Mary Fairclough on the Romantic Crowd

from the British Association for Romantic Studies blog:

Five Questions: Mary Fairclough on the Romantic Crowd

Mary Fairclough is a Lecturer in English Literature in the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies and the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York, where she also completed her PhD; before rejoining York in 2012, she taught for four years at the University of Huddersfield.  Her research explores the intersections between literary, political and scientific developments in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, focusing particularly on the ways that different disciplinary discourses employ, inform and complicate each other.  In the interview below, we discuss her first monograph, The Romantic Crowd: Sympathy, Controversy and Print Culturewhich was published by Cambridge University Press in January last year.

The-Romantic-Crowd-Mary-Fairclough cover

1) What brought you to realise that the crowd was a topic you wanted to consider at length?

I have Thomas De Quincey to blame for my interests in crowds – in the first term of my PhD research I was reading as much De Quincey as I could, and remember being struck by the peculiar way in which he described crowd behaviour: ‘Many a man has been drawn, by the contagion of sympathy with his own class acting as a mob, into outrages of destruction of spoliation, such as he could never have contemplated with toleration in his solitary hours.’  I kept returning to that quotation, and it eventually became the epigraph for my book.  What interested me was De Quincey’s use of the term ‘sympathy’ as a means of accounting for collective behaviour.  I had never encountered that use of sympathy before, and I wondered whether other writers of the period also used it when discussing crowds…

Read the full blog post on the BARS blog here


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