British Women Poets and the Romantic Writing Community

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JHU Press, Feb 2, 2009 - Literary Criticism - 349 pages

This compelling study recovers the lost lives and poems of British women poets of the Romantic era. Stephen C. Behrendt reveals the range and diversity of their writings, offering new perspectives on the work of dozens of women whose poetry has long been ignored or marginalized in traditional literary history.

British Romanticism was once thought of as a cultural movement defined by a small group of male poets. This book grants women poets their proper place in the literary tradition of the time. In an approach ripe for classroom teaching, Behrendt first reviews the subject thematically, exploring the ways in which the poems addressed both public concerns and private experiences. He next examines the use of particular genres, including the sonnet and various other long and short forms. In the concluding chapters, Behrendt explores the impact of national identity, providing the first extensive study of Romantic-era poetry by women from Scotland and Ireland.

In recovering the lives and work of these women, Behrendt reveals their active participation within the rich cultural community of writers and readers throughout the British Isles. This study will be a key resource for scholars, teachers, and students in British literary studies, women’s studies, and cultural history.

"Its democratic project is to supplement our understanding of British Romantic poetry by shining a light into dark library corners and bringing out unknown work by women... [U]nquestionably a valuable addition to literary historicism. An introduction to numerous obscure authors, it also provides sensitive in-depth reading of selected verse and relevant comparisons with poems by their more visible female and male contemporaries."—Times Literary Supplement

"The range of this book encourages and facilitates future research and commentary. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Behrendt's commitment to his neglected trove inspires admiration."—New Books on Literature 19

"Superb historical contextualisation of literature alongside an original argument that also makes for a provocative work... Behrendt highlights the uniquely personal relationship women are able to establish with readers as opposed to their male contemporaries' formality. By comparing personal and public elegiac poetry, Behrendt demonstrates the powerful voices of ordinary women who engaged with public issues."—Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net

"Sharp and sophisticated exploration."—Cercles

"The question that literary intelligentsia ask in judging a work is whether it advances study in the field, and this one most assuredly does... It builds on the best research and offers a venue for more. And it teaches us that before Hollywood, Lifetime, YouTube and Twitter, writers—especially poets—were rock stars of the day; the women under consideration here worked to participate in public discourse over concerns that shaped communal thought and life."—Internet Review of Books

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About the author (2009)

Stephen C. Behrendt is the George Holmes Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. He is the coeditor of Romanticism and Women Poets: Opening the Doors of Reception and Approaches to Teaching British Women Poets of the Romantic Period.