The University of Birmingham’s Nineteenth-Century Centre’s Public Lecture
Dr Clare Bucknell (All Souls, Oxford), ‘Nineteenth-Century Anthologising: “Castrated” Books and Poems’
Thursday 25th May 2023, 6:00pm-7:30pm at Selly Manor Museum (in collaboration with The Bookshop on the Green, and as part of the AMD Hughes Annual Memorial Lecture Series)
In The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), Friedrich Engels touches on an unexpected subject: poetry. ‘Shelley, the genius, the prophet, Shelley, and Byron, with his glowing sensuality and his bitter satire upon our existing society,’ he observes, ‘find most of their readers in the proletariat.’ By contrast, ‘the bourgeoisie owns only castrated editions, family editions, cut down in accordance with the hypocritical morality of today.’ Anthologies, in Engels’s argument – those ‘castrated editions’, shorn of sensual, satirical or radical poetic material – become a kind of bookish metaphor for the bourgeois imagination, hemmed in by prejudices and fears. In my lecture, drawing on my recent book, The Treasuries: Poetry Anthologies and the Making of British Culture (2023), I’ll speak on the subject of those ‘castrated’ collections of the nineteenth century, and the ideological impulses that stood behind their making. Who were nineteenth-century anthologies for, and did their intended readers approach them in the ways they were supposed to? What were they not reading when they accessed literary culture through ‘family editions’? And what happened to the poems that repeatedly ended up, in ‘castrated’ form, in such books?
All welcome. For tickets, please sign up here: