Byron’s Pharmacopoeia

Lesley Thulin // In his 17-canto opus Don Juan (1819-24), Lord Byron adapts the epic form to modernity. The Horatian epigraph, “Difficile est proprie communia dicere,” announces that he will speak of common things, presaging the poem’s engagement with the ordinary. Byron takes up family conflict, courtship, and ritualized reading, for instance, and rejects the…

Aging Romanticism

Lesley Thulin // William Wordsworth’s pronouncement that the child is the “father of the Man” is perhaps the clearest articulation of British Romanticism’s revaluation of childhood (Wordsworth “My Heart Leaps Up” 7). For Wordsworth, childhood holds critical purchase over adulthood, priming the mind’s receptivity to nature as well as the creative faculty. Wordsworth’s autobiographical epic…

Wordsworth and ‘The Companionable Leech’

Lesley Thulin // John Stuart Mill famously suggested literature’s therapeutic potential when he declared William Wordsworth’s poetry “a medicine for my state of mind” (Mill 85). According to his Autobiography (1874), Mill read Wordsworth during a bout of “habitual depression” and was immediately cured (86). For Mill, Wordsworth’s poetry expressed “states of feeling, and of…

‘Get Out,’ or ‘The Modern Frankenstein’

Lesley Thulin // In the director’s commentary for Get Out (2017), Jordan Peele evokes the literary tradition of British Romanticism to describe what it’s like to be Black in America. “This movie is sort of meant to be my take on Frankenstein,” he explains. As an updated Gothic captivity narrative that incorporates a version of…

Reimagining Mary Toft’s Rabbit Births

Lesley Thulin // Centuries before “fake news” became a hashtag, a servant in Surrey, England emerged as a household name for convincing doctors that she had given birth to a litter of rabbits. Three months after the news broke in September of 1726, Mary Toft confessed to fabricating the story. Although Toft gained notoriety for devising…