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Women, Epic, and Transition in British Romanticism

Elisa Beshero-Bondar

Women, Epic, and Transition in British Romanticism argues that early nineteenth-century women poets contributed some of the most daring work in modernizing the epic genre. The book examines several long poems to provide perspective on women poets working with and against men in related efforts, contributing together to a Romantic movement of large-scale genre revision. Women poets challenged longstanding categorical approaches to gender and nation in the epic tradition, and they raised politically charged questions about women's importance in moments of historical crisis.

While Romantic epics did not all engage in radical questioning or undermining of authority, this study calls attention to some of the more provocative poems in their approach to gender, culture, and history. This study prioritizes long poems written by and about women during the Romantic era, and does so in context with influential epics by male contemporaries. The book takes its cue from a dramatic increase in the publication of epics in the early nineteenth-century. At their most innovative, Romantic epics provoked questions about the construction of ideological meaning and historical memory, and they centralized women's experiences in entirely new ways to reflect on defeat, loss, and inevitable transition. For the first time the epic became an attractive genre for ambitious women poets.

The book offers a timely response to recent groundbreaking scholarship on nineteenth-century epic by Herbert Tucker and Simon Dentith, and should be of interest to Romanticists and scholars of 18th- and 19th-century literature and history, gender and genre, and women's studies.
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University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 258Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-1-61149-070-1 • Hardback • May 2011 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-61149-071-8 • eBook • May 2011 • $79.99 • (£52.95)
Elisa Beshero-Bondar is associate professor of English literature at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.
1 Introduction: Epics for Women
Chapter 2 1. Affective Historiography in Poetry: Women and Time in Romantic Epic
Chapter 3 2. Feminizing the Epic Tradition: Romantic Echoes of Spense and Milton
Chapter 4 3. Medieval Minstrelsy and the Female Curse on History
Chapter 5 4. Mary Russell Mitford on Lord Byron's New and Old World Territories
Chapter 6 5. Oriental Mysticism and Human Forms Divine: Psyche's Erotic Revolution
7 Postscript: Women Measuring the Times
8 Bibliography
Elisa Beshero-Bondar’s Women, Epic, and Transition in British Romanticism will change the [assumption that the Romantic period] was a thoroughly masculine genre...The book places the work of Mitford, Mary Tighe, Margaret Holford, Matilda Betham, and Margaret Compton in contact with epics by Robert Southey, Walter Scott, Byron, and others. Epics by women may emphasize women, but, Beshero-Bondar shows, female experience was in many ways central to the genre as a whole...Beshero-Bondar’s recovery of her five key women epic writers is her most influential act. These poems reveal a fascinating engagement with classical form which imagines often startling shifts in the relation of poetry to history.
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