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Showing posts from May, 2014

A bit on Lamb: Perfect and Imperfect Solitude

Continuing with the so-called 'minor' Romantics (currently reading John Thelwall's Peripatetic), recently read Charles Lamb. There was a lot I found interesting - the literary and dramatic criticism, obviously, but also the strong sense of embodied, rhythmic existence in essays like 'The Superannuated Man' (on the cessation of work) or 'The Convalescent' (on illness) which strikingly contrasts with his apparent preference for disembodied aesthetics (e.g. the famous assertion that Hamlet is better read than performed).

However, perhaps because I've been thinking in my own research about the trope of retirement in Cowper, the text I found most interesting was the 1821 essay 'A Quaker's Meeting'. Nominally, it is about one thing: the redefinition of solitude into 'imperfect' and 'perfect' forms. The former is the solitude of classically conceived religious retirement: that of the hermit, for instance, or lone meditation ('to…

Pregnancy and Poetry

Given that the embodied changes of pregnancy are so fundamental, one would imagine that women would frequently register the strangeness and complexity of the phenomenon. Curiously, however, in relatively short but relatively persistent poking around in archives of long 18th century literature, I have found little in terms of what we might call a phenomenological engagement with child-bearing.

Certainly, the eighteenth century marks a profusion of treatises in midwifery, due to the expansion of scientific knowledge, changes in technique (e.g. the inventions of the forceps), and the controversial rise of the male midwife (a move from feminine savoir-faire/tradition to masculine codified knowledges, we might say). We do get female-authored texts like Martha Mears' The Pupil of Nature; Or, Candid Advice to the Fair Sex on the Subjects of Pregnancy; Childbirth [etc.] from 1797, but despite a close intertwining with the discourse of sentimentality (the 'sensibility' of the womb,…