Writing, Reading, Rioting: Political Violence, Revolution and Reaction from the 18th Century to the Present
Research Lounge, Level 5
2019 marks 200 years since the ‘Peterloo massacre’, when cavalry charged a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter’s Field in Manchester. This anniversary offers us an opportunity to look back on the interchanges between text, protest and repression in the Revolutionary Age. It gives us a chance to bring this historical period into dialogue with the present, where forces of revolution, reaction and resistance continue to be mediated through text: pamphlet warriors have their 21st-century counterparts in the media and Twittersphere, and rhetorical violence spills over into the streets. In the past and present, violence may be used to smother ideas, but it can also promote them; swords, like pens, can be harnessed as a means of communication, with diverse, often horrific, results. Violence of expression, violence against expression, violence as expression: this symposium concerns itself with the porous boundaries between figurative and literal violence – with writing, reading and rioting the riot.
Presented by the ERCC (Enlightenment, Romanticism and Contemporary Culture) Research Unit in the Faculty of Arts.
Professor Stephen Bygrave, Professor of English