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Emails on Romantic Anthologies by Members of the NASSR Listserv[Notice]

  • Alan Liu,
  • Robert Corbett et
  • Steven Willett[4]

Absent from the list for a while, I find a substantial discussion emerged about women poets of the Romantic period after Avery Gaskins framed a question about the inclusions in Norton II (6th ed.) . . . . Unlike some others, I do find that Ashfield and McGann in particular do the work of anthologizing effectively, so that one gains a taste of the particular poet's voice and tone and ends by wanting to read more. I think Ashfield's selections from Seward, Barbauld, and others and McGann's of Hemans are quite delicious. It may be, again, in the area of *tone* that we have the most to learn about the reading of these poets and their poetics—as some of us were concluding last winter in a thread on Jane Austen and the role of tone in women's writing. See Mary Ellman's wonderful book on that subject from the 1970s and still one of the best companions to the reading of women's writing. There's a music there, would we but teach ourselves to hear, with the sort of range Austen has, to include the insouciant, the astringent, the quietly outraged, the critically allusive . . . I could go on. It's a muted palette that I'm speaking of, but none-the-less a pleasure for all that. Part of the pleasure lies in tracing tone into investment and investment into interest, I think—a process that allows many students who are familiar with arguments about women's material interests (whether sympathetic with them or not) to read their way back into the (after all) bi-gender conversation that Romantic poetry-making surely was. Women and men poets alike gain readers when we can re-engage with them. I think Mr. Willett lamented the lack of "poetics" in the treatment of such writers as Mary Robinson . . . but one might, and a student of mine has, write rather handily on her use, in "The Camp," of Hudibrastics. Best wishes to all who are experimenting with the new appreciations of Smith, Baillie, Robinson, Hemans, et. al. I'm teaching from Duncan Wu's anthology for the first time, and I like most things about it, including the two versions of the Ancient Mariner, and the many potential links between the literary texts and the political, etc. writing. However, I notice that he uses the quotation marks in Christabel differently from every other edition I've seen, including E. H. Coleridge's 1912 version and other anthologies and selections (Oxford Standard Authors, the old Perkins). I always thought it was important that quotation marks are used for Geraldine's speeches only after the line "But soon with altered voice said she—" (204), but Wu puts marks around all the speeches (including Christabel's) throughout the poem. I wondered if anyone knew if this move had any manuscript authority, or if it is just part of his modernization of punctuation, which he does defend in his introduction. If it's the latter, it seems unfortunate. Let me pick up on an old thread [of discussion]. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich decided to go with both the Mellor-Matlak anthology (due out in a year or so?) and a revision of the Perkins (now available). Most likely they felt that there were two constituencies (and/or two kinds of courses) to serve, one more oriented toward poetry and the received canon, one ready to leave the association of British Romanticism and poetry in the dustbin of history and democratize the field in terms of genre as well as number and gender of writers represented. The Mellor-Matlak anthology, if it's going to stay close to the working table of contents …

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