S. Ernest Sprott Fellowship completion seminar: Jane Barker’s Poetry and the Experience of Friendship

Seminar/Forum

S. Ernest Sprott Fellowship completion seminar:   Jane Barker’s Poetry and the Experience of Friendship

Room E261, Ian Maxwell Room
John Medley

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T: +61 3 8344 5498

mcinnisd@unimelb.edu.au

S. Ernest Sprott Fellowship completion seminar:

Jane Barker’s Poetry and the Experience of Friendship

Marc Mierowsky

The loose collection of clerics and polemicists who defended the accession of William and Mary in 1688 did so by appealing directly to the experience of ‘the people.’ In their arguments, experience was not simply a rhetorical commonplace but the source for a common sense: the sine qua non for an individual’s moral determinations and the basis for building relationships between political subjects. In this paper I examine the role poetry played in conveying experience—in cultivating and indeed challenging common sense as a faculty of moral psychology and intersubjectivity. My intent is to gauge the ways poetry responded to rhetorical appeals that keyed a subject’s moral judgements to the development of the liberal state. In the opening section, these appeals are viewed through the works of Gilbert Burnet, whose analysis of friendship captures the way everyday experiences were internalised in order to secure the terms of the Revolution Settlement. The sections that follow uncover a potent challenge to this attempt at state formation in Jane Barker’s treatment of friendship. From the 1670s through to the 1720s, Barker initiated friendships through manuscript and print networks, exploring their import for the formation of political communities and examining the changing characters of those involved as she revised poems and embedded them throughout her later novels. The result is that poetry became an active participant in social relations, able to confront Whig political dominance locally and designed to preserve a realm sustained by the virtue ethics of an older order.

Image: Piero del Pollaiuolo, "Apollo and Daphne" (c.1470-80), National Gallery, London

Presenter

  • Dr Marc Mierowsky
    Dr Marc Mierowsky, S. Ernest Sprott Fellow