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- Introduction: Defining ‘Women’s Writing’; or, Writing ‘The History’
- Anne K. Mellor
- University of Toronto Quarterly
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Building on the success and popularity of earlier poets, novelists, playwrights, and philosophers, British women consolidated their significance as writers in the late eighteenth century; they created and supported movements Bluestocking intellectualism, the call for abolition, new understandings of class, religion, and identity , initiated literary styles the novel of sensibility, the historical novel, the elegiac sonnet, the hybrid ballad , and signalled transitions from the Enlightenment to Romanticism, from Romanticism to early Victorianism. Instead, an understanding of the period which sees Mary Wollstonecraft, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Jane Austen as only the more familiar of a host of writers has become standard. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF. Skip to main content.
Introduction: Defining ‘Women’s Writing’; or, Writing ‘The History’
Restricted access to the most recent articles in subscription journals was reinstated on January 12, More informations. Women poets of the nineteenth century remain for the most part marginalized in the study of French Romanticism, despite the historical fact that women turned to poetry in increasing numbers during the July Monarchy.
Although research on British Romantic female poets has become mainstream in the last decade, women poets of the nineteenth century remain for the most part marginalized in the study of French Romanticism. Now, thanks to the recent efforts of feminist critics, French Romantic women poets are now being reintroduced into the canon and the classroom.
Poetesses such as Felicia Hemans and Letitia Landon self-consciously embrace conventional notions such as the doctrine of separate spheres, and accordingly write poetry that privileges the domestic and romantic life proper to women.
At the same time, Mellor argues, the poetess often works subtly to reshape discourses of domesticity and femininity from within. The tradition of the female poet, on the other hand, is just now receiving critical interest among French scholars. Marceline Desbordes-Valmore , perhaps more than any other French poetess, has benefited from a conformist tradition of reading which limits divergent interpretations and thus ensures the lasting support of conservative readers.
The best known of all nineteenth-century women poets today, she was marginalized but never completely forgotten, thanks to influential avant-garde poets such as Sainte-Beuve, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Robert de Montesquiou, Louis Aragon and Yves Bonnefoy. Desbordes-Valmore was the first woman poet of the period to be republished in a modern scholarly edition in As I have argued elsewhere, the post-Romantic generation read her poems—or heard their mothers read or sing them—as children and hence associated her with maternal comfort.
Her resistance to dominant discourses of femininity or patriarchy is most evident in her poems on the Lyon riots, some of which were not published during her lifetime. These revolts were an early sign that the July Monarchy would not be able to achieve the republican goals it held out to the working classes.
Given the double-voiced nature of her poetry, it is more productive to see the two traditions posited by Mellor as coexisting in one body of work. Such forthright resistance is harder to come by in the poetry of her contemporary, Amable Tastu.
Completely forgotten since the end of the nineteenth century, Tastu was highly regarded in the period for her poetry and her educational prose.
In this dialogue between a guardian angel and a woman at different stages of her life, from girlhood to old age, the woman expresses her desire to write poetry, but is recalled to her quotidian duties by the angel:.
Although ultimately the angel of reason is given the last word, the open-ended form challenges prevailing discourses of domesticity. But death is liberty! After her second collection of poems in , Tastu renounced poetry and turned to more lucrative forms of writing educational books, historical surveys for young readers and translations. Framed within a reception history marked by propriety, it is hard to see the potential for a feminist reading of her poetry.
Coached by her mother, the writer Sophie Gay, Gay published her first collection of poems at the age of Il est un malheur que personne ne plaint, un danger que personne ne craint…. There is a misfortune that no one pities, a danger that no one fears….
As Dorothy Kelly has shown, Girardin critiques the discourse of femininity from within, by resorting frequently to irony and reversal. As Cheryl Morgan has recently argued, Girardin was perhaps a flawed poetess from the outset on account of her propensity for laughter.
