Historical Poetics Now will be held on November 7-10, 2019 at the University of Texas Austin. The Symposium will feature Laura Mandell (Texas A&M) and Ivy Wilson (Northwestern) as keynote speakers.

Built into the schedule on Friday (the second day of the Symposium) is a lunch discussion of a common nineteenth-century text. We will be reading and discussing Mathilde Blind’s stunning 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 is the first book of Richard Blackmore’s Creation (1712), a surprisingly popular work meant 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 include 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.

The official program for the symposium can be found here.