Forgetting Lyric: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and American
The history of American poetics is a mostly untold story, partly because 19th-century American poetics has been misunderstood as having begun with ‘the romantic lyric,’ an idealized genre associated with British literary history, then having proceeded to Victorian or ‘genteel’ poetry, before it entered American poetics only in modernism, which has been understood as a phenomenon of the first decades of the twentieth century, a period in which ‘free verse’ poets broke with inherited or imported ‘conventions.’ This way of characterizing the history of American poetry is reductive, but some version of it has been the unstated norm for son long that we may have ceased to realize how reductive it really is. This lecture will focus on the example of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper in order to begin to tell a different story about the history of American poetry.
Virginia Jackson, UCI Endowed Chair in Rhetoric, in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature, Critical Theory at the University of California, Irvine, is the author of Dickinson’s Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading, which won the Christian Gauss Prize and the MLA Prize for a First Book. Her next book, Before Modernism: The Invention of American Poetry, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. Her essays in historical poetics have appeared in OMLA, MLQ, Victorian Poetry, Studies in Romanticism, Nineteenth-Century Literature, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere.
Admission to the exhibition is free and open to the public.