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Teaching Romanticism VIII: Mary Robinson

by Daniel Cook

As part of this ongoing series on Teaching Romanticism we will consider the ways in which we lecture on and discuss individual authors, whether during author-specific modules or broader period surveys. I thought it would be particularly useful to hear about which texts educators use and in what context, whether they place certain poems or prose works against those of other writers, or use contemporary or modern theoretical texts, or something else entirely. For this strand of blog posts I invite academics across the world to share their advice and tips on any aspect that interests them about teaching Romanticism. Many thanks to all of those who answered my call through NASSR-L and elsewhere (lightly edited samples are reproduced below with permission of the authors). Please do feel free to contact me with advice on future subjects or, indeed, with further thoughts on teaching Robinson, about which much more could be said, evidently. We will be considering a range of writers, canonical and non-canonical alike, in the coming months.

Stephanie Russo (Macquarie University)
New Morality---Gillray
I recently had the chance to incorporate works by Mary Robinson into two undergraduate courses. I added Walsingham (1797) to the unit “Feminism and Literature”, as part of the unit that dealt with proto-feminism, or the eighteenth-century roots of the feminist movement. I was initially quite hesitant about including the work, given that it is such a long, digressive text. Many students in this particular unit may have never read any other eighteenth-century novels, and the big reveal that Sidney is a woman comes so late in the narrative I worried about the “what does this have to do with feminism” factor. There’s also a lot that is quite problematic in the narrative: Robinson asks us to align ourselves with Walsingham, but he commits a rape halfway through the novel. There is significant potential there for student resistance.

However, I found that assigning the novel really opened up opportunities to talk about a number of interesting ideas about gender, masquerade and education. What’s interesting about Walsingham is that Sidney Aubrey is biologically a woman, yet makes a better man than most of the men around her. In my lecture, I linked Sidney’s apparent ease with physically assuming the role of a man to Robinson’s discussion of sports and duelling in A Letter to the Mary_Robinson_hoppnerWomen of England on the Injustice of Mental Subordination (1799), in which she argues that women should have equal right to participate in such activities. I found that students responded well to this aspect of the text, and were interested in tracing the links between the ideas expressed in the novel and the work of Mary Wollstonecraft, for example. I also found it useful to talk about Mary Robinson’s own history as an actress known for her “breeches” roles. While cross-dressing was considered rather sexy in the eighteenth century, the way it’s conceived of today is rather different, and I think students were interested in tracing the development of these ideas about gender as masquerade. It was also quite a useful way to gently introduce the ideas of Judith Butler to the class!

I also snuck more Robinson onto the reading list for the unit “Reason, Imagination, Revolution: Literature and Culture from Pope to Austen” which, as the name suggests, is a broad study of the literature of the eighteenth century. We dedicate a week to Gothic poetry, and I set “The Haunted Beach” and “The Poor Singing Dame”. I compared “The Haunted Beach” with “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (which they study as part of a dedicated week on Wordsworth and Coleridge), and students were asked to think about the poem in light of the Gothic’s interest in crime, madness and the supernatural.  I talked about how Robinson is using the lyric to explore disordered mental states: that while the supernatural has a presence in the poetry, Robinson is really reflecting the Romantic interest in madness in her portrait of the haunted man.

I also ask students to consider “The Poor Singing Dame” in light of its political significance. This poem is very much of a piece with the concerns of all of Robinson’s work. Robinson is always very interested in social hierarchies (or critiquing the social hierarchy), and in this poem the poor singing dame seems to have some kind of magical affinity with nature, thus linking simplicity and poverty with nature (as opposed to the artificiality of riches). In The Widow, she suggests that the upper classes are degenerate wastrels who spend all their lives gambling, and thus fail in their duty to take care of the working classes. In this poem, nature exacts revenge on the Lord, who dies a lonely and barren death, despite his immense wealth. It’s a useful manifestation of a whole cluster of ideas that Robinson was interested in, and a relatively accessible way for students to think about how Gothic poetry could be used to represent the social and political concerns of the time.

Lirim Neziroski (St. Ambrose University)
When I taught Introduction to Literature courses at the community college level, I included poems from Mary Robinson’s Lyrical Tales, and I juxtaposed them alongside selections from Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads. I did this because I wanted to incorporate a variety of poetic forms, raise issues of gender in the analysis of point of view, and prepare students for the comparison-contrast essay at the end of the poetry unit. Mary Robinson’s appropriation of and response to Wordsworth’s poetry gives students much to write about.

Linkin 2Lyrical Ballads is a great collection to use in beginning poetry classes. The stories are interesting, each poem has a different speaker, and the ballads vary in poetic form. For example, “The Female Vagrant” is presented by a female character, so students can easily separate the poetic persona from the writer; the poem’s Spenserian stanzas also provide diversity to the more typical 4-, 6-, or 8-line ballad stanza. Similarly, “The Thorn” and “The Last of the Flock” contain stanzas of eleven lines and ten lines, respectively. Mary Robinson’s Lyrical Tales also provides interesting stories by diverse speakers in a variety of poetic forms. Instructors who teach Lyrical Ballads would find Lyrical Tales just as rewarding. A quick glance at the first four poems demonstrates the collection’s variety in poetic form. The first poem uses a six-line ballad stanza; the second contains ten-line stanzas written in couplets; the third contains a familiar eight-line ballad; the fourth is written as an ode with a varying rhyme scheme and number of lines in each stanza.

Robinson’s poems also invite thematic comparison with Wordsworth’s collection. For example, Robinson’s “The Fugitive”, a poem in which the speaker describes and then speaks to a troubled man, can be compared to Wordsworth’s “Old Man Travelling”, “Old Cumberland Beggar”, and perhaps to “The Discharged Soldier”. Additionally, Robinson’s “All Alone”, “The Lascar”, and “The Alien Boy” can be read alongside Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven”. In Wordsworth’s poem, the child sees continuity among her living and dead siblings; her inclusion of the two siblings that “in the church-yard lie” demonstrates a spirituality that the speaker lacks. This is not so in Robinson’s poems; instead, the orphaned children are considerably troubled by their marginal social status – characters such as “the lascar boy” are physically restless and always on the verge of a mental breakdown. Students are usually keen to identify the poets’ contrasting attitudes towards inclusion and isolation.

Sir Walter ScottAnother cluster of poems to read together are Wordsworth’s “The Female Vagrant”, “The Mad Mother”, “The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman”, and perhaps “The Ruined Cottage” (for a more advanced class) with Robinson’s “The Negro Girl”, “The Widow’s Home”, “The Deserted Cottage”, and “Poor Marguerite”. Wordsworth’s poems describe the effects that war and abandonment have on female characters. Especially important are the women’s coping mechanisms (begging in “The Female Vagrant” or singing in “The Mad Mother”) and their responses to the natural environment around them (whether they are comforted by the resting place nature provides or whether, as in “The Ruined Cottage”, they are swallowed by its growth). Robinson’s poems describe female characters in similar situations. They are alone and destitute, have incredibly articulate speaking and singing abilities, and are either comforted or threatened by nature. However, Robinson’s poems are more gothic and more overtly political. Wordsworth’s “The Female Vagrant” alludes to the change in work conditions the industrial age had on artisan labourers; it also criticizes the horrors of war and describes a commune where “all belonged to all”. However, most of the poems are considerably non-political (especially in contrast to other English ballads from the 1790s). By contrast, Robinson’s “The Negro Girl” overtly condemns the slave trade by demonstrating how lovers are separated and sold as slaves.

Other poems depict domestic violence, misogyny, violence against destitute characters, and political oppression. Students are able to identify and write about the language Robinson uses to describe violence against women, children, minorities, and the poor. This political dimension to Robinson’s poetry keeps all students (especially those interested in social work) engaged throughout the semester. As an instructor, I have found Mary Robinson’s Lyrical Tales to be an effective teaching tool. Students enjoy the stories and the poetic language, and the collection provides a lot of opportunity for writing effective analysis and comparison-contrast essays about poetic form, the poetic persona, nature, Gothic storytelling, and the socio-political condition of a range of destitute rural characters.

Harriet Kramer Linkin (New Mexico State University)
LinkinI subtitle one version of my British Romanticism course “The Poem and the Book”, which asks advanced undergraduate students and first-year graduate students to consider how Romantic-era authors organized or sequenced their poems in the volumes they published versus the ways in which 20th- and 21st-century anthologies represent those authors with discrete selections of their poems. I’m interested in having students explore the potential differences that emerge when they compare contemporary authorial self-representations that seek to perform particular poetic identities or establish particular poetic perspectives with classroom anthologies that understandably delimit those identities and perspectives. While this approach works well for all Romantic-era authors, it has proven particularly illuminating for a poet like Robinson, who carefully crafts extended sequences in her published volumes, as in the genre-based structure of Poems (1791), the sonnet cycle of Sappho and Phaon (1796), or the linked vignettes of Lyrical Tales (1800).

