Laura Mandell and Annie Finch
English / Miami Univ.
Projected Undergraduate / Graduate Seminar


Transatlantic Sentimental Poetry: The Popular Poetess, 1770-1850

-- Key Terms --
Transatlantic: 19th c
Pro: [England and America] “must always, in a literary view, be regarded as one great community.” Alexander Everett, editor of the Monthly Anthology, and Boston Review (1803-1811)
Con: “America must be as independent in literature as she is in politics,” Noah Webster (1758-1843)
21st c
[We need] “to restore the works we study to ‘the world of the English language, which is at once a more historical place than any Platonic idea of literature, and a more literary place than either Britain or America,’” David Shields, Oracles of Empire: Poetry, Politics, and Commerce in British America, 1690-1750

Sentimental: Excessively or artificially tender; mawkishly or superficially emotional.

Popular: Mass-produced; loved by the people

Poetess: The small quantity of female effusions [in “the great Collections of English
Poets”] . . . ha[s] contributed to [women’s] neglect; and the object of the present volume is to exhibit the growth and progress of the genius of our country-women in the department of Poetry. . . . In the course of future centuries, new Anthologies will be formed, more interesting and exquisite than our own, because the human mind, and, above all, the female mind, is making a rapid advance . . . ,” Alexander Dyce, Specimens of British Poetesses (1827)

[Cibber, the king of Dunces in Pope’s Dunciad, is led through a vision by] “’A slipshod sibyl, / In lofty madness meditating song . . . .’ She seems to be typical of the half-crazed human poetess, in usual sublime dishabille,” North’s Specimens of the British Critics, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 58 (1845): 244.

This class will examine popular sentimental literature written during the British Romantic, American Colonial, and American Antebellum literary periods primarily but not exclusively by women writers. We will look in particular at the push and pull away from and toward domestic nationalism as it occurs in these poems as a way of attempting to understand both the personal and political effects of poetess poetry. What kinds of subjectivities are addressed, and thereby created, in popular literature? We can make the kinds of selfhood imagined by poetess poetry most visible by distinguishing them from those kinds of persons that are hailed into being by the high, canonical literature of the British Empire and of American Revolt.

Required Texts:

Poetess Poetics: Reevaluating the Hierarchy of Poetic Traditions, eds. Margaret Davis, Annie Finch, Laura Mandell (a Reader available at Oxford Copy Shop) -- also, many of these articles are now forthcoming on Romanticism on the Net 29-30 (December 2003), abbreviated below RN:

The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2, or The Longman Anthology, Vol. 2A: The Romantics and Their Contemporaries

The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1

Use the attached list of “Important URLs” – as well as individual URLs listed on the syllabus -- to get copies of women’s poems unavailable in the anthologies.

On Reserve (books to help you select a poetess to study):

Approaches to Teaching British Women Poets of the Romantic Period, eds. Stephen C. Behrendt and Harriet Kramer Linkin
Paula Bennett, ed., Nineteenth-Century American Poets
Paula Feldman, ed., British Women Poets of the Romantic Era
Janet Gray, ed., She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century

Work Required:

You will each do research on a British or American poetess of your choice in order to compile texts of contemporaneous reviews and to write a short, introductory biography. You will then present your poetess to the class, situating her writings within popular and canonical literary tradition. Finally, you will write a seminar paper on one or two poems by your poetess, performing close-readings, reviewing the criticism, and comparing the poems to a major canonical poems or form.


