In recent years, scholarship on nineteenth-century women’s poetry has shifted from recovering the works of neglected writers to considering the “Poetess” as a type that governed the circulation of women’s poetry in a burgeoning market for print.  The sentimental and genteel conventions that are the hallmark of nineteenth-century women’s lyric aren’t simply an embarrassment for the modern woman poet to overcome, they served as a medium for women poets to pass between public and private spheres, a means of circulation rather than an index of constraint.  The figure of the poetess became a type with cultural work to do, a mode of subjectivity and a vehicle for public speaking claimed by an increasingly wide range of women writers.

This symposium addresses the writing of five women poets who variously identify with and transform the figure of the poetess, from the influential early poetesses Felicia Hemans and Lydia Sigourney, to the ethnically and racially identified late nineteenth century poetesses Emma Lazarus, Pauline Johnson, and Sarojini Naidu.  How do the conventions that governed gendered self-representation in Victorian England and antebellum America translate on the world stage?  Does the global circulation of the figure of the poetess alter this figure in significant ways?


Jason R. Rudy

Meredith L. McGill

Virginia Jackson

Max Cavitch

Yopie Prins


Meredith L. McGill
Department of English
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Public Events:

Friday, May 16, 2008 | 1:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Plangere Writing Center
Murray Hall, Room 303
510 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ

A reception will follow

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Introduced by Jason R. Rudy University of Maryland

Introduced by Meredith L. McGill Rutgers University

3:15 PM - 4:45 PM

Introduced by Virginia Jackson Tufts University

Introduced by Max Cavitch University of Pennsylvania

Introduced by Yopie Prins University of Michigan