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The Sceptic, Edited by Nanora Sweet and Barbara Taylor

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The three essays in this section, all previously unpublished, explore the interactions between the gender of the poet and the genre of her poem and how these affect the poem's reception, both upon its publication in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 Feldman."

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.

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Published @ RC

January 2004