd’s current project examines the work of Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan and how this woman’s writing influenced Romanticism and the Irish National Tale. Lady Morgan is the author of The Wild Irish Girl and several other novels. She published these novels during Ireland’s incorporation into the United Kingdom in the wake of the 1801 Act of Union. While Nicky’s research on this author is extensive, her presentation focused on the potential influence of Lady Morgan’s writing on Irish identity during this transition.
Nicky considered the role of maps and travel networks in consolidating the union, citing a portion of The Wild Irish Girl where English travellers and a local Irishman dispute the poor road conditions of Northern Ireland. This portion of the novel displayed the heavily satirical style of Lady Morgan that critiques the colonial politics of mapping. This portion also addressed one of the major concerns of the Irish National Tale: the connection between landscape and Irish pride and ownership. Lady Morgan writes of the mapping and improvement of the Irish landscape and the dismay that this instilled in the Irish people. Nicky addressed this author’s unique voice and how her style articulated Ireland’s changing landscape during a time when Irish identity was contested and fragile.