Professor Jerrold E. Hogle, University of Arizona

Professor Michael O’Neill, Durham University

Professor Jane Stabler, University of St Andrews


‘The year without a summer’, as 1816 was known, was the year in which Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (later Shelley), Lord Byron, John Polidori and Claire Claremont came together, for the first time, in Geneva. Mary Shelley (nee Godwin) would later relate the circumstances of the creation of her novel in the Preface to the 1831 edition. There, she recalls the intensity of the conversation between the two poets as well as the birth of her own “hideous progeny,” Frankenstein: “Many and long were the conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley, to which I was a devout but nearly silent listener. During one of these, various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and among others the nature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated.”

This meeting of five creative minds at Lake Geneva in 1816 has been the subject of several films and a recent documentary. To date, however, it has not been the subject of an academic conference. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of this extraordinary summer, the University of Sheffield will celebrate this unique meeting between these Romantic authors. We invite proposals that will explore the literary, biographical, scientific and historical readings of the Villa Diodati group.

We will offer a pre-conference day long event for PhD students and Early Career Researchers. The Centre for Archival Practice will also host a masterclass that takes the delegates to visit the Sheffield Archives which contain a wealth of material. Each keynote speaker will offer a masterclass focused on their internationally renowned skills as editors and researchers. These masterclasses will

  • cultivate the research skills of its participants and improve participants’ engagement with the question of the interaction between Gothic writing and Romantic poetry, leading into a discussion of canonicity;
  • broaden participants’ experiences by providing masterclasses on manuscript editing given by 2 prominent editors of second generation Romantic poetry (Professor O’Neill, who is editor of the Johns Hopkins editions of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Professor Stabler, editor of the new Longman edition of Byron’s poetry, and Professor Hogle, who has edited some of the most significant journals focussing on Gothic writing.
  • communicate to non-academic audiences about cutting edge research; one of the lectures will be a public lecture;
  • establish a dialogue between students/ECRs within the Arts and Humanities who study Romanticism, the Gothic, and their legacies through collaboration between members of all disciplines and institutions; there will be special panels run by postgraduate students from the University of Sheffield that will discuss and reflect on the role of collaboration and research dissemination in participants’ own research practices.

This conference and pre-conference day of masterclasses and panels will be a beacon of scholarship and doctoral and post-doctoral training. Encouraging theoretical approaches from all across the discipline, we will engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue about the importance of the 1816 meeting of these writers that will extend and transgress the current critical boundaries of Romantic and Gothic scholarship. Offering junior scholars vital opportunities to learn from internationally renowned editors and researchers such as Professor Jerrold Hogle, Professor Michael O’Neill, and Professor Jane Stabler will open up opportunities for younger scholars to extend their proficiency with manuscript editing and journal editing while focussing on this literary watershed event.

We would like to extend particular thanks to the MHRA for their conference fund award.

2015 (MHRA logo) JPG

Four of our research centres are involved and we are grateful for their support:

The Centre for the History of the Gothic (

The Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies (

The Centre for Archival Practices (

The Centre for Poetry and Poetics (

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