Writing

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Sarah Siddons Audio Files:  During her lifetime (1755–1831), English actress Sarah Siddons was an international celebrity acclaimed for her performances of tragic heroines. We know what she looked like—an endless number of artists asked her to sit for portraits and sculptures—but what of her famous voice, reported to cause audiences to hyperventilate or faint? The Sarah Siddons Audio Files takes readers on a journey to discover how the actor’s voice actually sounded. Bringing together archival discoveries, sound recording history, and media theory, Judith Pascoe shows how Romantic poets’ preoccupation with voices is linked to a larger cultural anxiety about the voice’s ephemerality.

 

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The Hummingbird Cabinet: In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the activity of collecting became democratized and popularized, allowing all kinds of people to become caught up in the collecting obsessions of the period: birds, books, Napoleonic relics, botanical specimens, Egyptiana, and fossils. Pascoe links the collecting craze during the period with the subsequent fetishization of romantic poets and their possessions, revealing the extent to which an ongoing fascination with material objects―with Keats’s hair and Shelley’s guitar, for example―helped to produce an enduring image of these poets as spiritual emissaries of a less materialistic age.

 

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Romantic Theatricality: In a significant reinterpretation of early Romanticism, Judith Pascoe shows how English literary culture in the 1790s came to be shaped by the theater and by the public’s fascination with theater. Pascoe focuses on a number of intriguing historical occurrences of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, emphasizing how writers in all areas of public life relied upon theatrical modes of self-representation. Pascoe adduces as evidence the theatrical posturing of the Della Cruscan poets, the staginess of the Marie Antoinette depicted in women’s poetry, and the histrionic maneuverings of participants in the 1794 treason trials. Such public events as the treason trials also linked the newly powerful role of female theatrical spectator to that of political spectator.