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Material spirits and immaterial forms: the immaterial materiality of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's abolitionist poetry.

Material culture methodologies have predominantly focused on the novel, with scholars either tracking the use and historical significance of objects that populate a narrative or examining the book itself as a consumer product that circulates in the marketplace. Few of the foundational studies of literary "things" have extended their analyses to poetry and poetic form. This absence raises several compelling questions about the very nature of literary materiality. Is the novel the only literary genre that can be designated as "material" or engage with thing theory? How does literary form challenge the materiality of the printed object? Is form itself "material," or does it call for a fusion of the material and the immaterial? In How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (2012), Leah Price gestures toward the ambiguous materiality of literature. Although Price's study is concerned with narrative and the novel as a physical object, her struggle to parse out the difference between the terms book and text exemplifies the nebulous category of materiality. Admitting that it takes considerable linguistic gymnastics to distinguish the two terms as independent from each other, book as decidedly "material" and text as "immaterial," Price concludes that the two terms signify both objects and abstractions. The "book-object" or "text" is "grounded in a material substance or linked with a lofty abstraction, [and] the same object bound by its medium is credited with the power to free its users." (1) The material object or "thing" of the book is thus dependent on the immaterial power of the text to transport its readers to the imaginary worlds bound within the pages. Price's study is only one of the most recent to grapple with questions connected to the rise of thing theory and material culture studies. Bill Brown, whose work in many ways initiated the materialist turn, hints at the interpretative gaps or oversights that can result from a strictly object-centered methodology. As Brown asserts, this renewed interest in the "real" and objects from the external world presupposes that the "external world" is in fact stable and uniformly experienced. For Brown, the term thing itself does not suggest something concrete hut rather connotes a sense of liminality, "hover[ing] over the threshold between the nameable and unnameable, the figurable and unfigurable." (2) John Plotz points to this curious immateriality of material objects, in particular literary objects, when he briefly discusses the Bible as book-object. "Suspended between material and spiritual form," the Bible is for Plotz an instructive example of how all books "are a mixture, in varying proportions, of the common stuff of earth and the ethereal stuff that flows through men's minds." (3) Price, Brown, and Plotz, despite their purported focuses on material culture, all raise questions about the vexed materiality of literature.

While material culture methodologies are useful in helping scholars think about the "thingness" of texts and the things within texts, I argue that something is lost when we stop searching for the immaterial influences that shape the creation, presentation, and circulation of literature and, in particular, poetry. Rather than emphasizing the materiality of literature, I propose that we turn to its immaterial materiality. Although printed characters, metrical and rhythmic arrangements, syntactical constructions, paratext, and the very weight and tangible texture of paper between our fingers suggest a materiality that cannot be denied, the transportative potential of literature, its ability to embody abstract ideals and present a multitude of meanings for a wide variety of readers, implies that even the physical object of the book is infused with immaterial significance. Nineteenth-century literature is a particularly fruitful subject for a methodology that bridges the gap between material and immaterial culture because the Victorian world was one in which the borders of the "real" were constantly being blurred by technological advancements and popular religious practices that relied on the premise that unseeable forces informed and shaped everyday life. With the laying of the transatlantic cable in 1858, national boundaries and national literatures became more permeable than ever, with "invisible" messages crisscrossing the Atlantic and facilitating the already burgeoning transatlantic book and periodical trade. At the same time that the telegraph was creating transnational communities, the transatlantic popular phenomenon of spiritualism suggested an even more dramatic border crossing. Spiritualism not only mimicked the telegraph with the spectacle of table rapping, but it also encouraged believers to think of the world as borderless; as the ultimate boundary, that between the living and the dead, breaks down, earthly boundaries seemed to follow suit. The trope of spiritualism maps onto the growing transnationalism of the nineteenth century and also provides a compelling example of the role of immaterial materiality in nineteenth-century culture. In different ways, spiritualism and transnational print culture provide instances of immaterial materiality. A system of beliefs that hinges on the ability of living mediums to transmit messages and sometimes even objects from ghostly communicants, spiritualism encourages a more expansive conceptualization of community, one that links individuals regardless of the earthly boundaries of time, space, and nation and demands a fluid notion of materiality.

I suggest that poetic form functions in a similar fashion to spiritualism. Just as spiritualism relies on the marriage of the real and the unreal, the concrete and the ephemeral, I argue that poetic form requires a seemingly paradoxical combination of that which is formal, structured, and "material" and that which is inherently abstract. Poetry challenges settled notions of thing theory and material culture because its printed materiality is often subsumed by its meaning or by the impact it has on its reader. Beyond advocating that material culture studies embrace the liminal status of literature as simultaneously material and immaterial, I contend that poetry and poetic form especially require this new immaterial materiality. While Linda K. Hughes, Kathryn Ledbetter, and Meredith McGill have pointed our attention to the centrality of poetry to periodical studies and print culture, the field of material culture studies has yet to fully engage with poetic form. (4) Many scholars are interested in the act of reading nineteenth-century poetry as a physiological practice; however, I am concerned not with the bodily impact of reading but rather with the physicality of the poem itself, taking into account its various print formats and published forms. Thinking about poetic form as material in this way can build a bridge between material culture studies and literary theoretical or formalist approaches, methodologies that have traditionally been understood as antithetical. But why has the materiality of the poem been understood as something apart from the materiality of the book? The genre has resisted material culture approaches because the very nature of poetic form challenges the material-immaterial binary. Perhaps the best evidence of this is the fact that discussions of the materiality of poetry often focus on the impact of meter or rhythm on the bodily rhythms and senses of the reader. (5) By examining the embodiment or incorporation of poetic form through meter, rhythm, and the nineteenth-century practices of memorization and recitation, such studies highlight the ability of lyric poetry to be at once material marks on the page and an immaterial force that has the potential to catalyze real physical sensations within the reader. While this is certainly one way to understand the materiality of poetry, the materiality of poetic form goes beyond the impact of reading on the body of the reader. Are different poetic forms more material or immaterial than others? What is the relation of poetic form to print?

