For our Fall 2013 meeting, we focused on poems that may or may not comport with our contemporary definition of the dramatic monologue, asking: Does this genre exist?  How do we know it when we see it?  When was the dramatic monologue recognized as such, and what are its near cousins, body doubles or evil twins?  How does the history of this poetic genre change when viewed through a transatlantic lens? In the morning session, members of the group each made short presentations on some aspect of the reading, and these ranged in topic from the role of gender in Ada Isaacs Menken, Sarah Piatt, and Frances Harper’s poems to the transatlantic influence of the Brownings to the issue of how slavery, in particular, is taken up by the genre. Together we thought through the convention of speaking as an “other” and the both enabling and disturbing sides of that. As much as possible we sought to understand the ubiquity of the dramatic monologue and the nineteenth-century reader’s continual exposure to the genre before it was marked as such. In the afternoon session we focused our discussion on “Edith” by Augusta Webster, Lewis Carroll, J.M. Eells “Impromptu Stanzas, Suggested by the Working of the Fugitive Slave Act, as Illustrated in the Case of Rev. Doctor Pennington,” Mary Mapes Dodge “Women as Poets,” Browning’s poems (listed below), and “The African’s Complaint on Board a Slave Ship” from Gentleman’s Magazine, 1793.

Augusta Webster, “Poets and Personal Pronouns” (1878)

Robert Browning,  “Fra Lippo Lippi,” “An Epistle Containing the Strange Medial Experience of Karshish” (1855) and “Caliban upon Setebos” (1864)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” (1848) and “A Curse for a Nation” (1857)

John Pierpont, “The Fugitive Slave’s Apostrophe to the North Star” (1839); “Slave Holder’s Address to the North Star” (1840)

Walt Whitman, “The Wound Dresser” (1865)

Ada Isaacs Menken, “Judith” (1868)

Sarah Piatt, “Giving Back the Flower” (1867), “Death Before Death” (1870), “Paris” (1871), “Shoulder Rank (1871)

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, “Aunt Chloe’s Politics,” “Learning to Read”(1872)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Belisarius” (1875)

And, For Those Who Want More: read as much of MEN AND WOMEN as you can!

[The link is to the Boston (Ticknor and Fields) edition of Browning’s text, since Google favors the culture of reprinting!]