Angers, Fantasies and Ghostly Fears: Nineteenth-Century Women from Wales & English Language Poetry

Angers, Fantasies and Ghostly Fears: Nineteenth-Century Women from Wales & English Language Poetry

Angers, Fantasies and Ghostly Fears: Nineteenth-Century Women from Wales & English Language Poetry

Angers, Fantasies and Ghostly Fears: Nineteenth-Century Women from Wales & English Language Poetry

Synopsis

Angers, Fantasies and Ghostly Fears analyzes the work of seven Welsh women poets from a relatively neglected period in Welsh literary studies, the nineteenth century. Each of the writers considered, from Jane Cave and Felicia Hemans to Anna Walter Thomas, wrote in a period of rapid and intense social change, yet each maintained her own particular and deeply held connection with Wales.

Catherine Brennan argues that although these writers are doubly marginalized by their gender and nationality from dominant cultural discourses, they nevertheless articulate highly significant questions of poetic identity and authority. Using a range of theoretical perspectives, she shows how consciousness of national identity and poetic representation intersect in this period and suggests that the work of these writers, taken as a whole, opens up new ways of understanding class, gender and Welshness in the nineteenth century.

Angers, Fantasies and Ghostly Fears is a ground-breaking study of writers all-too-often ignored by mainstream literary history. It will be essential reading for all those interested in the literary history of Welsh writing in English, women's writing in the nineteenth century, and the discourse of insular imperialism.

Excerpt

In October 1997 Gillian Clarke, the contemporary English-language Welsh poet, responded to the narrow ‘Yes’ result of the previous month’s Welsh Assembly referendum with a reflection on the future of Welsh literature in British literary studies. She rallied Welsh writers with the assertion:

The evidence that the nation has always existed lies in our literature …
One of the most exciting challenges in the recent past has come from the
brilliant young playwright Ed Thomas. His clear meaning is, if we want to
be a nation we, the artists, must build it in the imaginations of the people.
Let’s to it.

Clarke dared Welsh artists to channel post-devolution energy into expressions of new understandings of Welshness arising out of Wales’s newly won status. She acknowledged the advances made in recent decades in terms of institutional perceptions of Welsh literature, noting that

The Welsh Arts Council and the Welsh Academy worked for a generation
to persuade teachers and examination boards to value the work of Welsh
writers. the excuse for its neglect was ‘It’s not good enough’, or ‘It’s too
local’. Now this work is valued at all levels and appears on examination
boards throughout Britain.

The challenge to the cultural hegemony of ‘English’ canonical authority which is implied in Clarke’s comments here must inevitably be accelerated, I would argue, by the effects of devolution in Wales.

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