Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Laura Runge

Keywords

eighteenth-century British literature, place, women poets

Abstract

Women Poets and Place in Eighteenth-Century Poetry considers how four women poets of the long eighteenth century--Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Leapor, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and Mary Robinson--construct various places in their poetry, whether the London social milieu or provincial England. I argue that the act of place making, or investing a location with meaning, through poetry is also a way of writing a place for themselves in the literary public sphere and in literary history. Despite the fact that more women wrote poetry than in any other genre in the period, women poets remain a relatively understudied area in eighteenth-century scholarship. My research is informed by place theory as defined by the fields of Human Geography and Ecocriticism; I consider how the poem reproduces material space and the nonhuman environment, as well as how place effectively shapes the individual. These four poets represent the gamut of career choices in this era, participating in manuscript and print culture, writing for hire and for leisure, publishing by subscription and through metropolitan booksellers. Each of these textual spaces serves as an illustration of how the poet's place, both geographically and socially speaking, influences the medium of circulation for the poetic text and the authorial persona she constructs in the process. By charting how each of these four poets approaches place--whether as the subject of their poetry or the poetic space itself--I argue that they offer us a way to destabilize and diversify the literary landscape of eighteenth-century poetry.

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