The abolitionist poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning presents a case study for immaterial material poetics. Reading all three abolitionist poems, "Hiram Powers' Greek Slave" (1850), "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" (1848), and "A Curse for a Nation" (1855), against the backdrop of EBB's position within a transnational literary, political, and spiritualist community highlights the complications that poetic form poses for traditional understandings of materiality. (6) Like the transatlantic phenomenon of nineteenth-century spiritualism, a system of belief that insists on both the presence of immaterial spirits and the ability of these immaterial beings to conduct material communication with the living, EBB's political poetry relies on both material and immaterial evidence and forms to convince its readers of the horrors of slavery and also to advocate a more cosmopolitan worldview. (7) EBB was allegedly inspired by immaterial forces to discuss physical and material objects, actions, and conditions in a genre that is simultaneously material and immaterial, and her political poetry reveals the limits of material culture methodologies, reminding us that what is absent, abstracted, and unseen can be just as significant as the concrete "things" before our eyes. Infused with spiritualist discourse and written by a poet who herself existed in the public imagination as somewhere between a woman and an angelic shade, EBB's poetry demands a reading practice that goes beyond the material surface and examines the poetics of immaterial culture. By bridging the material-immaterial binary, EBB's political verse encourages a more expansive and inclusive vision of the global community, one in which national borders and sympathetic boundaries are permeated. Thus, a turn toward the immaterial materiality of poetry not only complements and extends current scholarship in material culture studies to a genre that has been overlooked but also allows us to consider the radical potential of the immaterial for notions of nationhood and the creation of transatlantic communities.

The Poet as Transnational Prophet: EBB's Spiritualist Visions

In the 1833 Monthly Repository article "What Is Poetry?," John Stuart Mill defines the genre as one that depends on the poet's ability to concretize the emotions that exist in his or her imagination. According to Mill, poetry "embod[ies] itself in symbols which are the nearest possible representations of the feeling in the exact shape in which it exists in the poet's mind." (8) Using both physical and abstract language, Mill's conception of poetry emphasizes its status as simultaneously material and immaterial. This understanding of verse aligns with EBB's own philosophy of composition. While Mill leaves the source of inspiration in the mind of the poet, EBB suggests that there is an external and immaterial force that calls on the poet to write. Such a view of the poet as divine vessel is clear in EBB's explicitly religious poetry and is rearticulated in Aurora Leigh. While scholars have examined EBB's representation of the poet as inspired prophet in the context of the Victorian sage tradition, studies of her as a religious and not spiritual poet tend to focus on her identification as a dissenting Christian, gesturing only briefly, if at all, to the spiritualist discourse that clearly informs her poetic mission. (9) In order to glean how closely intertwined EBB's spiritual beliefs were with her conceptualization of her role as a poet as well as her understanding of herself as a voice speaking out to a transnational audience, one must examine how the discourse of immaterial materiality infused all aspects of her life.

Unlike many female poets of the nineteenth century who claimed that their moral and spiritual authority came from their unique position as women, EBB's work suggests that producing poetry is in itself a spiritual practice and one that is dependent not on gender but rather on divine inspiration. Not only recent scholars but also Victorian readers and critics imagine EBB as a visionary poet. R. H. Horne emphasizes the prophetic qualities of her poetics in his 1844 collection of literary criticism The Spirit of the Age. In "Miss E. B. Barrett and Mrs. Norton," Horne argues that EBB's poems are "troubled with a sense of mortality," while the poet "aspires to identify herself with etherial [sic] existences." Horne depicts EBB as a nearly immaterial presence, stating that she writes "like an inspired priestess ... whose individuality is cast upward in divine afflatus, and dissolved and carried off in the recipient breath of angelic ministrants." (10) Stripped of her earthly persona and "dissolved" into the heavens, EBB becomes a bodiless spirit whose sole purpose is to transmit a spiritual message. EBB not only is depicted as a prophet or priestess but is also likened to a medium of sorts. American critics likewise emphasized EBB's spiritual poetics. According to Edmund Clarence Stedman, the poet is a medium who is adored by her readers because "the revelation" of her "burning heart" allows "grosser beings [to] have glimpses of the purity with which we invest our conceptions of disenthralled spirits in some ideal sphere." (11) Here EBB's body not only is transparent but also transmits the visions of both readers and otherworldly spirits. As a poet, she becomes a conduit for both the material and immaterial worlds.