Ultimately, Delphine de Girardin alters the poetess tradition by using irony, humour or wit, but she developed this approach in prose and drama more than in poetry. Like many poetesses, the renown of Elisa Mercoeur arose from her tragic life-story as much if not more than her verse itself. The autodidact Mercoeur published two collections of elegies, the first at only 16, before dying tragically in Aside from her premature death that caused a sensation in the press, she will be remembered mostly as a regional poet from Brittany.
While her notoriety was based on an apparent acceptance of dominant views concerning femininity—the publication of her complete poems edited by her mother in did much to construct this image of virginal and prodigal child-poet—close examination of her poetry, according to Wendy Greenberg, shows clear engagement with the model of masculine genius and voice Her poems on the sublime and on philosophy have fallen on deaf ears because her tragic destiny as poetess was ultimately more compelling to her readers.
Louise Colet is yet another poetess whose life-story has received more attention than her voluminous writings. She wrote a copious number of poems, plays, novels, and other prose works, but her work has been overshadowed by her life and her relationship with her lovers, especially Gustave Flaubert, whom she met in Here is how Colet describes the modest and lighthearted muse of such poetry:.
As such, her poetic erudition defies expectations about what women should write. Does the author wish to depict a female slave in revolt who shouts like a Spartacus or Saint-Simonian? God save me from such revolutionary ideas; I am not one of those women who have turned their shawl into a flag. The economic determinants of the linguistic backlash stemmed from the increasing participation of women in forms of lucrative writing such as journalism, educational books and translations.
Barred from the linguistic designation of poet , the term poetess , had it taken hold, would not have redressed the ideology of gender exclusion that leaves the woman poet without a proper name. While many eighteenth- and twentieth-century women poets are included, only Desbordes-Valmore figures as the token woman poet of the nineteenth century.
The recently published introduction to nineteenth-century women poets, Wendy Greenberg's Uncanonical Women , however, seeks to remedy this bias and to revisit the nineteenth-century canon. Critics, such as Gretchen Schultz and Adrianna Paliyenko with whom I have collaborated on a bibliographic article on this subject , have examined masculinist literary norms and the gender-based expectations that prevented the poetess from receiving an unconditional reception. New approaches to French Romantic women poets focus on the historical and cultural construction of the poetess or poet herself.
For a survey of the field, see the bibliographic article I published in collaboration with Adrianna M. Paliyenko, which the present essay substantially draws from.
See note 3 of my bibliographic article. The Oxford English Dictionary , second edition also lists the following example of the pejorative connotations of poetess dating back to the mid-eighteenth-century. Mellor argues as much when she discusses the ideological limitations of the tradition of the female poet, which originated in that of the female preacher. Her dissension based on Biblical interpretation could easily be taken as affirmation of patriarchal Christian values For a lengthier discussion of each of these works, see Du Plessix Gray, , , , Du Plessix Gray In France in the late s, bas-bleu became the standard and derogatory term for the woman of ideas.
One of the few male members of the group, Benjamin Stillingfleet wore blue instead of black stockings. The backlash against the bas-bleu heightened with the popularity of the physiologie in the early s.
Nanora Sweet and Julie Melnyk. New York: Palgrave, ISBN Susan J. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, Abstracts Abstract Abstract Women poets of the nineteenth century remain for the most part marginalized in the study of French Romanticism, despite the historical fact that women turned to poetry in increasing numbers during the July Monarchy.
Article body Although research on British Romantic female poets has become mainstream in the last decade, women poets of the nineteenth century remain for the most part marginalized in the study of French Romanticism. My native air! My native land! Those far-off voices slake my thirsty soul, For your sorrowful book has filled its bowl. Chantez: un chant de femme attendrit la souffrance. A soul resides, imprisoned in this book: Open it and read: count my painful days, Grieve in this world where I remain unknown, And dream of hot cinders to heat your chains.
Love: for suffering thrives on hate, not love. Give: and let charity revive our hope; While we can give we will not wish to die! If there is no time to inscribe your tears, You can let them fall here from eyes to page; To pray is to absolve; let our prayers be arms: And absolve this, my open book of days.