sappho_engraving 2In the last iteration of “The Poem and the Book” students had the most powerful and mostly positive response to Robinson’s poetry that I have yet witnessed. Over the course of the semester we read the following volumes, all available in contemporary editions online: Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience (copy Z), Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets (the 1st and 3rd editions), More’s Slavery: A Poem, Yearsley’s A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade, Robinson’s Sappho and Phaon, Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (the 1st edition), Tighe’s Psyche; or the Legend of Love, Barbauld’s Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, Coleridge’s Christabel, Kubla Khan, A Vision, The Pains of Sleep, Shelley’s Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude, and Other Poems, Byron’s The Giaour and Manfred, Keats’s Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes and Other Poems, and Hemans’s Records of Woman. We used the largest anthology then in print as our common text, the 3rd edition of Duncan Wu’s Romanticism: An Anthology (1,552 pages, now published in a 4th edition of 1,656 pages), and frequently referred to the Romanticism sections of the Broadview, Longman, and Norton anthologies, as well as Anne Mellor and Richard Matlak’s British Literature 1780-1830 and Michael O’Neill and Charles Mahoney’s Romantic Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. In addition to primary texts and anthologies I asked students to read critical scholarship published by the anthology editors to see how their articulated scholarly positions intersected with the critical positions they presented implicitly or explicitly in their anthologies. I also asked students to read articles on anthology construction (often written by anthology editors). I advised the class to see the syllabus itself as a mini-anthology that imposed my own critical values on British Romanticism, and urged them to explore other syllabi posted online to see how instructors construct different narratives or editions of the British Romantic era.

Frontispiece to Robinson's Sappho and PhaonAlthough a few students struggled to appreciate Robinson’s Sappho and Phaon, all felt it was essential to read through the entire sonnet cycle to understand what Robinson was attempting to achieve with her sequence and story. They enjoyed teasing out the different partial narratives that emerged in the selections that appeared in various anthologies, noting that Mellor and Matlak emphasized the return of Sappho’s reason (sonnets 7 and 11), that the Broadview anthology focused on Sappho’s rejection of poetry for Phaon (sonnets 4, 12, 18, 30, and 37), and that the Longman anthology captured the ways Robinson presented Sappho wavering between passion and reason (sonnets 3, 4, 7, 11, 12, 18, 30, and 37). They questioned why none of the anthologies selected the first and final sonnet in the sequence, which they found important for establishing Robinson’s framework for the cycle, and observed that although the Norton anthology called attention to the quality of Robinson’s late verse, beginning with “January, 1795”, no sonnets from Sappho and Phaon were included. Similarly, they noted the absence of any sonnets from Sappho and Phaon in Wu’s anthology (and the absence of Robinson altogether in O’Neill and Mahoney), but commented on the ways in which three of the five poems Wu included highlighted her interactions with Coleridge (“The Haunted Beach”, “Ode Inscribed to the Infant Son of S. T. Coleridge”, and “Mrs Robinson to the Poet Coleridge”). A few contrasted the exclusion of Sappho and Phaon with the inclusion of the entire third edition of Elegiac Sonnets, which most found an important inclusion.

Students wrote three papers for the course that built up in intensity and length. The first paper assignment asked students to provide a close reading of a single poem. The second paper assignment asked students to situate a poem in the context of its original publication and how the poem worked within a sequence. The final paper assignment (and class presentation) asked students to provide a “defense of poetry” by making a case for the works they would include (or exclude) as the next editor of one of the anthologies we examined. They had to revise or create their own anthology version of one of the writers we studied, and to justify their choices as if they were being reviewed by an editorial board at a press. The single stipulation for the final assignment was that students had to maintain the same page length: anything they elected to add to an anthology required a deletion of something else to make room. One of the great outcomes of the course was the ownership they took in developing their own anthology sections. They became quite passionate about British Romanticism and articulated some powerful rationales for the inclusion of more material from women poets, notably Robinson.

