Megan Burke, Fordham University
Megan Burke is currently completing her first year of her PhD at Fordham University, where she primarily focuses on material and psychological aspects of the Victorian novel. She is most interested in finding physical signals for mental complexities, whether these occur in eighteenth century poems about love Šsickness or in the late Victorian gothic fiction that mostly attracts her attention. Before attending Fordham, she taught English Literature for four years at Buffalo Seminary, the oldest independent school for girls in Western New York, she obtained her Master's in English Literature at the University at Buffalo, and she completed her Bachelor's at Georgetown University.
Pregnancy in Poetry: the Embodiment of Fear in Eighteenth Century Poetry
While some eighteenth century poets responded to the anxiety of pregnancy by mocking it from a distance, others, depending on gender, medical knowledge, and the influence of capitalism, embraced its corporeal aspects. Each attitude, including the overt recognition of the body's ability to create, conveys doubts about absence and loss. "Sarah Hazard's Love Letter" by John Ellis and "To an Unborn Infant" by Isabella Kelly, respectively ignore or address the female body, but in both, the children remain unseen, as do the father figures, while the authors' anxieties come to the surface. By closely reading these poems together, one discovers layers of hidden cultural context. Ellis' and Kelly's different depictions of pregnancy reflect cultural shifts from the Classic view of women as deformed and inverted versions of men to the later eighteenth century attitude that women were mothers, who therefore demanded respect. Commercial writing served as subtle propaganda, quietly affecting opinions towards women. Rather than being utterly disgusted with the female body, men became experts on it and often even married their patients. Such divergent practices combined to influence Kelly's poetry, which is both a self-examination and reflection of the lessening repugnance of femininity, and they help explain her distinction from Ellis' work.