Voices needed for short film about Coffee House History

Needed: People to talk to me about why they like coffee and coffee shops at 3pm on Weds 15th Oct.

I’ll be in the University of Sheffield’s Jessop West café from 3-4pm tomorrow.

The sound bytes I record might be used in a short film about the history of the coffee shop (more info below)  

If you can help (or would like further information), drop me a line at AdamJSmith18C@gmail.com, tweet me using @elementaladam, or just see if you can find me in the café tomorrow.


Further Information/Contacts

Adam J Smith- Email: AdamJSmith18C@gmail.com

Twitter: @elementaladam

Gemma Thore (Film maker): info@gemmathorpe.com

Amy Ryall (Arts Enterprises): a.ryall@shef.ac.uk


The background and rationale for the film

The dawn of print culture and the issues that it raised map remarkably well onto the rise of the internet. Cheap print meant that for the first time almost anybody could go to print, prompting a boom in pamphlets, periodicals and newspapers. Much of this material was anonymous, and in instances where an author was attributed to a text the reader only had their word for it that they were who they said they were; prompting anxieties over the ‘authenticity’ and legitimacy of printed material. Much of these periodicals were designed to present individual opinions on everything from politics to literature, culture, music and fashion. Quite often these papers would present opinions on other opinions, which could lead to some very heated and nasty exchanges. Analogies to the blogsphere are not only easy to make but also highly appropriate. The coffee-houses in which these papers would have been consumed and discussed formed an important part a new commercial society, in which (for the first time) the public determined artistic output by buying what they liked (rather than having taste dictated to them by the patronage of the royal court). The Britain of this era was still new (topically, the Union of Scotland had only just taken place in 1707) and languishing in a period of highly publicised austerity (after the expensive wars and financial collapse of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth-centuries). In a series of events analogous to the hung parliament of 2010 the disruption wrought by the Hanoverian Succession meant that neither political party could rely on traditionally faithful voters. Instead, as each party chased the same floating and marginal voters their respective rhetoric came to sound more and more alike, leading to a widespread disillusionment in the political system. This, combined with the on-going financial crisis, led to rioting in cities across Britain in 1715; a civil uprising exploited by politicians and their critics alike across the new print culture that provided the canvas for these events.

My research

My PhD thesis interrogates an early eighteenth-century periodical written by Joseph Addison called The Free-Holder. Originally published in 1715-1716 The Free-Holder represents Addison’s final contribution to the genre of ‘periodical writing’ before his death in 1719. Addison, whose life was retold in copious numbers of celebrative biographies throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries, is best remembered for his towering success on the earlier landmark periodicals: The Spectator and The Tatler. Each of these papers famously prescribed a polite and civilised mode of behaviour to the coffee-house culture of the early eighteenth century and apparently asserted the importance of maintaining partisan objectivity in political matters. In contrast The Free-Holder (which is usually excluded from biographical writing on Addison) demonstrates how this polite behaviour can be applied directly to politics; essentially concluding that rather than contenting or criticising a political opponent it is better to sympathise with them, adopt their language and rhetoric, and convert them to your cause without their realising it. My project argues that Addison is a pioneer in the way that he dirties the idea of politeness, applying it cynically and pragmatically to a partisan cause. It explains how it is that this process is enacted within the pages of The Free-Holder, arguing that this not only complicates our understanding of Addison’s life and writings, but also marks a striking parallel to our own condition.


Teaching the Eighteenth Century Online: A Free Resource on iTunesU

‘Welcome to the Coffee House’: The Literature of the Eighteenth Century

This free teaching resource is a collection of interactive videos created for ‘Sheffield on iTunesU’:  a platform offering ‘free access to the University’s world-class materials.’ This collection is designed to introduce A-Level and first year undergraduate students to the literature of the long eighteenth century.

Taking Joseph Addison’s The Free-Holder as a starting point the collection goes onto to encompass broader literary and historical contexts whilst encouraging viewers to construct and articulate their own close readings of the material that they encounter.

The collection discusses the literature of Eighteenth-Century London

The collection discusses the literature of Eighteenth-Century London


Episode Guide

Part 1: Introductions

An introduction to studying literature at University level and an introduction to the primary text that we will be working with in this collection: Joseph Addison’s The Free-Holder.

 Part 2: History

A whistle-stop tour of the key events and critical contexts that will inform our reading of The Free-Holder.

 Part 3: Literature

A brief survey of the types of literature in circulation and a discussion of some literary devices popular at this time.

 Part 4: Conclusions

In the final session we will apply everything we have learnt to the primary text encountered in part 1, building an interpretation through the application of close reading and appropriate historical context.

 The collection takes approximately 50 mins to complete, and can be downloaded here

(Please note, you will need to install iTunes).

‘Ann Radcliffe at 250’: A Retrospective

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to attend ‘Radcliffe at 250’, an international conference hosted by the University of Sheffield. The conference (which was co-organised by Angela Wright, Joe Bray, Maddy Callaghan, Andrew Smith and Dale Townsend) featured keynotes by Emma Cleary and Fred Botting and a full tour and banquet at Hardwick Hall.

You can find out more about the conference at the official site or by following the conference team on Twitter (@Radcliffe250).

The conference generated an enormous amount of coverage on the Twittersphere, with many delegates live tweeting the fantastic array of papers whilst others uploaded pictures of the astonishing scenery and imaginative catering on offer. I have collated some of the social media coverage into this ‘Storify’ compilation: https://storify.com/elementaladam/radcliffe-at-250-251

The conference also dove-tailed beautifully with ‘Literature of the Country House‘, the first ever MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) to be produced and delivered by the University of Sheffield’s School of English. This week on the MOOC, learners have actually been reading Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho, and over the duration of the course they have encountered many of the conference organiser as MOOC educators.

Since I was attending the conference (which also hosted a paper by my fellow MOOC Mentor and PhD peer, Carly Stevenson), it seemed like a good opportunity to put something special together for all of our learners on the course… The result is this short collection of interviews recorded at the conference in which delegates explain why Radcliffe and the Gothic are still so important 250 years later:

Ann Radcliffe at 250: Behind the Scenes