Ashley Cross (Manhattan College)
A colleague of mine (not a Romanticist) once said to me, “I hope if you have to choose between Robinson and Keats, as you will in the survey, you know whom to choose”. I smiled and nodded. Truthfully, I don’t choose. While one has to make many difficult choices for a fifteen-week survey (British Literature II) that moves from the 1780s to the end of the twentieth century, one choice I do not make is to excise women writers who were central to the literary scene. As far as I’m concerned, teaching a literary survey without women writers is as meaningless as teaching it without historical context. Any survey, of course, constructs a particular narrative of literary history (something I foreground by starting with the OED definition of “survey” and following it with five London poems from Swift’s “A Description of a City Shower” to The Clash’s “London Calling”). The one I want to create for my students sees authors and texts in conversation with their world, their predecessors, inherited literary conventions, and one another.

mary robinson romneyPerhaps I should also confess that my colleague’s comment may have, perversely, led me to teach Mary Robinson and Charlotte Smith more frequently and not solely for the aesthetic reasons he might hope, but because their works, individually and/or comparatively, raise provocative questions about Romantic form and content, high and low culture, subjectivity and objectivity, and the concept and history of Romanticism itself. I teach both Robinson and Smith in a range of classes; in addition to the survey, these include an upper-level major class on Romanticism and an upper-level class on women’s literature. Because many of my students may never have heard of these writers, their inclusion challenges them to think in new and exciting ways and to question deeply entrenched gender stereotypes they readily bring to class (many of them still believe that women did not write before Jane Austen). I’ve found one of the most productive ways to reach undergraduates is to read writers in dialogue. Not only does this help them to understand social context and to see genre more effectively, but it also teaches them to think and read intertextually, a skill that opens other literary doors. In the survey, which is often daunting in its breadth, pairing texts gives students a concrete way to approach their reading and thus enables discussion in a class that tends toward lecture. Moreover, though we have inherited the myth of the original genius author, most of the Romantic writers saw themselves engaged in literary circles, and not as isolated individuals.

Persuaded by Stuart Curran’s claim that Smith is “the first poet in England whom in retrospect we might call Romantic”, I begin the British Literature II survey with Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets.[i] For one thing, my undergraduates find her Sonnets more approachable than Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads. Smith’s sonnets simultaneously look backward to precursors like Pope and Gray (for example, Smith’s introductory sonnet and Pope’s “Heloise to Abelard” or “Sonnet Written in a Churchyard at Middleton in Sussex” and Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”) and introduce Romantic concepts and tropes of the reflective self in nature and the sublime. img_09262-e1397745168733My students love the speaker’s maneuvering to claim the prospect in “On being cautioned against walking on a headland because it was frequented by a lunatic”. The addition of Robinson widens the Wordsworth circle further and complicates understandings of Romantic authorship. A poem such as “January 1796” introduces ideas of performativity (thanks to Judith Pascoe) and provides a nice counterpoint to Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”. I have also productively paired Blake’s “London” and Robinson’s “London’s Summer Morning” or Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” with Robinson’s “Ode to the Nightingale”. My students’ favourite, though, is analysing Robinson’s “To the Poet Coleridge” after Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”. They take great pleasure in trying to articulate how and why Robinson revises his poem and what that reveals about Romantic authorship, especially when they know about their poetic exchange and that Robinson’s poem was published before his.

In an upper-level major elective, titled “Romantic Passions”, we move from Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther to explore how several women poets (Smith, Robinson, Seward, Bannerman) responded to Werther. Charlotte at the Tomb of Werther 1783Intriguingly, none of these poets wrote in Charlotte’s voice. I’ve also taught Robinson’s sonnet sequence, Sappho and Phaon, in other versions of this seminar. Teaching a sonnet sequence is difficult just because of the sheer number of poems; it is especially difficult if your students have not read (or at least not in any substantial way) other sonnet sequences, in this case, Petrarch’s. I pinpoint key sonnets (the first, a few select middle ones, the penultimate, and last) that show how Robinson contains Sappho’s desire through Petrarchan form and help my students to understand the trajectory of the narrative. I’ve attempted this in two ways. If one begins with selections from Wollstonecraft’s Vindications of the Rights of Woman, followed by Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of the Albion, one can compare Wollstonecraft’s opposing figures of the woman of sensibility and the masculine woman with Oothoon and Sappho to develop conversations about women’s passion, the body, agency, and desire in the context of the cult of sensibility, women’s rights, and 1790s sex panic. Alternatively, considering opposing arguments on the sequence by Jerome McGann and Daniel Robinson[ii] (McGann reads it as a manifesto of sensibility; D. Robinson as Robinson’s rejection of sensibility) in relation to the sonnet revival and Robinson’s literary career produces interesting discussions about the Romantic sonnet, legitimacy and form, sensibility, and women writers’ relationships to literary tradition.

