Deliberative discourse, Bakhtinian poetics, and Felicia Hemans: Toward reconceptualizing an interpretive certainty
This dissertation explores the kairotic nature and the deliberative structure of Felicia Hemans's early nineteenth-century poetry and the more concrete interpretive certainty that might be reached when this "outer" rhetorical relationship is considered in tandem with a Bakhtinian literary analysis of the "inner" relationship that exists between the author and her aesthetic. The study explores the ways in which the usefulness of a rhetorical lens reaches far beyond traditional literary analysis. This study further argues that a literary-rhetorical consideration of Hemans's deliberative and Aristotelian topoi will allow scholars to free themselves from the constraints of the narrow and biographically-based literary analyses that have been popular, despite their admitted limitations, since Hemans's death. My central thesis is that, in order to understand Hemans's whole aesthetic, scholars must not limit their perspectives to a single lens. Indeed, in order to gain any interpretive certainty of this often misunderstood Romantic author, we must evaluate Hemans's work on its own merits, even as we embrace a theoretical lens through which we might more fully measure her more identifiable impetuses as "artist." An underlying warrant to this study is that rhetorical and literary analyses must be used concurrently in order to achieve any evaluative certainty in literature.
In chapter one, I provide the reader with the significance of the problem to be studied, the relevant literature related to the problematics associated with any Hemans study and the challenges inherent in approaching a work of "art," in this case poetry, with a rhetorical perspective. I conclude chapter one with a description of and argument for the methods used in the various analyses. In chapters two, three, four, and five, I analyze the deliberative structure of four poems from each of Hemans's "periods" and similarly conclude with a "Bakhtinian" reading of each. Each chapter concludes with a brief summary that seeks to reconceptualize both Hemans's work and what I argue is the existing dichotomy of rhetorical and literary analyses in terms of that sample poem. Chapter two examines the one-hundred-and-one stanza poem Modern Greece, A Poem and sets the standard for evaluative certainty to which the successive chapters will adhere. Chapter three explores the deliberative and literary nuances of the infamous poem "Homes of England." Chapter four analyzes the poem "Woman on the Field of Battle." In chapter five, I examine how a deliberative, rhetorical reading of the kairotic "outer" nature of one of Hemans's last poems, "Thoughts During Sickness," might be enhanced with a pairing of Bakhtin's philosophies of art and the "inner" author. I bring the study to a close with chapter six as I conclude with an overview of the analyses provided in preceding chapters, present implications of the study, and finally propose areas for future analysis—as suggested by the study and its myriad of implications.