Week 1 Introduction: High vs. Popular Goals
William Wordsworth, “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal,” (HO) – a Romantic memento mori (elegy), N 155, L 365
Lydia Sigourney, “Death Among the Trees,” “Death of the Wife of a Clergyman, During the Sickness of Her Husband,” and “Death of the Rev. W. C. Walton,” from Zinzendorff, and Other Poems (1835) (HO – all available in the Chadwyck-Healey American Poetry Full-Text Database)
excerpt from Nina Baym, “Reinventing Lydia Sigourney,” American Literature 62.3 (1990): 385-404 <> [excerpt attached to syllabus]

Week 2 Poetics
William Wordsworth, 1802 Preface to Lyrical Ballads, N 140-151; L 356-62
Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, N 377-392; from The Statesman’s Manual, N 398-9, L 568-9; from Lectures on Shakespeare, N 395-8, L 586-7
Percy Bysshe Shelley, from A Defence of Poetry, N 752-765, L 800-9
Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition” H 1417-25
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet” H 1536-51
Poetess Poetics:
Alice Meynell, “The Foot”

Week 3 Popular Poetry
Felicia Hemans, “Casabianca” L 819-820
Anna Letitia Barbauld, “Life” N 866
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life” H 2704-5; “Paul Revere’s Ride” <>
Poetess Poetics:
British (Coleridge, Dyce, Bethune, Rowton, Robertson) and American (Poe on Sigourney, May, Griswold, Taylor, Twain) criticism from the period during which the Poetess wrote
excerpt from Eric Haralson, “Mars in Petticoats: Longfellow and Sentimental Masculinity” Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 51, No. 3. (Dec., 1996), pp. 327-355

Week 4 The [Male] Canon: A Review
William Collins, “To Fear” <>
Anna Barbauld, “A Summer Evening’s Meditations” <>
Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads in N129-156 and 330-348, L 356-84, 526-44 (focus on “Tintern Abbey” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”)
Phillip Freneau, “The Power of Fancy” H 1044-7
Ralph Waldo Emerson, selected poems H 1567-80
Edgar Allan Poe, selected poems H 1391-1412
excerpt from Julie Ellison, “Transatlantic Cultures of Sensibility” (HO – whole essay on reserve in Approaches to Teaching British Women Writers

Week 5 The [Male] Canon: A Review (cont’)
Anna Barbauld, “Inscription for an Ice-House,” “To a Little Invisible Being,” and “Washing-Day” L 33-37
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, N 28-41, L 118-35
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind” “Adonais,” N 676-8, 718-30; L 771-3, 776-92
John Keats, Odes, N 788-796, L 877-87
William Cullen Bryant, “Thanatopsis,” “The Prairies,” and selected poems H 2693-2702
Isobel Armstrong, “The Gush of the Feminine,” in Feldman (on reserve; also avaliable on line through netLibrary,

Week 6 The Poetess: Keeping Woman in Her Place
Felicia Hemans, “Joan of Arc in Rheims” in Records of Woman, L 830-33 or <>
Lydia Sigourney, “Pocahontas” and “Monody on Mrs. Hemans” in Pocahontas and Other Poems <> p. 104

Poetess Poetics:
Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, “Stock in Trade”
Maria Smith Abdy, “The Poetess”
Bayard Taylor, “Diversions of the Echo Club”
John Crowe Ransom, “The Poet as Woman”
Louise Bogan, “The Heart and the Lyre”
Marianne More, “Compactness Compacted”
Alicia Ostriker, “Writing Like a Woman”
Stuart Curran, “Women Readers, Women Writers”

Week 7 The Poetess: A Tradition?
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, excerpts from Aurora Leigh N 1034-48

Poetess Poetics:
Cheryl Walker, Nightingale’s Burden
Gilbert and Gubar, “Forward Into the Past”
Anne Snitow, “A Gender Diary”
Margaret Ezell, Writing Women’s Literary History
Anne Mellor, “The Female Poet and the Poetess: Two Traditions of British Women’s Poetry, 1780-1830”

Week 8 The Poetess: Felicia Hemans
Felicia Hemans, "Records of Woman" L 820-840 and
Keats, “Endymion,” “The Eve of St. Agnes,” N 771-774, 777-785; L 865-75
Paula Feldman, Introduction to Romantic Women Writers (ebook available on netLitrary); “Endurance and Forgetting: What the Evidence Suggests,” in Romanticism and Women Poets, eds. Linkin and Behrendt; and “How Their Audiences Knew Them,” in Approaches to Teaching British Women Poets, eds. Behrendt and Linkin (on reserve).