Horne and Stedman are not the only critics on both sides of the Atlantic to render EBB immaterial or bodiless as a woman in order to discuss her status as a poet. In his 1853 Six Months in Italy, the American George Stillman Hillard describes EBB as a passionate soul, writing that he had "never seen a human frame which seemed so nearly a transparent veil for a celestial and immortal spirit. She is a soul of fire enclosed in a shell of pearl." (12) Transparent and iridescent, a delicate object of beauty and an inspired angel, EBB is material and immaterial, real and supernatural. The comparison of EBB to fire is repeated by Sophia Hawthorne, the wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne, in her travelogue Notes in England and Italy (1869). After meeting EBB and Robert Browning at their villa in Florence, Hawthorne notes EBB's pale and fragile countenance and reflects that the poet "lives so ardently that her delicate earthly vesture must soon be burnt up and destroyed by her soul of pure fire." Hawthorne even calls the poet "angelic" and likens her to a "seraph in her flaming worship of heart" before concluding, "How she remains visible to us, with so little admixture of earth, is a mystery." (13) The continued pairing of immateriality with fire imagery suggests not a feeble figure but rather one who is animated by divine power and inspiration. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, flames often accompany theophanies, or the visible manifestations of God to humanity. Thus, by referring to EBB's soul as inflamed, nineteenth-century critics, readers, and acquaintances evoke a tradition of prophecy and divine presence that supports her own conceptualization of the poet as a spiritual figure, much as Robert Browning's invocation of her as a fiery celestial muse in Book 1 of The Ring and the Book does. (14)

Despite EBB's adopted status as a prophet-poet and her conflation of poetic form with specifically spiritual purposes, her refusal to affiliate herself with a particular religious institution has long been a topic of interest to scholars of her poetry. (15) Cynthia Scheinberg suggests that it is this very ecumenicalism that enabled "the quite original Christian theological work she sought to perform in her poetry" (p. 67). Indeed, EBB's spiritual beliefs, as exhibited both in her personal correspondence and in her published works, appear to have been more influenced by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg than Christian dogma. In the writings of Swedenborg and later in the discourse and practice of spiritualism, EBB found confirmation of not only her belief in an immaterial spirituality but also her conviction that the immaterial and material worlds were not so very far apart. In an 1853 letter to her friend and fellow Swedenborgian Isa Blagden, EBB writes of Swedenborg's philosophy, "His scheme of the natural and the spiritual worlds and natures appears to me, in an internal light of its own, divine and true.... I receive it as a self-evident verity of which one wonders, 'Why did I not think of that before?' ... He is the only thinker who throws any light on the so-called spiritual manifestations which are increasing on all sides of us." (16)

Although EBB's acceptance of Swedenborgianism clearly anticipates her interest and involvement in the popular practice of spiritualism, it is also instrumental in her shift from explicitly spiritual poetry to her social-protest poems. EBB's religious convictions married an understanding of the immaterial world with a desire for material spiritual experiences. In a letter dated March 3, 1845, EBB declares, "To the 'Touch not, taste not, handle not' of the strict religionists, I feel inclined to cry, 'Touch, taste, handle, all things are pure.'" (17) This decidedly physical and material language initially seems to contradict her adherence to Swedenborgian teachings, yet her assertion that "all things are pure" fits neatly within the mystic's notion of correspondences. In Arcana Caelestia (1749-1756), Swedenborg explains the theory of correspondences as follows: "There is a spiritual world, and this distinct from the natural world; for there exists a correspondence between spiritual things, and the things that come forth from spiritual things in natural ones are representations. They are called correspondences." He elaborates further that all "natural things represent spiritual things" and that there is nothing natural that does not derive from a "spiritual cause prior to itself." (18) By suggesting that all natural objects are in fact infused with and created by spiritual forces, Swedenborg's teachings allow EBB to see the material world of the nineteenth century in a new light, leading her to view human interactions and institutions as suitable subject matter for her spiritual verses. (19) In a March 1855 letter to Mary Russell Mitford, EBB describes the new project that eventually became Aurora Leigh. EBB writes that she intends to take her inspiration "from the times, 'hot and hot,' " in order to demonstrate "how the practical & real (so called) is but an external evolution of the ideal & spiritual--that it is from inner to outer, ... whether in life, morals, or art." (20) Under the influence of Swedenborg, EBB shifts her role from simply that of a poet-prophet in spiritual terms to that of a social prophet. (21) Since EBB herself declared that as a poet she possessed the ability to negotiate between the material and spiritual planes, it is not surprising that she would translate this power into a duty to serve as the "mediating poetic agent between a debased, fallen world and a harmonious, transcendent order" (David, p. 99).

This increasing centrifugal focus, moving from the inner or immaterial to the outer material world, may also be applied to EBB's increasingly transnational and global subject matter. Nineteenth-century spiritualism encouraged believers to think beyond earthly boundaries and limitations. A transnational reading of EBB's interest in spiritualism is easily supported because her exposure to the popular phenomenon came largely from her acquaintances on the Continent as well as her American correspondents. (22) Volume 6 of The Brownings' Correspondence, which covers the time span of June 1842 to March 1848, is punctuated with repeated references to the Swedish mystic, and as the twenty-two volume collection continues, these moments only become more prevalent. EBB not only refers her friends to the works of Swedenborg in many of her letters, but she also chronicles the intense interest in spiritualism that many of her English and American acquaintances in Florence shared. By the twentieth volume, which includes correspondence from November 1853 to November 1854, EBB's correspondence is dominated by accounts of seances and discussions of the growing fad for table rapping in the United States. For EBB, spiritualism ushered in a new antimaterialist age and erased divisions of nation, race, class, and gender as well as the barrier between life and death. Thus, EBB's immaterial material poetics developed not only alongside her theory and practice of spiritualism but also as her position within a transnational community of poets, authors, and artists became more prominent. These twin influences are evident in her abolition poems.

