Patriotism and Dissent: Anna Laetitia Barbauld and the Pleasures of the Imagination (Public lecture, 15th November)

The poet Anna Leaetitia Barbauld might not be widely known today, but her work in the late eighteenth century helped to set the tone for what would become known as Romanticism. Come and learn more from about this pioneering female voice, and the debt she owes to Newcastle-born poet Mark Akenside, as Dr Emma Major gives the annual Robin Dix Memorial lecture on 15th November at 18.15, in St Chad’s College Chapel.

In 1794 the Dissenting poet Anna Laetitia Barbauld published an introductory essay for a new edition of Mark Akenside’s The Pleasures of the Imagination (1744). Barbauld had long admired Akenside – his influence is evident in her magnificent early poem ‘A Summer Evening’s Meditation’ – but Akenside’s civilised poetics held a particular appeal in the turbulent years following the French Revolution. In this lecture I will discuss why Akenside’s celebration of the ‘natural and moral advantages resulting from a sensible and well-formed imagination’ was so prized by Dissenters such as Barbauld. The pleasures of the imagination had, for them, become increasingly important, and were central to their hopes for a literary and patriotic future in which poetry could transform a country riven by political and denominational differences.

About the Robin Dix Memorial Lecture

The annual Robin Dix memorial lecture commemorates the life and work of a Lecturer in the Department of English Studies, Dr Robin Dix (1956-2007). Dr Dix was a specialist in eighteenth-century writing and thought, particularly the writings of Mark Akenside, the Newcastle physician and poet. Previous memorial lectures have been delivered by Professor Fiona Price (University of Chichester), Professor Ewan Fernie, Professor Harriet Guest (University of York), Professor Nicholas Roe (University of St Andrews), and Emeritus Professor Andrew Sanders (Durham University).

Everyone is warmly invited to this free public lecture. Booking is not required, though if you’re on Facebook do let us know you’re coming by adding yourself to the event there.

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