Historical Poetics Now was held on November 7-10, 2019 at the University of Texas Austin. Its keynote speakers were Laura Mandell (Texas A&M) and Ivy Wilson (Northwestern).
The symposium also featured discussions of eighteenth and nineteenth-century common texts. The nineteenth century common text was Mathilde Blind’s poetic response to Darwin, The Ascent of Man (1889; 1899), which can be found here. This 1899 reprint of the text features an introduction from the evolutionary biologist, Alfred R. Wallace.
The main eighteenth-century reading was the first book of Richard Blackmore’s Creation (1712), a surprisingly popular work calculated to prove God’s existence, attack atomism, and reclaim the long philosophical poem from Lucretius. Blackmore (1654-1729) was a renowned physician as well as a writer, and his poem is philosophical in the sense of “natural-philosophical.” So, we also read a selection from The Grounds of Criticism in Poetry (1704) in which Blackmore’s contemporary John Dennis (1658-1734), referring to some examples from Paradise Lost, discusses the significance of natural philosophy and scientific observation for post-Miltonic poetry. Both of these figures shared a strong desire to reform the literary culture of the London elite, and they were roundly attacked for their modernizing efforts, becoming easy targets for satire late in their lives and in the decades following their deaths. Scholars have returned to Dennis’s work every now and then — Coleridge and other Romantics read him closely, and he remains of special interest to Miltonists — but Blackmore’s reputation has never fully recovered. Blackmore’s Creation can be found here.The excerpt from John Dennis’s The Grounds of Criticism in Poetry (1704), may be found here.
Each day of the symposium commenced with a provocation from a member of either the eighteenth or nineteenth century historical poetics groups. In addition, as with the first historical poetics symposium at Connecticut College in 2017, a Graduate Student Caucus offered a response at the conference’s conclusion. You can read the Graduate Student Caucus response here. Please click on the links below to view the provocations of Meredith Martin, Erin Kappeler, and Courtney Weiss Smith.
Erin Kappeler, “A Provocation from an Americanist”
Meredith Martin, “Provocation”
Courney Weiss Smith, “Provocation for Historical Poetics Now“
The official program for the symposium can be found here.