“Awkwardness Arm’D”: The Poetics of Wartime Shame

A talk by Lily Gurton-Wachter, Smith College.

What does it feel like to live in a nation at war? This talk will explore Romantic investigations of complicity, shame, and responsibility at the turn of the nineteenth century in England. Poetic and political texts by Anna Barbauld, William Blake, Charlotte Smith, and Percy Shelley suggest that, along with nationalism and pride in one’s country, war brought shame, embarrassment, discomfort, and what Blake called “awkwardness arm’d.” These writers repeatedly turn to poetic figures that link blood shed on the landscape and blood that rises to the cheeks of civilians to articulate an experience of blushing for one’s nation. These figures of borrowed blushing evoke a communal wartime awkwardness and shame that attaches to landscape and cityscape rather than to any single person.











When: Fri., Apr. 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm
Where: Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Ave.
212-817-7000
Price: Free
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A talk by Lily Gurton-Wachter, Smith College.

What does it feel like to live in a nation at war? This talk will explore Romantic investigations of complicity, shame, and responsibility at the turn of the nineteenth century in England. Poetic and political texts by Anna Barbauld, William Blake, Charlotte Smith, and Percy Shelley suggest that, along with nationalism and pride in one’s country, war brought shame, embarrassment, discomfort, and what Blake called “awkwardness arm’d.” These writers repeatedly turn to poetic figures that link blood shed on the landscape and blood that rises to the cheeks of civilians to articulate an experience of blushing for one’s nation. These figures of borrowed blushing evoke a communal wartime awkwardness and shame that attaches to landscape and cityscape rather than to any single person.