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Chapter 7 - “To assume her Language as my own”

The Revival Hymn and the Evangelical Poetess in the Early Republic

from Part I - Form and Genre

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2022

William Huntting Howell
Affiliation:
Boston University
Greta LaFleur
Affiliation:
Yale University, Connecticut
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Summary

This essay emphasizes the centrality of evangelical women poets to the culture and development of early American poetics (including hymnody), which had lasting effects well into the nineteenth century. It makes three related claims. First, early evangelical poetry was a capacious lived literature that constituted one of the major aesthetic developments of the eighteenth century. Second, one of the momentous outgrowths of this eighteenth-century experiential Christian poetics was an early form of the Poetess, a trope scholars predominantly discuss as a nineteenth-century cultural form. And third, recognizing this longer development of the evangelical poetess resituates Phillis Wheatley Peters’ poetics within an antiwhite supremacist tradition produced by free and enslaved Black people. The essay argues for the necessity of broader and deeper engagement with various eighteenth-century religious poetics in order to braid them back together with the social forms and histories within which they arose and remained entangled.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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