Roundtable on The Public Humanities and Museums in Romanticism

Sunday, August 16, 10:15 – 11:45am (Tache)

Moderator: Joshua Lambier (Western Ontario)


  1. Joshua Lambier (Western): Introductions
  2. Julie Ellison (Michigan): The Public Humanities in Romanticism
  3. Sophie Thomas (Ryerson): The Romantic Museum
  4. Jodi Giesbrecht (CMHR): Public History and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights


What role does public scholarship have to play in Romantic studies? During a time of change and crisis for the humanities in higher education, how can we as scholars of the Romantic period, broadly defined, explore new spaces of engagement for our research, teaching, creative work, or even activism? How can we translate our field scholarship into innovative forms of engagement that reach a broader audience within and beyond the university, whether this takes the form of new digital platforms, experiential learning, campus-community collaborations, public lectures and writing, or other forms of artistic creation? How, in short, will we advance the “civic turn” currently taking hold in higher education across Canada, the US, and beyond? This roundtable picks up on Julie Ellison’s recent call to reconsider what she identifies as the “civic senses of Romanticism,” or rather, the ways in which one produces publicly engaged forms of scholarship that are “‘about’ Romanticism or ‘in’ and ‘with’ Romantic studies.” In recent years, there has been an emerging body of work that takes up the question of the “public” in the Romantic era, including studies on print culture, literary celebrity, political debate, cultural institutions, public science, cosmopolitanism, imperialism, the Romantic lecture, and many more important avenues of research. How, then, could our growing understanding and investigation of the Romantic public sphere engage with the emerging field of the public humanities?

To start us off, Joshua Lambier will introduce the roundtable discussion, but will also address the ways in which graduate education could include publicly engaged forms of scholarship. Julie Ellison, founding director of Imagining America: Scholars & Artists in Public Life, will address the relationship between academic field scholarship and public scholarship in Romantic studies. Sophie Thomas, Associate Professor of English at Ryerson, will speak about her current project on objects, collections, and museums in the Romantic period. Finally, Jodi Giesbrecht, Manager of Research and Curation at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, will discuss how her expertise in public history informs her current work with material culture, museology, and collective memory.

There will, of course, be time for discussion and questions.