The Problem of Materiality in EBB's "Hiram Powers' Greek Slave"

In 1844, the American sculpture Hiram Powers's The Greek Slave became one of the most famous and hotly debated sculptures of the mid-nineteenth century. A life-sized marble nude whose hands are chained in front of her body and whose face displays a stoic expression of passivity, The Greek Slave juxtaposes notions of classical beauty with a narrative of violent debasement. On the one hand decried as pornographic and erotic and on the other as spiritually uplifting, Powers's artwork and the controversy surrounding its meaning became an international sensation. (23) As Joy S. Kasson notes, the statue reached "an unprecedented audience," traveling on an American tour in 1848, appearing in the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London in 1851, and eventually being displayed to visitors in Powers's studio in Florence. (24) Although EBB noted its first English exhibition in 1846, it was not until she visited Powers's Florentine studio in May 1847 that she first saw the statue in person, and her poetic response to the statue was not published until the release of the 1850 edition of Poems. Echoing the reception of the statue that inspired the poem, EBB's "Hiram Powers' Greek Slave" has produced a similarly conflicted reaction among readers and literary critics. (25) While a racialized reading is hard to avoid given the subject of the sonnet, the debate over whether EBB intended to celebrate or condemn Powers's statue is of less significance to this study than is the formal experiment she conducts through the composition of the poem.

Using the highly structured and "material" form of the sonnet, EBB systematically deconstructs the sculpture through her ekphrastic exploration of its abstract meaning and cultural significance. Ekphrasis itself suggests that poetic form has the potential to capture the materiality of an object or artwork, rendering the poem's inspiration into an abstraction through the layering of artistic forms. Such an interpretation of the poem becomes even more provocative when read against the immaterial spiritualist discourse that surrounded The Greek Slave even before EBB composed her poem. Sculpted according to an aesthetic theory informed by Swedenborg's notion of correspondences and the spiritual body, the statue itself is a materialization of spiritualist discourse. Similar to EBB's view of poetic form and its prophetic possibilities, Powers's artistic philosophy revolved around the potential for the plastic arts to bridge the gap between the natural and spiritual spheres. In a letter to EBB, Powers, a practicing spiritualist and reader of Swedenborg, explains his theory of art, contending that "art should be, in aim, spiritual and animal--the nude statue should be an unveiled soul" in which "transience and permanence should be in perfect equipoise: the two worlds visible and apprehensible at the same moment." (26) While "transience" and ephemerality are not characteristics one would typically apply to marble statues, Powers's understanding of sculpture as simultaneously material and immaterial makes it a particularly appropriate subject for poetry, a sister art that is similarly abstract and concrete. Powers even gestures to the link between the materiality of poetry and the physicality of sculpture, writing to EBB in 1853, "I have been in the midst of a poem, composed in plaster, and of such poor materials as my dull brain could supply. The plaster has not smoked under the lire of genius, as I can almost suppose the paper to have done under your own glowing pen" (BC 17: 306, emphasis in the original). Here pen and paper, chisel and plaster become one and the same as the poem and the statue are collapsed into a single art form. By transforming the statue into an abstraction while maintaining the compact and rigid structure of the sonnet, EBB challenges our ability to designate poetry as either material or immaterial, signaling instead its immaterial materiality.

Even before EBB's poem defers the materiality of Powers's statue, the spiritualizing discourse that followed the nude on its transatlantic tour subsumed its physical presence, anticipating EBB's immaterial material poetics. A spiritualist pamphlet, written by the popular Unitarian minister Orville Dewey, circulated with the statue during its American tour in 1848. This review of the sculpture focuses not on the material object but rather on the inspiration that it should leave with the viewer, asserting that it is the immaterial message and not the medium through which it is given that is important. According to Dewey, the truly receptive viewer would cease to see the nude at all because he or she would be overwhelmed by the spiritual meaning behind the artwork: "The Greek Slave is clothed all over with sentiment; sheltered, protected by it from every profane eye. Brocade, cloth of gold, could not be a more complete protection than the vesture of holiness in which she stands." Dewey further states that Powers has been able to "make the spiritual reign over the corporeal; to sink form in ideality; in this particular case, to make the appeal to the soul entirely control the appeal to the sense." (27) Here Dewey seeks to evacuate the physical presence of the nude in order to emphasize the alleged "holiness" and divinity that it is veiled in.

Unlike Dewey, EBB's goal is not to spiritualize the figure but rather transform the cold marble into a reminder of the horrors of slavery. What makes "Hiram Powers' Greek Slave" a powerful example of immaterial material poetics is that here EBB supplants the materiality or form of the statue through a poem that is itself very formal and structured and thus material. This is true of all poetic forms; however, the sonnet, as one of the most condensed and compact lyrical forms, is a particularly interesting choice for a poem whose subject is itself a material object. With fourteen decasyllabic lines and two prominent rhyme schemes, the Italian sonnet is one of the most contained poetic forms. EBB's poem is not a perfect but a modified Petrarchan sonnet. However, its adherence to formal rules and tight lyrical structure highlights its materiality and its status as an object or "thing." While I would argue that all literary form is material in the sense that it is takes shape through physical ink marks on paper, poetic form seems to me particularly material in its attention to metrical, rhythmic, and syntactical conventions.

