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Showing posts from February, 2014

A Bit on Southey

After the rather overambitious failure of my monograph challenge last year (at least I managed to get past 50% of my target!), I've chosen something a bit more reasonable for 2014. Despite some forays into various female Romantics (notably Charlotte Smith and Felicia Hemans), my work in Romantic Studies is very canonical. So I've decided to try to explore a little bit the writings of 'minor' Romantics outside the Big Six - people from John Thelwall to Mary Robinson. In January, I read a fair bit of Robert Southey: former Jacobin turned Laureate, excoriated by Byron, and known for sprawling epics like Madoc (a Welsh prince sails to the Atzec empire centuries before Columbus...)

I think what interested me was the elegiac tone of a lot of what I was reading, or a particular inflection of elegy. It seemed to crop up everywhere. It's there in the strangely displaced pastorals of the Botany Bay Eclogues (re-imagining nostalgia from the perspective of convicts and exiles) …

Literary History II

This is a sort of companion post to something I wrote last April. A lot has changed since then, but one thing that hasn't is reflecting on literary history in both my research and teaching lives. When someone like Philip Roth argues that the literary novel per se may be virtually dead in twenty years, you've got to wonder about what value Donne or Byron holds and whether students should be any more guilty for not really knowing a lot about Thomas Gray than I am about not knowing a lot about Livy. Nevertheless, whilst I obviously think that attending to and studying the contemporary moment is relevant, I also think we eschew literary history at our peril.

At heart, it's illogical. Literature, at its most basic, is about the intensest and most intricate experience of language. We live and breathe in language - we are linguistic animals - and have for over 60,000 years. And when some of us construct hyperbolically elaborate artefacts in this very medium of our existence, we c…