Finally, I’ve taught The Natural Daughter back-to-back with Austen’s Northanger Abbey in a class on women’s literature. It’s a neat comparison, for reasons of style especially. There are some interesting plot parallels that entice students to interrogate the authors’ different perspectives on the marriage plot, women’s writing, and the novel genre. Full of inside jokes (that aren’t so funny when you have to explain them), Robinson’s novel makes dizzying turns and conveys more explicitly the difficulties women faced writing for the contemporary market. Her novel, read along with Jill Heydt-Stevenson’s chapter on Northanger Abbey in Unbecoming Conjunctions, accentuates Austen’s gothic parody and re-contextualizes both writers in their social context.[iii] Sandwiched between the poetry of Aphra Behn and Katherine Philips and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the satire of these two bildungsromans provides a useful transition from the pastoral longings of shepherdesses and female friends to the tragic naturalism of Edna Pontellier’s suicide.

[i] Stuart Curran, Introduction to The Poems of Charlotte Smith (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993), p. xix.
[ii] Jerome McGann, The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution of Literary Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 94-116; Daniel Robinson, “Ch. 3: The English Sappho and the Legitimate Sonnet”, in The Poetry of Mary Robinson: Form and Fame (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 111-152.
[iii] Jill Heydt-Stevenson, “Ch. 3: Fashioning the Body: Cross-Dressing, Dressing, Undressing, and Dressage in Northanger Abbey”, in Austen’s Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Laughter, Embodied History (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 103-36.

Joshua Albert Brewer (Ivy Tech Community College)
In teaching the texts of Mary Robinson, a professor may find that Robinson’s love life fascinates students as much as her writing does. Therefore, one way to approach a discussion of her abolitionist writing is through a consideration of her relationship with Banastre Tarleton, British villain of the American Revolution and outspoken parliamentary opponent of the abolition of slavery. We know that Robinson wrote some of Tarleton’s parliamentary speeches (though none of the anti-abolition ones) yet wonder how people with such opposing viewpoints on liberty could countenance one another, much less carry on an affair for some 15 years.Conte Tarleton Paradoxes concerning this issue in her biography do not end there: as a youth and early in her marriage, Robinson had “two male domestics [who] were both Negroes!” (Perdita: The Memoirs, p. 65, italics in original). She uses this passage of her memoir to emphasize that these were the “most faithful” domestics she ever had and also to contemn the “despised. . . hearts of their fair and unfeeling oppressors”, a phrase that would presumably describe Tarleton. Sarah Gristwood’s biography argues that their disagreement on abolitionism “would divide Tarleton from Mary”, yet there seems to be little evidence for this as the primary cause of their split (p. 291). Even though classes can get carried away with psychobiography and the intentional “fallacy”, they seem puzzled and intrigued by this avenue into our consideration of Robinson’s abolitionist writings.

Robinson’s published texts, primarily poetry, seem more univocal on the subject of abolition, emancipation, and white supremacy. Her novel Angelina contains a patriarchal, slave-holding character, Sir Edward, who suggests that the lack of “independence” on his West Indian plantations should serve as a model for his daughter’s actions. He even attempts to sell the titular heroine to an aristocrat, strengthening Robinson’s comparison between plantocracy and patriarchy. My students have spent most of their time, however, with the dramatic monologue (a term I use with some reservations, due to editorializing interjections) “The Negro Girl”. This poem was originally about a white couple separated due to a stormy shipwreck in which the male partner died. Robinson revised it thoroughly, changing the colour of the main characters and Africanizing the names of the couple, all of which is thoroughly documented in a meticulous textual study by Shelley Jones. “Robinson nearly doubled the length of her [original poem, “The Storm”,] moving it geographically from England to Africa, and substituting for its white English characters Nancy and William, the black, African slaves Zelma and Draco” (p. 37). Robinson’s “The Negro Girl” works in the sentimental idiom of the abolitionist tract, pleading for a recognition of a “kindred mind” in “the Ethiop’s face” (lines 55-58). (Recognition of the face of the other can lead to an interesting discussion of Levinas, of course.) Although it treats slavery primarily as a crime against the family, love, and humanity—rather than as an unjust institution—the melodramatic story, rendering the storm in Gothic elements and sentimental tones, emphasizes the contrast between the love that strives “to break the Tyrant’s chain” and tyrannical lasciviousness. Zelma had been torn from her “Mother’s aching breast” by a “Tyrant [who] sought [her] love” (lines 67-8). The stormy metaphor for troubles brought about by slavery is, of course, also literal. Draco tries swim free of the wreck to Zelma on the shore, but he drowns.

