Charlotte Turner Smith: A harbinger of romantic poetry?

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Faculty of Education, Department of Foreign Language Education, Turkey

Approval Date: 2018




Charlotte Smith, a prolific and prominent poet of the late 18th century, inspired many of her successors with the innovative poetic genres and subject matter that she introduced. Although her literary legacy was largely forgotten for centuries, she has been recently rediscovered by feminist scholars of Romanticism and is nowadays being cited as the first Romantic poet. Despite the many innovations in her poetry, this study, however, intends to problematize this labelling, by arguing that Smith’s poetry fails to adhere to important Romantic principles. Hence, this research focuses on the concepts of transcendence and Burkean sublime, sensibility and subjectivity to reveal her complex relationship to Romantic preoccupations and tradition of poetry. The discussion of the poems is preceded by an introductory chapter about Smith’s legacy and life as biographical references to her painful life are integral to any comprehensive discussion of Smith’s poetry. Following the introduction, a theoretical chapter on the concept of Romanticism lays the foundations for the discussion. The close reading of the poems reveals that owing to her lack of formal education, Smith does not have the philosophical background that many of her male counterparts do; thus, the worldview presented in the poems is mostly superficial, lacking the profundity that is predominant in later, canonical Romantic poetry. However, her poetry does reveal the ethics of feminine sensibility, the complexity of the female dissent and the fluidity of subjectivity, which insights make her one of the most important and interesting lyrical voices of her time.