EBB uses the form of the sonnet as well as geographical and architectural imagery to further emphasize the materiality of the poem as she deconstructs the figure of the Greek slave. The first four lines of the poem conflate the material and immaterial worlds:
   They say Ideal beauty cannot enter
   The house of anguish. On the threshold stands
   An alien Image with enshackled hands,
   Called the Greek Slave! (Works 2,11. 1-4)


While "Ideal beauty" and "alien Image" evoke a sense of the immaterial or transient, EBB places these shades within a firmly material setting. Unable to "enter the house," beauty is forced to remain on the "threshold." This attention to structures is furthered in the volta, or turn, of the sonnet. To bring the reader's attention back to the form of the poem, EBB ends the eighth line with the clause "Pierce to the centre." Although the line is enjambed and in sequence reads "Pierce to the centre,/Art's fiery finger!" by ending the volta in this way, she places the word "centre" at what is very nearly the middle or center of the poem itself (11. 8-9). Curiously, while the sonnet renders the statue more abstract by turning it into a poem, the language used to describe the artwork focuses on images of embodiment. The "enshackled hands" and "house of anguish" emphasize the very real and physical suffering that is at stake in the institution of slavery. Torn between "Ideal beauty" and a stark reminder of bodily imprisonment, EBB's poetics waver between material and immaterial impulses.

While EBB refers to the statue as a "fair stone" in the tenth line, after the octave, which sets up the warring impulses of the statue (something that is beautiful cannot at the same time represent anguish and horror) and subtly criticizes the "passionless perfection" that Powers intended to condemn and demonize the institution of slavery, the sestet moves away from the statue itself to the message that EBB conveys (11. 10, 5). Replacing the passivity of Powers's sculpture with violent actions, the speaker commands the artwork to "pierce," "break up," "Catch up," "strike and shame," and ultimately overthrow (11. 8, 9, 12, 13). The poem that was previously caught up in the notion of structure and form is now an order to dismantle and destroy. Coupled with this destructive language are hints at the prophetic and revolutionary potential of the statue. "Art's fiery finger" is reminiscent of EBB's own "soul of fire" and has the same ability to threaten or even curse the institution of slavery (1. 9).

In the final three lines of the poem, EBB not only emphasizes the transnational import of her message but also ends the sonnet with one last reference to immaterial materiality. Following a call to use the virtue of beauty "against man's wrong," EBB writes,
   Catch up in thy divine face, not alone
   East griefs but west,--and strike and shame the strong,
   By thunders of white silence, overthrown. (11. 12-14)


Emphasizing the divinity of the statue's expression and calling on it to embody the horrors of slavery both in the United States ("west") and the Turkish Empire ("east"), EBB highlights the material figure's ability to encompass immaterial "griefs." However, instead of ending the poem with the image of the statue, EBB concludes with perhaps the most abstract and immaterial experience of all, silence. Yet even this moment of complete absence has the potential for material results as the silent "thunder" threatens to overthrow the evils of slavery.

Hiram Powers's The Greek Slave and EBB's poetic response each raise compelling questions about the immaterial materiality of artistic and poetic form. Powers's statue is systematically dematerialized through the spiritualist discourse that informed both its creation and its critical reception. At the same time that it is spiritualized by commentators like Dewey, other nineteenth-century critics focused solely on the fleshiness of the statue and the very real physical anguish that it embodies. (28) EBB's sonnet similarly deconstructs the figure of the Greek slave; however, she uses the immateriality of the sculpture's message to highlight the materiality of her sonnet's poetic form. Read together, these works challenge settled notions of material culture, ultimately suggesting that it is only in the marriage of the material and immaterial that one can truly understand the significance of poetic, literary, and artistic form. By employing immaterial material poetics to decry the horrors of slavery and rebuke the transnational community that has turned a blind eye to its continuation, EBB suggests that the immaterial discourse of spiritualism has the potential to catalyze political change.

The Immaterial Materiality of EBB's "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" and "A Curse for a Nation"

The abolitionist poems "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" and "A Curse for a Nation" not only represent a shift in EBB's career and poetic philosophy but also present a compelling subject for an investigation of the poetics of immaterial materiality. Both poems were printed first within the pages of the American abolitionist gift book the Liberty Bell before being published in collected volumes of EBB's poetry, making them transatlantic in both their subject matter and initial circulation. While several scholars have examined this first print context in order to illuminate our understanding of EBB's transatlantic poetry as part of a larger transnational abolitionist discourse, what I am interested in is not their shifting print contexts but rather the fact that each adopts supernatural and immaterial motifs and images in order to condemn the tragically embodied and physical institution of slavery. (29) Both poems disrupt settled notions of material culture by employing spiritualist and immaterial images and discourse to discuss crucially corporeal and material social ills, suggesting that there is political potential in the supernatural or spiritual world that may not be present in more strictly realist depictions of international sins. While the black female speaker in "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" calls on the spirits of the Pilgrim fathers to curse her pursuers for the irreparable physical and emotional violence they have committed against her, the speaker/ poet in "A Curse for a Nation" is visited by an immaterial spirit who commands her to curse an entire nation for its corrupt political and social institutions. Thus, each poem not only demonstrates the role of spiritualist discourse in the creation of transnational literary dialogues and communities but also highlights the inseparability of the material and immaterial worlds.

