SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Lyric Orientalism and and the Invention of World Poetry (LINKS Event)


Date: 16 May 2018Time: 3:15 PM

Finishes: 16 May 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4426

Type of Event: Seminar

Speaker: Prof Virginia Jackson (UC Irvine)


The influence of Sir William Jones' eighteenth-century translations "from the Asiatick languages" on the history of Anglo-Romanticism is well known, but the impact of Jones' translations on American poetics has gone unacknowledged. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's invention of the American version of Comparative Literature at Harvard in the 1840s was deeply indebted to Jones and to his "imitations," particularly to his lyricization of Romantic verse genres through reference to Oriental "primitive" expression. In fact, Edgar Allan Poe's famous attack on Longfellow (known as "the little Longfellow war") took up one of Longfellow's imitations of one of Jones' imitations as prime target. Current theories of "World Poetry" (and of the Western lyric) have a lot to learn from this American literary moment "at the dawn of the modern era itself."


Professor Virginia Jackson is Chair of Rhetoric and Critical Theory in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature at UC Irvine. She is the author of Dickinson’s Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading (Princeton UP, 2005), which won the Christian Gauss Prize and the MLA Prize for a First Book. Her next book, Before Modernism: The Invention of American Poetry is forthcoming from Princeton UP. In her current project, she is thinking about versions of nineteenth-century America in the work of a few contemporary black poets in the US. She is one of the founding members of the Historical Poetics working group.