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Eighteenth-century studies centre celebrates its launch at Chawton House Library

Published: 
17 October 2008

Jane Austen was one of Hampshire's most famous eighteenth- century residents, so it was fitting this week that a new centre for the study of the eighteenth century should be launched at Chawton House near Alton, where she was a regular visitor.

The University of Southampton Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies (SCECS) was launched on Thursday at the Chawton House Library.

The Centre brings together specialists from a broad range of disciplines - English, History, Music and Philosophy - and draws on the University's rich research culture in eighteenth-century studies. It will have a base in a specially-designated room at Chawton House Library, which was the venue for a reception to mark this week's launch.

SCECS Director, Professor John Oldfield, comments: "The link with Chawton House is of great value to the University and the new study centre. This was the home of Jane Austen's brother and the house is not greatly different from the days when Jane was a visitor, apart from the establishment of the excellent Chawton House Library in the past decade.

"The University of Southampton already has strengths in the area of eighteenth-century study, with our MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies regularly recruiting between eight and ten students, and ten PhD students currently working on eighteenth-century topics.

"Additionally, scholars at Southampton and Chawton have initiated a number of publication projects, including the Chawton House Library Series, published by Pickering & Chatto, and we will be building further on these initiatives over the next twelve months."

Plans are already in progress to submit a bid to digitise all of the existing Jane Austen song books, an exciting project that will be of immense benefit to scholars and Austen enthusiasts alike.

Stephen Lawrence, Chief Executive of Chawton House Library, comments: "The launching of the new Centre provides an excellent platform for strengthening the important links that already exist between CHL and the University. The breadth of the collection at the Library will provide significant opportunities for inter-disciplinary research within the context of a wonderfully restored Elizabethan Manor house."

In 2008-9 the SCECS will also a sponsor a series of workshops on 'Common sense', 'Gardens', and 'Cross-Channel Exchanges'. SCECS will be the hub for a range of academic events and projects, chief among them being the 2009 international conference celebrating the bicentenary of Jane Austen's arrival at Chawton.

"We are very proud of our association with the Chawton House Library, which focuses on women's writing in English from 1600 to 1830," continues John Oldfield. "The Centre greatly values the support it receives from Chawton House Library, not least through the Chawton Fellow, currently Dr Gillian Dow, and we are immensely grateful to the current CEO, Steve Lawrence, for providing us with a designated room at Chawton, to be used for teaching, meetings, and individual research."

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