Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre

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JHU Press, 2005 M12 31 - 747 pages
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“Our sense of eighteenth-century poetic territory is immeasurably expanded by [this] excellent historical and cultural” study of UK women poets of the era (Cynthia Wall, Studies in English Literature).

This major work offers a broad view of the writing and careers of eighteenth-century women poets, casting new light on the ways in which poetry was read and enjoyed, on changing poetic tastes in British culture, and on the development of many major poetic genres and traditions.

Rather than presenting a chronological survey, Paula R. Backscheider explores the forms in which women wrote and the uses to which they put those forms. Considering more than forty women in relation to canonical male writers of the same era, she concludes that women wrote in all of the genres that men did but often adapted, revised, and even created new poetic kinds from traditional forms.

Backscheider demonstrates that knowledge of these women’s poetry is necessary for an accurate and nuanced literary history. Within chapters on important verse forms, she sheds light on such topics as women’s use of religious poetry to express ideas about patriarchy and rape; the important role of friendship poetry; same-sex desire in elegy by women as well as by men; and the status of Charlotte Smith as a key figure of the long eighteenth century, not only as a Romantic-era poet.

Co-Winner, James Russell Lowell Prize, Modern Language Association

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Anne Finch and What Women Wrote
Women and Poetry in the Public
Hymns Narratives and Innovations in Religious Poetry
Friendship Poems
Retirement Poetry
The Elegy
The Sonnet Charlotte Smith and What Women Wrote
Biographies of the Poets

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About the author (2005)

Paula R. Backscheider is the Philpott-Stevens Eminent Scholar in the Department of English at Auburn University. She is the author of several books, including Daniel Defoe: His Life, Spectacular Politics: Theatrical Power and Mass Culture in Early Modern England, and Reflections on Biography, and editor of Revising Women: Eighteenth-Century "Women's Fiction" and Social Engagement.

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