As Marjorie Stone suggests, the spiritual and religious significance of EBB's first abolitionist poem has largely been neglected. Beyond its similarities to the slave theodicy in Frederick Douglass's 1845 slave narrative, a spiritual reading of "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" is signaled by the prophetic language that EBB employs to tell her tale. (30) As the slave woman warns her persecutors of their own curse, she becomes a prophet just as the poet acts as prophet by writing her poem as a warning to slaveholders; both poet and poetic subject become prophets by invoking curses against participants in the institution of slavery. Not only is the language of the poem prophetic, but the slave woman's story is punctuated by elements of the supernatural. In the second stanza of the poem, the speaker calls on the spirits of the Pilgrim fathers to materialize and listen to her plight. She calls out to the pilgrim shadows: "I see you come out proud and slow / From the land of the spirits pale as dew, / And round me and round me ye go!" (Works 1, 11. 9-11). Here EBB conflates race and immateriality when she refers to the spiritual world as one filled with souls that are "pale as dew." While the Pilgrims were white skinned, their ghosts are also "pale" and translucent, like dew. The fugitive woman can see and feel the "souls around [her] hum / In undertone to the ocean's roar" as she tells her story of imprisonment at the alleged seat of American freedom (11. 17-18).

Despite the poem's emphasis on the physical features of the slave woman with the repeated chorus of "I am black, I am black!" and references to the physical horrors of slavery, the narrator draws a distinction between the material reality of her earthly experience and the immaterial nature of her soul (1. 22). Here the body becomes merely a shell for the soul, as "blackness shuts like prison-bars./The poor souls crouch so far behind," and the soul has the potential to transcend its material cell (11. 39-40). When the narrator first meets her lover, she states, "And from that hour our spirits grew/As free as if unsold, unbought" (II. 64-65). It is only through immaterial spiritual communion that the speaker and her fellow slave can unite in any meaningful way. This separation between the body and the soul becomes even more apparent after the narrator bears a child who is the biracial result of gang rape by her white master and his men, who also murdered her lover. Although in many slave narratives or abolitionist stories the physical body of the slave child is seen by the mother as subordinate to its soul, a belief that often led to the desire to free the child's spirit from the damning institution of slavery through infanticide, EBB paints the child's body in an even more conflicted light. Here the child is reduced to an object: "I wore a child upon my breast ... / An amulet that hung too slack" (11. 107-108). (31) Likened to a talisman to keep its owner from danger, the child is a magical charm, a tragically ironic comparison since the very existence of the infant places its mother in more danger. Hanging "too slack," it cannot give her the protection or love that she needs to survive as a slave.

Perhaps the most haunting moment of spirit visitation comes after the speaker suffocates her infant son. After seeing "the master's look, that used to fall/On [her] soul like his lash ... or worse" in the face of the child, the speaker smothers it in a blanket against her breast (11. 144-145). The "master's look," an immaterial memory, has the material and physical impact of the whip on her body, and it is this feeling that catalyzes the murder of her son. After her child is dead, the narrator is "visited" by sinister white angels who are implicated in her crime. Laughing in a frenzy of madness, the narrator exclaims,
   Your fine white angels (who have seen
      Nearest the secret of God's power)
   And plucked my fruit to make them wine,
   And sucked the soul of that child of mine,
      As the humming-bird sucks the soul of the flower. (11. 157-161)


Linked to the spirits of the Pilgrims through the possessive pronoun "your," these demonic and disembodied "white" angels "sucked the soul" out of the child much as one would make wine to offer as a libation to a secretive and unyielding god. Here the angels become the culprits; it is as if they possessed the mother and forced her to commit infanticide. This interpretation is furthered by the speaker's declaration "Ha, ha, the trick of the angels white! / They freed the white child's spirit so" (11. 162-163).

However, despite the angels' actions, it is not until after the woman buries her child, who is finally made "black" by being "changed to black earth," that the immaterial spirit of her son is set free (I. 185). Even during this final act of love, the white angels torment the fugitive slave: "Through the forest-tops the angels far,/With a white sharp finger from every star,/Did point and mock at what was done" (11. 180-182). As the mother sings a song from her childhood at the graveside, the souls of the mother and child are joined:
   And thus we two were reconciled,
      The white child and black mother, thus;
   For, as I sang it soft and wild,
      The same song, more melodious,
   Rose from the grave whereon I sate.
   It was the dead child singing that,
   To join the souls of both of us. (11. 190-196).


Spirit visitation and communication is the only venue left open for the slave woman's redemption, and it is only through the materialization of her son's spirit through song that she can be forgiven and reunited with her son.

