Anna Letitia Barbauld as artistic and pedagogic mother of the romantic citizen
Mary Loeffelholz (1958-), Laura Morgan Green, Elizabeth A. Fay (1957-)
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. Department of English.
Barbauld, Dissent, Enlightenment, Feminism, Pedagogy, Romantic
Barbauld (Mrs. Anna Letitia (1743-1825))--Crticism and interpretation, Enlightenment--Great Britain, English literature --Women authors --History and criticism
English Language and Literature
In addition to artistically representing the ideal human, a.k.a. the Romantic citizen, and his development, Anna Barbauld was invested in the actual practice of raising him, devoting much of her life to co-directing the Palgrave School for Boys, a Dissenting academy. Her pupil Lord Denman ultimately drafted the Reform Act of 1832. As Barbauld recapitulates the path of human development through her Lessons for Children, Hymns in Prose for Children, political treatises, and poetry, she traces the process of becoming a poet, a citizen, an ideal human being, a nation, and a global community. Her career of artistic and pedagogical intervention causes the term revolution, which is so often used by Romantic writers to designate artistic and political innovation and independence in a sublime moment, to return to its pre-French Revolution sense in the discourse of astronomy—a slow, gradual, revolving, process or continuation, in which (with a little help from Wordsworth’s "My heart leaps up") the "child is father of the citizen."
At the heart of this dissertation is a fascination with Barbauld’s double power: her power as someone interested in the development of individuals, witness her teaching and pedagogical writing, and her power as an artist having a more abstract, Romantic interest in the development of the ideal human. For Barbauld, the culture of dissent provided access to the public square and the exercise of this double power—a situation in which the public discourse of religious Dissent could be conflated with the political and social experimentations of a woman, doubly marginalized by law. Barbauld’s historical location at the epicenter of British subjectivity and nationalism inflects not only her sense of citizenship and community, but also the generic scale in which she wrote. Barbauld’s Hymns in Prose for Children are analytically fruitful examples of texts that actually mediate this change in Britain, as widespread, frequently recited texts that are both religious, however Dissenting in their world-view, and concerned with the development of the child-citizen as a national—and even transnational or post-national—subject. This study is thus entitled "Raising a Nation," because of what I consider to be Barbauld’s Romantic organicism: she follows a path of human development through her Lessons for Children, Hymns in Prose for Children, on to poetry and political treatise. In fact, Barbauld seems to model the doctrine of recapitulation—a thematic interest of Blake’s and Wordsworth’s—through genre in her collection of works.
The time has come for scholars to notice that Barbauld is far beyond a secondary or tertiary influence in Romanticism and to realize that in many respects she mothered some of its primary and characteristic genres as well as ideas, and real-life citizens. She functions as a transitional writer, falling between eighteenth-century Enlightenment and Romantic aesthetics. This dissertation is responding to a dramatic increase in Barbauld scholarship, and will be pitched as the first book-length study of her wide-ranging works.
Chapter One, "Barbauld’s Culture and Aesthetics of Dissent," examines the culture of dissent in which Barbauld operated; it discusses the relevant historical context of religious Dissent in England and Barbauld’s own position within the Dissenting community, in order to demonstrate the internal, artistic choices that make up Barbauld’s signature aesthetics of dissent. Her Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts (1790), and Remarks on Mr. Gilbert Wakefield’s Enquiry Into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship (1792) are exemplary conflations of what appears to be, the narrow, particular discourse of the propriety of private and public religious practice and the national, legislative discourse over the rights of citizens. By joining, or mediating, congregational interests and national interests in her Remarks on Mr. Gilbert Wakefield’s Enquiry, Barbauld deftly conflates the identities of devout Christian and democratic citizen. This conflation occurs through prayer—the central act of private and public worship, i.e. the natural, human, instinct to petition to God. She frames worship, i.e. prayer, as a naturally public act; not only is prayer an instinctual act, but prayer as petition, is the expected and necessary means for bridging the inevitable distance between God and man. Her introduction of the term "petition" to a discourse on public worship, already inflected with the values of community and nation, revealingly contrasts with the controversial value of legal petition in the political reality of 1790 England.
