The personal writings of popular nineteenth-century poet Felicia Hemans indicate her desire to alleviate social constraints on women to improve their education, yet her poetry’s female figures often seem overly attached to domesticity or lacking in emotional fortitude. This paper addresses ways in which a study of early modern female writers of history can inform Hemans scholarship, particularly by drawing on Megan Matchinske’s work on the ‘dying-tale’ in Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam (1613). Similarly, Hemans promotes the necessity of women acting to ensure successful political and personal endurance in ‘The Switzer’s Tale’. Furthermore, in the pedagogy of Records of Woman (1828), Hemans responds to the problem of visual dominance in art by adopting a multi-sensory approach to communication that relies especially on the auditory. This strategy takes part in a broader epistemic approach to history that criticises the reliability of memory and the transience of human bodies. Ultimately, Hemans suggests that transcendence occurs through the exercise of the human will, the ultimate representation of which is martyrdom. Continue reading
Angela Aliff is an independent researcher with interests in epistemology, English reformist writing, women’s writing and the digital humanities. Her doctoral thesis finds that early modern women writers justify their ideological authority using the instability in epistemic shifts within religious belief and practice. Formerly a Livingstone Online research assistant with contributions to design and user experience, Angela is now a commercial project manager and mother of an endlessly curious toddler.