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Julia F. Saville, Victorian Soul-Talk: Poetry, Democracy, and the Body Politic

Victorian Soul-Talk

Poetry, Democracy, and the Body Politic

Julia F. Saville

This book explores the decades between the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1884 when British poets such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Arthur Hugh Clough, Robert Browning, and Algernon Charles Swinburne, along with their transatlantic contemporary Walt Whitman, defended the civil rights of disenfranchised souls as Western nations slowly evolved toward modern democracies with shared transnational connections. For in the decades before the new science of psychology transformed the soul into the psyche, poets claimed the spiritual well-being of the body politic as their special moral responsibility. Exploiting the rich aesthetic potential of language, they created poetry with striking sensory appeal to make their readers experience the complex effects of political decisions on public spirit.  Within contexts such as Risorgimento Italy, Civil War America, and Second Empire France, these poets spoke from their souls to the souls of their readers to reveal insights that eluded the prosaic forms of fiction, essay, and journalism.

Julia F. Saville was educated at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and Stanford University, USA, and is currently Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. She is the author of A Queer Chivalry: the Homoerotic Asceticism of Gerard Manley Hopkins (2000).

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