Although spiritualism serves as a redemptive force in "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point," in "A Curse for a Nation," it results in the compelled condemnation of national and international sins. Here EBB once more uses spiritual and supernatural images to confront earthly atrocities, but instead of ushering in otherworldly peace, the angel in "A Curse for a Nation" seeks revenge for worldly crimes. Although not as explicitly sinister as the "white angels" that torment the fugitive slave in "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point," the angel who comes to the speaker/poet in "A Curse for a Nation" is unrelenting in his demands. The angel's command to the speaker of the poem's prologue echoes biblical commands to both Moses and John of Revelation, as Karen Dieleman notes: '"Write! / Write a Nation's curse for me, / And send it over the Western Sea" (Works 4,11. 2-4). This demand is repeated three times; each time the speaker falters in her mission. First citing familial and emotional ties to "brothers ... across the sea," then reasoning that she cannot curse her western neighbor when her "heart is sore/For [her] own land's sins," and finally claiming that her innate weakness as a woman prevents her from such a task, the speaker is eventually compelled to write the curse when the angel explains that only a "curse from the depths of womanhood" can have the desired impact (11. 11, 18-19, 47). Here EBB most explicitly depicts, and perhaps embodies, the persona of the poet-prophet. In a scene that evokes images of the seance circle and trance or automatic writing, the speaker becomes the medium through which the angel sends its curse.

While a curse is a decidedly immaterial utterance, the fact that the angel insists that the curse be written instead of proclaimed or spoken raises compelling questions about the immaterial materiality of print and the written word. (32) The act of writing and the act of cursing are collapsed into a single action. This act of sending a curse across the ocean dramatizes the connection between transatlantic literary and spiritual transmissions that is at the heart of this study. After the prologue, the poem shifts into "The Curse," and each of the ten stanzas ends with the ambiguous line "This is the curse. Write." "This is the curse" is often the end of an enjambed line, suggesting that "the curse" is connected to the various social and political crimes that are related in each stanza. However, when the line stands on its own, the relationship between the curse and the command "write" is unclear. Is the curse enacted through writing, or is writing the curse itself? The subject of the declarative is also uncertain. Is this a reminder of the angel's presence, the poet/speaker's internalization of her task, or a command to the reader? The nebulous nature of the curse and the injunction to write only adds to the immaterial materiality of the poem and highlights EBB's conflation of spiritual and international communities.

In the preface to the 1860 volume Poems before Congress, which contains "A Curse for a Nation," EBB, a self-proclaimed "citizeness of the world," reconceptualizes transnational thinking as well as the concept of patriotism, encouraging her readers to adopt a more transnational consciousness. (33) Writing within her community of English and American expatriates in Florence, EBB challenges the traditional definition of nationalism or "love of country," writing, "if patriotism means the flattery of one's nation in every case, then the patriot, take it as you please, is merely a courtier; which I am not" (Works, 4: 553). Simultaneously alerting her contemporary reader to the potentially shocking political commentary contained within the collection and attempting to stem the tide of bitter criticism that she anticipated would come in the wake of publication, EBB's preface takes a poem previously understood as an overt criticism of the United States' continued legal acceptance of slavery and paints it in a new and distinctly transnational light. After arguing that it may be time to question the significance of the concept of "nationality," EBB poses the question, "if the man who does not look beyond this natural life is of a somewhat narrow order, what must be the man who does not look beyond his own frontier or his own sea?" (p. 554). Here EBB directly connects transnational and spiritual consciousness by implying that the boundary between the natural and spiritual worlds is no more impermeable than that dividing nations or cultures and that thinking beyond these earthly and political boundaries is just as significant to the future of one's virtue as is the ability to imagine what awaits beyond one's life on earth. EBB concludes her preface by confessing that she "dream[s] of the day when an English statesman shall arise with a heart too large for England" who will examine policies not simply from the perspective of how they will help his nation but rather how they will impact "the general humanity" (p. 554)

EBB's 1860 Poems before Congress presents a collection of poems that advocate a new transnational consciousness. Containing "Napoleon III in Italy," a poem that praises the French emperor for his initial support of the Italian nationalist movement, as well as "Italy and the World," a piece that is critical of England's policy of nonintervention in the Italian liberation movement, Poems before Congress is a decidedly cosmopolitan volume. While EBB's praise of Napoleon III did not sit well with many English readers, especially during a time when many Britons harbored fears of a French invasion, it is the final poem in the collection, EBB's slightly revised "A Curse for a Nation," that caused the most violent uproar among the British. Although EBB insisted that the nation being cursed was not England but rather the United States, readers and critics denounced both the poem and the poet as not only unpatriotic but possibly inspired by evil. Henry Chorley reacted to the spiritualist overtones of the poem, declaring that EBB had taken "to its extremity the right of 'insane prophet' to lose his head,--and to loose his tongue." (34) W. E. Aytoun, similarly suggested that "the poem was not the result of an angel's inspiration, as the opening stanza maintains, but of more diabolical impulses." He concluded that the poem must have come from "a pernicious little imp who had been turned out of Pandemonium for profanity" (Works 4: 599, 600n2). (35) Referring to the capital of Hell in Milton's Paradise Lost, Aytoun imagines EBB as worse than Satan, being too profane for even the citizens of Hell. EBB even reports in her private correspondence that William Howitt published an article in the Spiritual Magazine asserting that ever since the composition of Casa Guidi Windows, the poet had been "biologised by infernal spirits." (36) Mimicking the very content of the poem by suggesting that the poet must have been possessed by a malevolent spirit in order to write such criticism of her nation, responses to the piece collapsed "unpatriotic" or antinationalist speech with demonic possession.

