"Awkwardness Arm’d”: The Poetics of Wartime Shame

APR 21, 2017 | 4:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


4406: English Student Lounge


April 21, 2017: 4:00 PM




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.