38.1robinson - "Individable Incorporate": Poetic Trends in...

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1 “Individable Incorporate”: Poetic Trends in Women Writers, 1890- 1918 BONNIE J. ROBINSON “Estranged from thyselfe . . . Being strange to me That individable incorpo- rate Am better than thy deere selfes better part” (William Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors II ii 124). T HIS SPECIAL ISSUE OF V ICTORIAN P OETRY REFLECTS A GROWING INTEREST IN and appreciation for women writers at the turn of the nineteenth cen- tury, the Edwardian Age, the fin de si è cle . The last two decades have seen critical studies of long-overlooked poets, poets such as Augusta Webster, “Michael Field,” E. Nesbit, Emily Watson, and Charlotte Mew, by such scholars as Susan Brown, Angela Leighton, Holly Laird, Yopie Prins, Maria Frawley, Margaret Stetz, Linda Hughes, Suzanne Rait, and Linda Mizejewski. These poets’ lives are being examined in the upcoming Dictionary of Liter- ary Biography volume on “Late Victorian and Edwardian Women Poets,” edited by William B. Thesing. Their work is being re-published, in both book and electronic form. Angela Leighton, Margaret Reynolds, Jennifer Breen, and Margaret Higgonet have produced excellent anthologies of Vic- torian women poets, anthologies which include work from this period. Also, the Victorian Women Writers’ Project, from Indiana University, transcribes into electronic form unpublished works, or works no longer in publication, by these women poets, a work of recovery begun by Margaret Stetz’s “Turn- ing-Points” section of her (now defunct) journal Turn-of-the-Century Women. Only since the 1980s, when Turn-of-the-Century Women debuted, have these women poets received close attention. The Modernist canon, which privileged poetry, nevertheless ousted these poets, for various reasons— among which was their association with mass culture and so-called senti- mental subjects. Critics such as Celeste Schenck, Deborah Fried, Nancy Miller, Wendy Milford, and Rita Felski have served, first, to interrogate the causes for this ousting, and, second, to suggest counter-values with which to recuperate their work and so to negotiate what Andreas Huyssen called “The Great Divide,” Modernism’s feminized Other, mass culture, defined as the “degraded forms of cultural production circulating among both the
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2 / VICTORIAN POETRY petit bourgeois and the increasingly literate lower classes of Britain at the turn of the century.” 1 In her essay entitled “Exiled by Genre: Modernism, Canonicity, and the Politics of Exclusion,” for instance, Schenck asks, “If . . . the radical poetics of Modernism often masks a deeply conservative politics, might it also be possibly true that the seemingly genteel, conservative poetics of women poets whose obscurity even feminists have overlooked might pitch a more radical politics than we had considered possible.” 2 Schenck thus offers us alternatives to the male-dominated, male-engendered values of Modernism. With such counter-evaluations as this, critics like Schenck have enabled us to look at the so-called conservatism, or what I call the
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This note was uploaded on 05/06/2008 for the course ENGLISH 101 taught by Professor Htua during the Spring '08 term at Northwestern.

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38.1robinson - "Individable Incorporate": Poetic Trends in...

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