Students like to debate the meaning of final line, in which Zelma “plung’d in a wat’ry grave” (line 126). Is she drowning herself out of despair? Attempting to rescue Draco? Symbolizing the self-destruction that slaves sometimes sought as both a way out of misery and a fiscal revenge against their enslavers? Equally engaging are discussions of Robinson’s place among other early women abolitionists who were writing poetry of a similar political bent (e.g. Hannah More, Ann Yearsley, and Anna Letitia Barbauld).

Sources and Resources
James Basker, Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery, 1660-1810 (New Haven: Yale UP, 2002), pp. 261-65.

Basker reprints excerpts of “Captivity, A Poem”, “Lines on Hearing It Declared that No Women Were So Handsome as the English”, “The Negro Girl”, and “The African” (full text) with a brief introduction to Robinson and also headnotes to the poems. “Captivity” is an early poem (1777) that focuses on “Sweet Liberty” (generally, for captives and slaves alike), but it also addresses freedom of thought and “the free-born mind” in a way that might pair well with William Blake’s “mind-forg’d manacles”. “Lines” considers racists standards of beauty. Basker calls “The Progress” an “enthusiastically Whiggish vision of liberal progress”. The poem imagines the wounds of “Ethiops . . . wide yawning for revenge”. Like “The Negro Girl”, the poem “The African” considers innocent lovers parted by slavery, specifically by a white “wan Tyrant, whose licentious touch / Seals the dark fiat of the Slave’s despair”. The theme of sex slavery emphasizes Robinson’s own position as a woman who was used by men, but according to Basker the poem also reminds readers of Robinson’s canny ability to survive “by bartering her sexual favors”.

Robert D. Bass, The Green Dragoon: The Lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson (Columbia, SC: Sandlapper Press, 1973).

Details of Tartleon’s parliamentary debates with William Wilberforce over the slavery issue are not matched with any significant discussion of Robinson’s abolitionism.

Paula Byrne, Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson (New York: HarperCollins, 2004).

Moira Ferguson, Subject to Others: British Women Writers and Colonial Slavery, 1670-1834 (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 175-6; 240-1.

Debbie Lee, Slavery and the Romantic Imagination (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2002).

Jane Moore, “Sex, Slavery and Rights in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindications”, The Discourse of Slavery: Aphra Behn to Toni Morrison, ed. Carl Plasa and Betty J. Ring (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 18-39.

Sarah Gristwood, Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic (London: Bantam, 2005).

Shelley Jones, “Revision as Conversation in Mary Robinson’s ‘The Storm’ and ‘The Negro Girl’”, CEA Critic, 71.3 (2009): 37-53.

Mary Robinson, “The African”, Morning Post and Gazetteer,2 August 1798. Rpt. in Research Publications (Woodbridge, CT. microfilm 526).

—. Mary Robinson: Selected Poems, ed. Judith Pascoe (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2000).

—. “The Negro Girl”, Lyrical Tales (London: Longman, 1800), pp. 107-114. See online version courtesy UC Davis: http://digital.lib.ucdavis.edu/projects/bwrp/Works/RobiMLyric.htm#p107

—. Perdita: The Memoirs of Mary Robinson, ed. M.J. Levy (London: Peter Owen, 1994).

A Victorian version (1895) of this text, edited by J. Fitzgerald Molloy, is available online: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/robinson/memoirs/memoirs.html

—. “The Storm”, Morning Post, 3 February 1796. Rpt. Lady’s Magazine, April 1796.

Reynolds Robinson 1783In summary, our contributors have demonstrated an impressive array of approaches to teaching Robinson’s poetry and fiction. They encourage their students to place Robinson’s work alongside other British writers, most notably Wordsworth and Smith, as well as to think about the subject’s role in a range of discourses. The author features on feminism and gender classes, whether as a historical conduit to complex modern theories, such as Butlerian performativity, or as a prominent voice among Wollstonecraft and other pioneers. Robinson works well in critical discussions on the slave trade and abolitionist writing, and provides a highly teachable voice within the broad spectrum of Gothic writing. What’s more, she can be used when introducing students to the theory and practice of the anthology or, indeed, the fraught relationship between texts and books.

Dr Daniel Cook is a Lecturer in English and Associate Director of The Centre for Scottish Culture at the University of Dundee. Daniel has published widely on eighteenth-century and Romantic-period literature and biography, including his first monograph, Thomas Chatterton and Neglected Genius, 1760–1830 (Palgrave, 2013).


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