Gender and Genre
The three essays in this section, all previously unpublished, explore
the interactions between the gender of the poet and the genre of her poem
and how these affect the poem's reception, both upon its publication in
1820, and among critics now.
"A darkling plain": Hemans, Byron
and The Sceptic; A Poem
By Nanora Sweet.
This essay challenges the traditional assumption that The Sceptic
is a didactic poem and instead argues that it is an epideictic poem of
praise and blame that taunts Byron's scepticism and responds with its
own. The essay thus raises questions about Hemans's own perceptions of
herself as a woman writing poetry because didacticism was seen as an appropriate
tone for a woman writer, a natural extension of her nurturing role as
mother and mentor.
Contesting Heterodoxy: Mrs. Hemans vs. Lord Byron
A 1993 conference paper by Andrew Elfenbein.
This paper argues that when Hemans approaches Byron in subject and
style, she reveals the early nineteenth century's "expanding borders of
femininity" that both claim a public voice and assume the mantle of convention.About
his contribution to this work, Elfenbein writes: "This is an unrevised
version of a talk I gave at the first NASSR conference in 1993. Many,
many important contributions to Hemans criticism have been made since
that time, and were I to write this talk today, it would look quite different.
While I hope that readers of Hemans will find it useful, I would certainly
encourage any reader to consider this piece in light of the larger body
of work on Hemans that has appeared since that time, including the scholarship
of Susan Wolfson, Tricia Lootens, Herbert Tucker, Nan Sweet, and Paula
Scepticism and Its Costs: Hemans's Reading of Byron
A 1994 conference paper by Nanora Sweet.
This essay reads the Hemans-Byron debate about scepticism as an event
in post-Napoleonic print culture whose primary implications were nonetheless
material. It emphasizes the surprising convergences between Hemans and
Byron: the concern both poets show for the vulnerable young, the value
they place on the civic republic and the divine force both invoke in defence
of both the young and the republic.