Chapter Two, "'To prepare, not to bring about revolutions': The developmental relationship between Barbauld’s Hymns in Prose for Children (1781) and Sins of Government, Sins of a Nation; or a Discourse for the Fast, Appointed on April 19, 1793," focuses on the developmental relationship between Sins of Government, Sins of a Nation and Hymns in Prose for Children. Barbauld’s widely popular Hymns, reprinted in England for over 120 years, provides astonishing evidence of her position at the origins of British nationalism. The Hymns, composed for daily recitation, function as a transitional ritual between the Church-scripted daily prayer and the products of secular print culture to follow. In Sins of Government the primary ideas and strategies of Hymns rhetorically "grow up"; Sins of Government functions as a rhetorical model of reform through its inheritance and development of youth community values established in Hymns. Barbauld’s call for a "national religion" in Sins of Government is not a religiously dogmatic injunction, but the desire for a framework of national morality. The primary doctrine for this "national religion" is documented and taught in her Hymns. Both texts mediate between religious dogma and national community. The Hymns mediates the genres of religious catechism and literacy pedagogy; Sins of Government mediates the genres of sermon and political treatise, and represents an evolution of the Hymns. Barbauld plants the seeds of freedom in her Hymns in Prose for Children, and harvests them vigorously in her careerjeopardizing anti-war sermon, Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation.
Chapter Three, "Of Caterpillars and Baby-Houses: Barbauld’s Signature Aesthetics of Contractions and Bubble Spaces," focuses on Barbauld’s signature aesthetics developed in her poetry—particularly her aesthetics of bubble spaces and the technique of rhetorical and symbolic contraction. In "To a Little Invisible Being" (1825), the "infant bud of being" that the poet-speaker hastens "to blow" from the womb into a little visible being resides in a critically delicate bubble space. Within the physically pregnant space, a primarily sexed (and gendered) woman’s experience, the ode identifies a subject whose key moment of existence is pregendered, pre-sexed, pre-lingual—conceived, and yet unspoken. This space is not unlike the Romantic poet’s fleeting moment of creative imagination between encounter and response, thought and utterance (a condition repeatedly treated by poets such as Wordsworth and Shelley, following Barbauld). This chapter closely examines the so far under-examined Woman in Barbauld’s poetry, and specifically, at those bubble-like moments of concentration in her texts that elucidate the Woman, but also happen to mirror the delicate thought-space between inarticulate, infinite perception, and articulated, visible, embodiment. "Washing Day" (1797) is a critical example of how Barbauld uses bubble imagery to represent the creative imagination and employ her signature technique of contracting gradations or stages of things; she contracts, and therefore aesthetically mediates the experience of children and men. Barbauld’s bubble imagery and the technique of contraction reorder the space and time for conventionally and developmentally separate mediums: the public realm of national identification and reform, and the (seemingly) juvenile discourse of caterpillars and "Baby-Houses." Her poem, "A Summer Evening’s Meditation" (1773), segues to chapter four as it treats the nature of: revolution, the female soul, the sublime and poetic imagination, human nature (as ‘embryo Gods’), and the gynotopic, even post-national experience in "trackless deeps of space."
Chapter Four, "Towards a Post-National Romantic Citizen: Sublime Alternations Between a Pre-Symbolic Feminine Subjectivity in ‘A Summer Evening’s Meditation’ and a Post-National Romantic Citizen in Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" considers Barbauld’s addresses to the nation, and the possible post-nation state, in what seem to be their generic maturity. That is, her image of a seed taking root and growing up to an oak tree from her Hymns in Prose for Children, which prosaically develops in her sermon on national character and proper revolution, Sins of Government, Sins of a Nation, matures in her epic poem Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, the last poem she would publish in her career, the primary subject of chapter four. In Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, England will fall into ruin because the best of English culture has left and found root in the more fertile soil of the U.S. In time, the once postcolonial other (American) will return in pilgrimage to pay homage to the graves and ruins of England. Since Eighteen Hundred and Eleven has come to represent the end of Barbauld’s public writing career, it is interesting to read alongside possible inheritance texts, such as Mary Shelley’s novel The Last Man. The final chapter takes up the condition of the post-national described in Eighteen Hundred and Eleven and The Last Man, considering Barbauld’s ultimate, artistic and ideological, trajectory towards a post-national sublime. An epilogue suggests that conceiving of Barbauld’s aesthetics as post-national also involves examination of her abolitionist work, including her 1791 "Epistle to William Wilberforce, Esq. on the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade." Her aesthetics of the post-national, as well as her political involvement in abolitionism, also derives from work in her Hymns in Prose for Children. The study concludes with a discussion of Barbauld’s poem "On the Death of Mrs. Martineau" (1820), which commemorates the legacy of the good matriarch as perhaps more powerful than any other figure in civilization. Thus, the epilogue mediates the content of the beginning chapters, as the figure of mother that mediated (as narrator) the child’s experience and development in Hymns in Prose for Children and Lessons for Children in order to foster the values of the Romantic national and global citizen, returns as the subject of Romantic ode and preeminent medium of civilization’s continuity and progress.
Jennifer Krusinger Martin
Martin, Jennifer Krusinger, "Raising a nation : Anna Letitia Barbauld as artistic and pedagogic mother of the romantic citizen" (2010). English Dissertations. Paper 8. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20000245
Click button above to open, or right-click to save.