ENG442Y (Eighteenth-century women and poetry): Major paper topics


Think of your major paper as an article for a scholarly journal. You're lucky enough to be working in relatively untrodden academic territory. Your article should present a sharply focussed argument that makes a contribution to contemporary scholarship, drawing on and going beyond what articles and books treat your topic.

It should be about 5000 words in length, not including works cited.

It should fully document its primary and secondary sources: see the U of T Writing Home Page (http://www.library.utoronto.ca/writing/advise.html) for details.

It is due on April 10, 2000. My marks will be due in the department at the end of that week, so there can and will be no extensions.

The paper itself is worth 25% of your final grade. Your February 21 outline and bibliography are worth 5%. Your presentation of your work to the class, your fourth seminar report, is worth 10%.

Below, I've suggested some subjects that you -- after reading relevant poems and secondary literature -- will focus into your own topic. You may want to focus on one woman poet, but your study of her should contextualize her with other women poets of her period, and/or other poets of the period. For instance, you might compare the treatment of Echo by female and male poets, if your research reveals that this is an appropriate thing to do.

If you want to come up with your own topic (and I *very much* encourage this), you must get my written approval of your 250-word written proposal, with bibliography, by February 25th: this means submitting the proposal to me by February 21st at the latest, with an annotated bibliography (see below). You might spark some ideas by rereading the introductions to Lonsdale and to Todd -- or, if you're interested in comparing poets' treatments of different themes or topics, Blackwell's ToC/Lonsdale's index. And by all means come and talk to me about finding a topic -- all of you!

The introduction to library resources on January 3rd will help you find appropriate primary sources (there's lots of C18th literature on microfilm, for instance) and secondary sources (using library catalogues and printed/on-line bibliographies). The course web page has some very useful links, especially to on-line bibliographies (James May's on C18-l, for instance), searchable electronic texts. You might play with Chadwyck-Healey's Literature Online to see how many hits you get with the keyword "Pope" in poems by women published between 1700-1800, for instance.

On February 21st, all of you must submit a 250-word overview of your project, along with an `annotated bibliography' of relevant primary and secondary sources; this is worth 5% of your final mark. The bibliography should list relevant poems, as well as books and articles. Each full entry should be followed by 2 or 3 sentences indicating how it will be relevant to your subject. (Patricia Bellamy, the U of T librarian who will be talking to us on January 3, will be giving you a useful handout about `the annotated bibliography'.) At this point in the term you will probably not have a tight working thesis for your paper, but you should have been reading and thinking and drafting.

You'll present your work in progress to the class from March 6th through April 3rd (10%). The seminar has several functions. It should inform the class of what you're doing so that we can pass on information or ideas later in the term. The seminar should also elicit discussion of the complex issue(s) you're investigating, perhaps focussed on a particular poem. You're responsible for making sure that the class has copies of whatever poems they'll need the week before your seminar presentation.

After all this admin ... Have fun!

1. The role of periodicals (e.g., the Athenian Mercury, the Gentleman's Magazine) or `print culture' generally in the careers of women poets/a woman poet.

2. Compare and contrast the use of biblical or classical mythology by women poets: focus sharply, i.e. on the portrayal and function of individual figures like Adam, Apollo, Sappho, the Muses, Echo, etc., or of symbolic places such as Eden (or gardens generally), Parnassus, etc. Use Chadwyck-Healey's Literature Online to see how much material there might be.

3. Compare and contrast some of Elizabeth Rowe's biblical paraphrases (e.g. of the Song of Songs) with their sources, and interpret patterns in the differences.

4. Phillis Wheatley's use of biblical and/or classical mythology (lots of secondary sources on this one, so you'll have to stake out your own thesis!).

5. Compare and contrast some of Anne Finch's translations of Lafontaine's fables with their sources, and interpret patterns in the differences.

6. A study of the genre `elegies for female poets' (by male and female poets).

7. Women poets' (or one woman poet's) use of a particular genre: ballad, hymn, pastoral, elegy, verse epistle, heroic epistle (Judith Madan's `Abelard to Eloisa' as a response to Pope's `Eloisa to Abelard'?).

8. The issue of social class in Mary Wortley Montagu's poetry.

9. The relationship between private/public in Anne Finch's or Mary Wortley Montagu's lives and/or poetry.

10. The relationship between women's physical and intellectual labour.

11. The patronage of poets by women -- focus on the bluestocking circle?

12. Women poets' appropriation of a male voice or perspective.

13. Poetry, or the written word, or the spoken word, or language as a theme of poetry: you should focus this, for instance, on the work of a particular author (e.g. Anne Finch).

14. The treatment of another art by women poets: painting, weaving.

15. The function of allusions to Alexander Pope in poems by women.

16. The treatment of history in the work of a woman poet -- e.g. Elizabeth Tollet.

17. The portrayal and function of feeling/sensibility. Focus!

18. Women poets' construction of their readers (Mary Leapor and Elizabeth Hands would make a nice comparison here!).

19. The reception of women poets/a woman poet. Antonia Forster's two-volume Index to book reviews in England covers the period 1749 to 1800 (Z 1035 A1 F67 GENR).

20. All sorts of other themes and topics: the physical body, female friendship, marriage, motherhood, the country house poem, the Bluestockings (Yearsley's "To Stella" and "On Mrs Montagu", More's "The Bas Bleu", Lyttelton's "On reading Mrs Carter's poems"), reading, money, fame/reputation, madness, slavery, politics ... Focus sharply, though!