To be spreading secrets in windy speech, Has reason left her half-witted, insane? A mes regrets ravis que la nature est belle! To my ravished eyes how beautiful is nature! All that my soul feels, that my eyes encompass Exhales from my mouth in melodious sounds! Where are they running, those rivals with sonorous lutes? By a holy bond gently chained; What would you do with a treacherous hope? Notice the difference in gender here. She rocks those hearts under her spell; does not consume the bard she inspires; kind and gentle, she comes at his first call; she is without bombast, she sings without a lute.
She asks not for sunny skies or heat, a dark attic or a damp cellar appeal to her… and often, in doing her good deeds, she has been seen delivering an unexpected joy to the unhappy…. Appendices Notes  For a survey of the field, see the bibliographic article I published in collaboration with Adrianna M. Les Oeuvres et les Hommes. Paris: Amyot, Google Scholar. Google Scholar Romanticism on the Net , Romanticism on the Net no.
Anne K. Mellor
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University of Toronto Quarterly
Access options available:. Wordsworthian contradiction became a constituent element of the illogical logic of cultural production; it became the property, the amulet, of an intelligentsia displaced to the periphery of the social apparatus. Bourke is playing his hand. For this is the undisguised - the entirely undisguised, I think 'the disturbed, conflictual man of letters'? In its presentation of this alternate feminine perspective, Mellor's book often succeeds admirably; there are problems, however, with theoretical claims which often shift between a radical feminism which clearly values feminine 'virtues' over masculine ideology, and more temperate claims of gender 'difference,' which Mellor claims she views as existing along an objective continuum.
She specializes in Romantic literature , British cultural history, feminist theory , philosophy , art history and gender studies. She is most known for a series of essays and books that introduced forgotten female Romantic writers into literary history, and she edited the first volume of feminist essays on Romantic writers in , entitled Romanticism and Feminism.
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Certainly, we have come a long way since And yet there are uncanny resemblances between our situation and that of Wordsworth, Coleridge and the Shelley circle. A great revolution which went wrong, men thrown out of work by machinery, foreign wars distracting a people from its real problems, a government doing its best to whittle away civil liberties, small groups of intellectuals who felt deeply alienated from society and spent much time discussing communes, free love and a revolution in personal relationships. One could go on.
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Я расскажу, что Цифровая крепость - это большая липа, и отправлю на дно все ваше мерзкое ведомство. Стратмор мысленно взвешивал это предложение. Оно было простым и ясным. Сьюзан остается в живых, Цифровая крепость обретает черный ход. Если не преследовать Хейла, черный ход останется секретом. Но Стратмор понимал, что Хейл не станет долго держать язык за зубами.
Управлять всей информацией в мире. И ТРАНСТЕКСТ больше не нужен. Никаких ограничений - только свободная информация. Это шанс всей вашей жизни. И вы хотите его упустить. - Следи за мной, - холодно парировал Стратмор. - А как же Сьюзан? - Хейл запнулся.
Сьюзан и так его поняла. Пока файл Цифровой крепости не подменен модифицированной версией, копия ключа, находившаяся у Танкадо, продолжает представлять собой огромную опасность. - Когда мы внесем эту поправку, - добавил Стратмор, - мне будет все равно, сколько ключей гуляет по свету: чем их больше, тем забавнее. - Он жестом попросил ее возобновить поиск. - Но пока этого не произошло, мы в цейтноте.
Дэвид сидел в мини-автобусе, тихо наблюдая за драмой, разыгрывавшейся перед ним на мониторе. - Сьюзан! - позвал. - Меня осенило.
Меган? - позвал. Ответа не последовало. - Меган. Беккер подошел и громко постучал в дверцу. Тишина.
А как же Сьюзан? - Хейл запнулся. - Если вы позвоните, она умрет. Стратмора это не поколебало.
Сьюзан ощутила угрызения совести. - Я тоже хватила через край. Извините. Дэвид - это отличная кандидатура.