Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PoetEleg (Aestheticization of Life and Cosmopolitan Modernity: The Poetics of Elegance in the Long 19th Century)
Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2018-02-28
While mapping out the European topography of the ‘elegant world’, the project investigated the following research questions: 1) What specific cultural scenarios of the ‘elegant lifestyle’ were developed, implemented, or rejected in the interaction between the metropolises London, Paris, St Petersburg and the aspiring European cities such as Vienna, Leipzig, Prague, and Budapest? 2) What was the role of print media in disseminating specific patterns of cosmopolitan modernity and practices of aestheticization? 3) How did representations of urban ‘elegant lifestyle’, in particular literary sketches and reports on cultural and social life, contribute to the spread of transnational socio-aesthetic models? 4) How did adverts and prints in cultural journals and newspapers intensify the cross-border dissemination of the material culture of the ‘elegant world’? 5) To what extent did these images of elegant urbanity pre-shape cultural behaviour and define the sense of social belonging? And finally: 6) More broadly, how did specific scenarios of elegance redefine the elite, re-shape the social structure, and respond to historical events?
1) A fundamental part of the project work consisted of collecting and assessing historical sources on the discourse of ‘elegance’. In order to reconstruct the meanings and uses of the term, large quantities of texts in Russian, German, French, and English were analysed. In addition, European collections (including in London, Munich, St Petersburg, and Vienna) were visited in order to examine objects of print and material culture in their holdings. On the basis of this source material individual case studies were carried out in order to illustrate key moments in the semantic development of the concept and illuminate its socio-cultural transformations. Select case studies are being incorporated into a book-length study on the poetics of elegance.
One spin-off study on the semantics of elegance that addresses the tensions between the national traditions and transnational challenges in the field of literary criticism has been accepted for publication. Additional completed case studies explore the media, cultural practices and social spaces of elegance, focusing in particular on cultural journals, leisure culture, salon music, sociability and the circulation of news. In total, eight articles and book chapters (including one contribution to an exhibition catalogue and one book review) were completed and four of them have already been published by the end of the project.
2) Dissemination activities and active networking built the second core work area of the project. A website was developed shortly after the start of the project; it outlines the project’s objectives, provides information about current and past events, lists the publications that emerged from the research, and includes access to selected sources in digital form. The homepage will continue to be updated after the conclusion of the project.
The information disseminated about the project and its activities was intended for both the scholarly community and the general public. In order to increase the visibility of the undertaking, the Fellow participated in multiple international conferences and workshops and gave papers and public talks in the UK, Germany, Austria, and Russia. She organized a public lecture series in London entitled ‘Urban and Elegant: The Aesthetics of Living in the Modern European City’ featuring guest speakers from Moscow, Berlin, and Vienna. Together with the project supervisor she convened an international conference ‘European Elites and Revolutionary Change: 1789 – 1848 – 1917. The Aftermath’ which focused on the dynamics of the social and cultural changes that accompanied three major revolutionary events of the modern era. All of these events were advertised locally and internationally using printed flyers, online portals (H-Soz-Kult, Eventbrite, etc.), and social media outlets.
3) The third core work area consisted of professional training. The Fellow received excellent training-through-research in the new academic environment in both London and Vienna during the secondment. She attended courses given by the Centre for Academic and Professional Development at QMUL and gained new expertise in research and project management at one of the UK’s leading universities. Thus, she acquired new administrative skills and enhanced her international profile.