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International Interdisciplinary Conference
The Voice of the People: The European Folk Revival, 1760-1914

Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, University of Sheffield, in association with the Departments of History, Germanic Studies and English Literature and the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition
Friday 7 - Sunday 9 September 2007

Convenors: Timothy Baycroft, Joan Beal, Matthew Campbell, Hamish Mathison,
Michael Perraudin, Marcus Waithe


The rediscovery and revalidation of the 'culture of the people' was a
defining feature of artistic and intellectual life in the societies of
nineteenth- and late eighteenth-century Europe, and it underpinned many of
the key ideological tendencies of the times. Romantics and pre-Romantics
articulated their sense of the inadequacy of cosmopolitan rationalism by
espousing the cultural productions of ordinary (uneducated, rural) people
as repositories of pre-rational truth and authentic experience. The
nostalgic imitation, collection and study of folksong, folktale, folk
custom and folk belief which this engendered became a process of
linguistic, historical and mythical identity-formation with powerful
political consequences; and the new nationalism which increasingly
destabilised the European political order over the course of the
nineteenth century gained its legitimacy from such activity. At the same
time, radical movements from the late eighteenth century onwards found
sustenance in evidence of the cultural autonomy and superiority of
ordinary people, in customs and festivals, songs and story-telling.
Nineteenth-century socialism did not seek to root itself in resuscitated
systems of myth, but its mythologisation of the proletariat had a related
intellectual impetus. The European nineteenth century, it can be said, was
the age of the people and peoples, of masses and nations; and the cultural
expression of this identity was the folk revival.

The proposed conference aims to encompass the span of the European folk
revival from its beginnings in the middle of the eighteenth century to its
cataclysm, the war of the peoples, World War One. The revival's British
emergence from 1760 in works such as Macpherson's Ossian or Percy's
Reliques will be traced. Its reception and philosophical development in
Germany by J.G. Herder and its further elaboration by British, German and
French Romanticism (Wordsworth and Coleridge, Renan and Arnold, Novalis
and the Schlegels, Arnim, Brentano and the Grimms) will be examined. The
folkloristic or popular-cultural dimensions both of nineteenth-century
socialist utopias - Saint-Simon, Marx, William Morris - and of the diverse
national movements of nineteenth century Europe, from Ireland to Italy,
Belgium to Bulgaria and beyond, will be observed. Offerings from all
relevant branches of political, social, cultural, linguistic and literary
history are encouraged. Analyses of modern re- revivals would also be of
interest. The main language of the conference will be English, but papers
can also be delivered and discussed in German and French.

Possible topics for papers include:

Macpherson, Percy, Herder and their descendants
Nationalism, regionalism, cosmopolitanism
Celt and Teuton, Latin and Slav
Socialism and folk nostalgia
Democracy and demagoguery
Gender, nation and folk
Translation, renovation and forgery
The language of the folk
Mythologies old and new
Folktale and fairy-tale
Epic poetry and folk lyric
Hybridity, authenticity and synthetic form
Ballad, performance and print
Folklore and education
Fine art, folk art
Music and folk-song
Historians, poets, collectors, editors, theorists
of the Folk Revival

Papers will be 30 minutes long. To apply to deliver a paper at the
conference, please send by email an abstract of a few lines plus a brief
c.v.  to one of the convenors (
t.baycroft@ j.c.beal@ m.campbell@
h.mathison@ m.perraudin@ m.j.waithe@ AND simultaneously
to the conference email account (

Deadline for submission: December 1st 2006

Preliminary expressions of interest would be welcome

Conference web address:

Department of Germanic Studies
University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, GB
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