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The Romance of the Lyric in Nineteenth-Century Women's Poetry

Experiments in Form

Lee Christine O'Brien

The Romance of the Lyric in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Poetry: Experiments in Form offers a new account of the nature of the lyric as nineteenth-century women poets developed the form. It offers fresh assessments of the imaginative and aesthetic complexity of women’s poetry. The monograph seeks to redefine the range and cultural significance of women’s writing using the work of poets who have not, heretofore, been part of critical accounts of nineteenth-century lyric poetry. These new voices are set beside new readings of the poetry of established figures: for example, Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and Augusta Webster’s “Medea in Athens” and “Circe." The monograph draws substantially on the poetry of Rosamund Marriott Watson – who was lost to literary history before the restoration of her oeuvre through the scholarly and critical work of Professor Linda K. Hughes – to make the case that once neglected and lost voices provide new ways of determining the cultural centrality of women and the poetry they produced in one of the richest periods of poetic experimentation in the Western literary tradition. This monograph contends that Watson’s poetry and prose provide new ways of analyzing the complex and frequently transgressive nature of the lyric engagement of women with folklore and myth and with the growing understanding in the nineteenth century of the fragmented, fluid self in general and of the writer in particular. « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 260Size: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
978-1-61149-391-7 • Hardback • October 2012 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-61149-392-4 • eBook • October 2012 • $79.00 • (£52.95)
Lee Christine O'Brien is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

Chapter One: Reading Nineteenth-Century Women’s Poetry in the Twenty-First Century
Readers and Reading
Domestic Space
Performance and Parody
The Parodic Performance of Romance

Chapter Two: From Rags to Verses: Technology, Fugitive Poetry and the Domestic as Ephemera
Creating the Ephemera of Home
Fugitive Pieces
The Poor Author’s, the Printer’s, and the Publisher’s Pudding

Chapter Three: Lyric Space and Romance Forms

Chapter Four: Uncanny Transactions and Canny Forms: Rosamund Marriott Watson’s Märchen

Chapter Five: Parodic Myth: Unveiling Allegory and the Domestication of Myth in an Early Victorian Lyric
Parodic Myth
Mary Tighe’s Psyche and the Uses of Allegory
“[A]ll confused and tangled with the flotsam and jetsam of earlier ages”: Mrs Bell and the Domestication of Myth

Chapter Six: “And ho, so very still she stands”: Rosamund Marriott Watson’s Pygmalion and the Art of the House
“Golden wings about my bed”: the Poetics of Domestic Space
“You can make what you will of the house you live in”: Re-fashioning the Connoisseur
The Genre of the Chamber
“The White Lady”: Pygmalion in the Feminine, Niobe Recast

Chapter Seven: Monsters and Doubles
The Monster and the Body Politic
The Were-Wolf and Jack the Ripper: the Monster and/as History in Rosamund Marriott Watson’s “A Ballad of the Were-Wolf”
Romantic Displacements and Victorian Spaces: “Goblin Market” as Phantasmagoria

Chapter Eight: “Witches’ Play”
The Poetics of Extreme States
The Metamorphic Lyric Voice in “Medea in Athens”
“Should I be so your lover as I am?”: the Woman in the Mirror in “Circe”
Changing the Status of the Supernatural: Folklore and Psychology
“’Tis the lie for which she will burn”: A. Mary F. Robinson’s “The Wise-Woman”
Centaurs and Roadsters: Double Consciousness and Unconscious Cerebration in Emily Pfeiffer’s “The Witch’s Last Ride”
“I am she!”: Mary Coleridge’s “The Witch” and the Parodic Love Lyric

About the Author
O'Brien's book is exemplary in approaching nineteenth-century ideas about poetic genre historically rather than imposing our own generic categories; and it breaks new ground in emphasizing the role of women writers in nineteenth century genre thinking.
SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

This engaging and compelling book consists of juxtapositions and contexts that are fresh and inviting. . . .O'Brian's wide-ranging knowledge of poetic development and of the importance of folklore and myth, as well as her fruitful exploitation of intersections between poets and poems, highlight the consistent and deliberate refashioning of old forms of poetry by women in the nineteenth century. . . .The book makes a valuable contribution to contemporary scholarship and will be useful to academics and students with an interest in nineteenth-century poetry by women.
Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature