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Date of Award

9-1992

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Supervisor

Donald Goellnicht

Language

English

Abstract

This thesis undertakes a close analysis of the aesthetic politics of landscape in Charlotte Smith's two most extensive poetic works, The Emigrants and Beachy Head, both of which describe fully evoked and complex cosmologies. It uses current feminist and Marxist critiques of the gendered eighteenth-century aesthetic categories of the "sublime" and the "beautiful," as well as discussions of the "picturesque," to reveal the strategies that Charlotte Smith employs in order to write through discourses which act to marginalize her. As a study of an historically specific set of discourses the approach is indebted as well to the feminist deployment of Foucauldian discourse analysis outlined by Chris Weedon in Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory.

The methodology for this study involves a close, chronological reading of the poetry. This is a necessary first step toward understanding and appreciating the work of a woman poet almost entirely neglected since her time. It is a beginning contribution as well toward uncovering or recovering a female "romantic" voice. Since the focus at this stage must be on the work of the woman poet herself, and since the scope of this thesis is limited, there is no attempt to make full-scale comparisons with male Romantic poets.

This study reveals a complex and creative response to the imposition of an unjustly weighted aesthetic ideology. Smith's revisionary treatment challenges the validity of gendering and hierarchizing aesthetic modes of perception. At the same time, her work offers a powerful portrayal of the painfully fragmented sensibility which necessarily results from the imposition of such a system.

McMaster University Library