Patriotism and Dissent: Anna Laetitia Barbauld and the Pleasures of the Imagination
We are pleased to present the annual Memorial Lecture, commemorating the work of our former lecturer Dr Robin Dix. This year’s lecture will look at the literary relationship between Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Mark Akenside.
In 1794 the Dissenting poet Anna Laetitia Barbauld published an introductory essay for a new edition of Mark Akenside’s The Pleasures of the Imagination (1744). Barbauld had long admired Akenside – his influence is evident in her magnificent early poem ‘A Summer Evening’s Meditation’ – but Akenside’s civilised poetics held a particular appeal in the turbulent years following the French Revolution. In this lecture I will discuss why Akenside’s celebration of the ‘natural and moral advantages resulting from a sensible and well-formed imagination’ was so prized by Dissenters such as Barbauld. The pleasures of the imagination had, for them, become increasingly important, and were central to their hopes for a literary and patriotic future in which poetry could transform a country riven by political and denominational differences.
About the Robin Dix Memorial Lecture
The annual Robin Dix memorial lecture commemorates the life and work of a Lecturer in the Department of English Studies, Dr Robin Dix (1956-2007). Dr Dix was a specialist in eighteenth-century writing and thought, particularly the writings of Mark Akenside, the Newcastle physician and poet. Previous memorial lectures have been delivered by Professor Fiona Price (University of Chichester), Professor Ewan Fernie, Professor Harriet Guest (University of York), Professor Nicholas Roe (University of St Andrews), and Emeritus Professor Andrew Sanders (Durham University).
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