"The line invisible": Intertextuality and the men and women poets of British Romanticism
Pipkin, John George
Patten, Robert L.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation challenges the canon in British Romantic Poetry by establishing an interpretive methodology to account for the intertextual relationships that Charlotte Smith, Joanna Baillie, and Mary Tighe maintain with William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Keats. The interpretive model that I develop in the opening chapter builds upon the "rhizome" theory of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, in order to replace the "influence" of Harold Bloom's Oedipal model with a complex network of root-like intertextual relationships. By subsuming Bloom's linear structure under a non-hierarchical discourse network, this model encourages us to look at literary history as an intricate "root-system," extending in multiple directions from a plurality of disparate nodes. The resulting paradigm shift enables this dissertation to re-examine one of the dominant aesthetic concepts of the Romantic Period--the sublime--in order to show how the figurative construction of women as signifiers of materiality effects their cultural exclusion from commercial engagement with the Romantic aesthetic of transcendental sublimity. The "material sublime" is the term I use to denote those moments either when the physical world disruptively announces itself within the textual gesture toward transcendence, or when the text itself foregrounds the materiality upon which the sublime experience is based. After developing these two theoretical constructs, this dissertation then argues that Smith's Elegiac Sonnets engages in the discourse of the material sublime by expressing the terror and alienation she encounters upon leaving her spendthrift husband in order to raise their ten children on her own. The chapter examining Baillie's 1798 "Introductory Discourse" to A Series of Plays argues that her aesthetic theory anticipates Wordsworth's valorization of powerful emotions, natural language, and rustic themes, and that it is her methodical formulation of the "sympathetic curiosity" that compels Wordsworth to codify his own theories in the "Preface" of 1800. The final chapter explores the thematic and stylistic concerns of Tighe's Psyche, a rare example of an extended narrative poem by a woman during the Romantic period, in order to map her recuperation of beauty as an aesthetic category.
Women's studies; English literature