The Political Poetess challenges familiar accounts of the figure of the nineteenth-century Poetess, offering new readings of Poetess performance and criticism. In performing the Poetry of Woman, the mythic Poetess has long staked her claims as a creature of "separate spheres"—one exempt from emerging readings of nineteenth-century women's political poetics. Turning such assumptions on their heads, Tricia Lootens models a nineteenth-century domestic or private sphere whose imaginary, apolitical heart is also the heart of nation and empire, and, as revisionist histories increasingly attest, is traumatized and haunted by histories of slavery. Setting aside late Victorian attempts to forget the unfulfilled, sentimental promises of early antislavery victories, The Political Poetess restores Poetess performances like Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” to view—and with them, the vitality of the Black Poetess within African-American public life.
Crossing boundaries of nation, period, and discipline to “connect the dots” of Poetess performance, Lootens demonstrates how new histories and ways of reading position poetic texts by Felicia Dorothea Hemans, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dinah Mulock Craik, George Eliot, and Frances E. W. Harper as convergence points for larger engagements ranging from Germaine de Staël to G.W.F. Hegel, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bishop, Alice Walker, and beyond.
Tricia Lootens is associate professor of English and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Lost Saints: Silence, Gender, and Victorian Literary Canonization.
"It will be required reading for advanced scholars of Anglo-American poetry and women’s writing."--Choice
"Leaping and lingering through two centuries of Poetess poetics, Lootens traces the national, racial, and gender politics of a complex generic figure that still haunts our literary culture. Lootens is a brilliant reader of poems, always attuned to ‘the click of the cliché.' She has a wide-ranging command of critical debates in a field that is now transformed by the question she poses: What made the Poetess white? Written with gusto for students and scholars alike, The Political Poetess is a major contribution to Victorian studies, feminist theory, critical race studies, and historical poetics."--Yopie Prins, University of Michigan
"In this book, Lootens argues that from the late eighteenth century through recent times, the Poetess tradition has been predicated on the assumption of whiteness both in its practice and criticism. Lootens honors a tradition of feminist work on nineteenth-century women writers while throwing into question longstanding assumptions and showing a way to a more inclusive, politically engaged form of criticism. Compelling and persuasive, this is a landmark work."--Eliza Richards, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"This is a brilliant and powerful book. Carving out important new territory and offering striking insights at every turn, it creates a vision of transatlantic Anglo-American studies that centers on the range of responses to slavery and provides a new chapter in the study of the Poetess, a figure of great interest across the nineteenth century--and still today. The depth, range, and detail of the research exhibited here are all extraordinary."--Carolyn Williams, Rutgers University
Table of Contents:
Introduction: Slaves, Spheres, Poetess Poetics 1
Section 1 Racializing the Poetess: Haunting “Separate Spheres”
1 Antislavery Afterlives: Changing the Subject / Haunting the Poetess 29
2 “Not Another ‘Poetess’ ”: Feminist Criticism, Nineteenth-Century Poetry, and the Racialization of Suicide 54
Section 2 Suspending Spheres: The Violent Structures of Patriotic Pacifism
3 Spheres, Suspending Disbelief: Hegel’s Antigone, Craik’s Crimea, Woolf’s Three Guineas 83
4 Turning and Burning: Sentimental Criticism, Casabiancas, and the Click of the Cliché 116
Section 3 Transatlantic Occasions: Nineteenth-Century Antislavery Poetics at the Limits
5 Teaching Curses, Teaching Nations: Abolition Time and the Recoils of Antislavery Poetics 153
6 Harper’s Hearts: “Home Is Never Natural or Safe” 180
Works Cited 283