Poetess Poetics:
Kathleen Lundeen, “Mt. Vesuvius and Sentimental Eruptions” RN

Due: short biography of your poetess

Week 9 The Poetess: Lydia Sigourney
Lydia Sigourney, Pocahontas and Other Poems

Poetess Poetics:
Edgar Allan Poe, review of Zinzendorff
Ann Douglas Wood, “Mrs. Sigourney and the Sensibility of Inner Space”
Annie Finch, “Confessions of a Postmodern Poetess”
Tricia Lootens, “A Parable for Poetessess”

Due: copies of 4 to 8 reviews of a work by your poetess

Weeks 10-11 Poetry and Politics: The Slave Trade
British poems advocating Abolition, focusing on poems by William Cowper, Ann Yearsley, and Hannah More L 159-214, and –

Hannah More, Slavery: A Poem (1788):

Helen Maria Williams, “On the Bill which was passed in England for regulating the Slave-Trade; a short time before its Abolition”

American poems advocating Abolition:
John Greenleaf Whittier, anti-slavery poems H 1813-25; "New Hampshire" --

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Slave's Dream," "The Slave in the Dismal Swamp," "The Slave Singing at Midnight," "The Warning"

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, "Aunt Chloe," "The Slave Mother” H 1915-22, 1932-34 (s.a. Univ. of Toronto online collection)

George Moses Horton, "The Poet's Feeble Petition," "A Slave's Reflections on the Eve Before His Sale," "The Slave's Complaint" <>

Phillis Wheatley: <>

Americans respond to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in poems and songs <>

Poetess Poetics:
Annie Finch, “Phillis Wheatley and the Sentimentist Tradition” RN
Robert Mitchell, “The Politics of Sympathy in Abolitionist Verse” RN
Alan Richardson, “Women Poets and Colonial Discourse: Teaching More and
Yearsley on the Slave Trade,” in Approaches to Teaching British Women Poets, eds. Behrendt and Linkin (on reserve)
excerpt from Dwight McBride, “Abolitionist Discourse: A Transatlantic Context,” in Impossible Witnesses
excerpt from “British exports and Transatlantic Markets,” Kenneth Morgan, Slavery, Atlantic Trade, and the British Economy, 1660-1800

Week 12 Poetic vs. Poetess Subjectivity: William Wordsworth, Phillis Wheatley,
Charlotte Smith
Wordsworth, “The Prelude” N 205-284, L 388-450
Dorothy Wordsworth, Journals N 286-298; L 478-84
Phillis Wheatley, selected poems H 712-25
Joel Barlow, “The Prospect of Peace” H 1073-8
Charlotte Smith, Elegiac Sonnets and The Emigrants <>

Poetess Poetics:
Adela Pinch, “Sentimentality and Experience”
Yopie Prins and Virginia Jackson, “Lyrical Studies”

Week 13 Poet vs. Poetess Subjectivity: Byron and L.E.L.
Letitia Landon, The Improvisatrice and Other Poems <>
---, verses in The Keepsake (available on line at Romantic Circles:) <>)
Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Manfred N 490-545; L 604-67

Poetess Poetics:
Cynthia Lawford, “L.E.L.’s Wooing of Sex, Pain, Death, and the Editor” RN

Due: Your completed Poetess assignment (biography, reviews)

Week 14 Poetic vs. Poetess Subjectivity: Poe and Frances Osgood
Poe, The Raven and Other Poems
Frances S. Osgood, Poems <>

Poetess Poetics:
Edgar Allan Poe, two essays on Frances Osgood
Elizabeth Petrino, “’Paradise Persuaded’”

Week 15: Back Across the Atlantic
Lucretia Davidson, selected poems <>
Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, selected poems <>, and a translation: <>

Poetess Poetics:
Patrick Vincent, “Lucretia Davidson” RN
Aimée Boutin, “Inventing the Poétess” RN

Week 16: Student Presentations