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Mary Darby Robinson's poetry and prose: Reading the intersections of Romantic period popular culture and the arts

Dawn M Vernooy Epp, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Mary Darby Robinson (1758–1800) used ideological and aesthetic conventions of musical entertainment, poetic discourse, portrait painting, and graphic arts in her writing in order to appeal to a diverse audience and effectively illustrate scenarios in which women could inhabit legitimate, influential spaces in the public sphere. Chapter One examines Robinson's use of Vauxhall songs as a musical precedent for reworking the literary role of the female presence in pastoral poetry, writing women as the personas rather than as the traditionally silent objects of male passion. My second chapter considers how Robinson uses the public space of widely-read Della Cruscan poetry as a vehicle for her own contribution to the French Revolution debate, expanding the scope of female participation in public national discourse by arguing to feminize the voice of Britain's Poet Laureate. Chapter Three discusses how Robinson's poetic tributes to Joshua Reynolds function as a model for reciprocal relationships between visual artists and poets, showing how Reynolds' visual portraits of her and her verbal portraits of Reynolds helped to dignify their public reputations as artists and ensured future recognition of their contributions to British art. I conclude my analysis of Robinson's project to create a space for women in the public sphere by offering a way to reenact, in our own classrooms, Robinson's desire to educate Romantic period readers by outlining a pedagogical strategy modeled on Robinson's own recovery of women writers. ^ Robinson's professional participation in London's elite artistic and social circles positions her work as part of a larger cultural dialogue that was not parceled into finite, carefully bounded disciplines, but instead formed a matrix of interrelated intellectual inquiries that crossed both popular and high culture boundaries during the Romantic period. This project considers specific intersections of popular and high culture in Robinson's works as a means of addressing larger issues of the canon, complicating how scholarship values and validates texts as either canonical (art) or noncanonical (popular culture). ^

Subject Area

Art History|Women's Studies|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Vernooy Epp, Dawn M, "Mary Darby Robinson's poetry and prose: Reading the intersections of Romantic period popular culture and the arts" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3092605.