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Title: Homes and haunts : memorialising Romantic writers
Author: Pardoe, James
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis takes an historical approach to four literary houses open to the public today, associated with writers of the Romantic Age: Abbotsford House (Sir Walter Scott), Newstead Abbey (Lord Byron), Keats House (John Keats), and the Keats-Shelley Memorial House (John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley). At the heart of this study are questions of how and why houses have had a role in understanding the lives and works of famous writers. The different histories of these houses over the past two centuries point to a comparative framework for analysis. Fluctuations in the popularity of their associated writers are intimately connected with the manner in which they have been represented and received. For example, Scott and Byron were popular for much of the nineteenth century, with large numbers of people seeking out their homes. With Keats and Shelley their critical acclaim did not gain wide acknowledgement until the later decades of the nineteenth century. In parallel, the houses associated with their lives did not gain popular note until the twentieth century. One of the principal aims of this thesis is to show how the post-writer histories impact on the literary houses today. Many of the works within the literary house genre highlight the significance of the link between writers and their audiences. These links are created through the establishment of the houses as sites of remembrance, as memorials, and as sensory markers. However, whereas commentators concentrate on the links being direct, this study shows that the association is based on narratives filtered through those who were subsequently responsible for the houses. Consequently, the interpretations prevalent at the houses in the twenty-first century are the result of a long history based on the writers, and on what was considered their significance by others over approximately 200 years. This thesis also shows how visitor expectations have shaped current presentations, and how visitors' perception of an 'aura' of the associated writers at these houses influenced the way they have been interpreted. 'Aura' is used to identify the emotional response by people to certain locations or objects where they feel a 'spirit' or the 'sense' of something from the past. Bruno Latour and Adam Lowe's conceptualisation is used to show how 'aura' is not inherent in objects from the past but is activated by the reaction of an audience, and thus can migrate from originals to copies. My research has found that each of the four houses is different in terms of its meaning to the writer, its intrinsic merit beyond the writer, its subsequent ownership and presentation history, and its funding context. Nevertheless, key similarities between them can be determined: the post-writer history still impacts today, visitor expectations over time have shaped current presentation, and visitors seek 'aura', whether or not there are physical remains associated with the writer. However, this aura is dependent on whether the houses in the twenty-first century can 'speak' to their audiences.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: heritage museums literary tourism