In "A Curse for a Nation" spiritual and national border crossing go hand in hand. The "angel" chooses the poet/speaker to write the curse due to her ability to think transnationally. Although she claims she is "bound by gratitude, /By love and blood,/To brothers ... across the sea," she is still "heavy-souled for the sins" of her own nation (Works 4,11. 9-11, 32). It is this capacity to simultaneously examine her culture and look beyond her "own frontier" that makes her curse so potent. The spirit explains why the poet/speaker is able to write the curse: "because thou hast strength to see and hate/A foul thing done within thy gate" (11. 35-36; emphasis in the original). The act of cursing one's nation complicates the notion of allegiance and national belonging by suggesting that the figure who utters the curse somehow transcends national identity, thus making her impervious to the impact of the utterance.

The Poetics of Immaterial Culture

In both "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" and "A Curse for a Nation," EBB turns to spiritualist discourse and motifs in order to give authority to her voice as a poet-prophet and cast a critical eye on the transnational tragedies of slavery. Although her sonnet "Hiram Powers' Greek Slave" is perhaps the clearest example of her immaterial material poetics due to its form and inspiration, both of the Liberty Bell poems challenge the materiality of poetry through their use of immaterial forces and supernatural images to depict an institution that was built on the material of the human body. All three poems blur the division between the material and immaterial worlds, suggesting that spiritual influences are as potentially powerful and radical as were the political forces that shaped the transnational nineteenth century. EBB's conflation of matters of the flesh with matters of the spirit, poetic form with the form of a marble nude, and national boundaries with the boundary dividing the living from the dead raises questions about the materiality of poetry itself that could enhance our current understanding of material culture.

In Dreaming by the Book (1999), Elaine Scarry investigates the connection between daydreams and the imaginative flights of fancy that occur when reading literature. While such a topic may seem unconnected to the subject at hand, Scarry's analysis hints at the immaterial materiality of literature that informs my methodology. According to Scarry, "both prose and poem take place in the realm of the non-actual, but the poem is a few inches to the left of the narrative since it has its metrical feet in the material world." Because of the reliance of verse on meter and rhythm, it appears as more material, a designation that is furthered by the "immediate sensory content [of the poem], since the visual disposition of the lines and stanzas provides an at once apprehensible visual rhythm that is a prelude to ... the beautiful regulation of sound to come." (37) The material marks of poetic form anticipate the future creation of sound, a sensory experience that is at once material and immaterial as sound is at once the result of the physical vibration of the human eardrum and an invisible wave that cuts through the air. Through an examination of EBB's abolition poems, I extend Scarry's meditation on the "dreaminess" of literature to challenge the current climate of material culture studies, suggesting that it is not the materiality but rather the immaterial materiality of literature that demands further examination. While such a claim necessarily shifts the object-centered focus of material culture and thing theories, embracing the nebulousness of materiality has the potential to shift the current tide of transatlantic studies as well. A field that has long focused on the circulation of printed material across the Atlantic, transatlanticism has much to gain from attention to the immaterial ideas, theories, and popular phenomena that also traversed the sea. The border crossing and circulation that is integral to the notion of the transatlantic or transnational is encapsulated in the trope of spiritualism, a discourse that in turn relies heavily on the concept of immaterial materiality. By refocusing our attention on what is not immediately present but rather what immaterial traces lurk within the pages of a novel or the form of a poem, we may be able to reconceptualize the transatlantic nineteenth century, moving beyond an emphasis on the object to an interest in those forces and phenomena that were previously deemed too "immaterial" to warrant notice.

Notes

(1) Leah Price, How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2012), p. 5.

(2) Bill Brown, "Thing Theory," Critical Inquiry 28, no. 1 (Autumn 2001): 2, 5.

(3) John Plotz, Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2008), pp. 3, 6.

(4) See Linda K. Hughes, "What the Wellesley Index Left Out: Why Poetry Matters to Periodical Studies," Victorian Periodicals Review 40, no. 2 (2007): 91-125; Kathryn Ledbetter, British Victorian Women's Periodicals: Beauty, Civilization, and Poetry (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); and Meredith L. McGill, "Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and the Circuits of Abolitionist Poetry," in Early African American Print Culture, ed. Lara Langer Cohen and Jordan Alexander Stein (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), pp. 53-74.

(5) See Yopie Prins, Victorian Sappho (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999); Meredith Martin, The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860-1930 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2012); Herbert F. Tucker, "Over Worked, Worked Over: A Poetics of Fatigue," in The Feeling of Reading: Affective Experience and Victorian Literature, ed. Rachel Ablow (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2010), pp. 114-130; Jason R. Rudy, Electric Meters: Victorian Physiological Poetics (Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 2009); and Catherine Robson, Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2012).

(6) "EBB" conveys the poet's identity both before, as Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, and after marrying Robert Browning. Unlike "Barrett Browning," the signature initials "EBB" were also regularly employed by the poet throughout her career in signing and publishing her works.

(7) A transnational reading of EBB's interest in spiritualism is easily supported because her exposure to the popular phenomenon came largely from her acquaintances on the Continent as well as her American correspondents. See Katherine H. Porter's Through a Glass Darkly: Spiritualism in the Browning Circle (Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas Press, 1958). For a discussion of EBB's position in a transnational community of female poets, see Alison Chapman's essays "'I Think I Was Enchanted': Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Haunting of American Women Poets," in Representations of Death in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Writing and Culture, ed. Lucy E. Frank (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 109-124; and "Poetry, Network, Nation: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Expatriate Women's Poetry," Victorian Studies 55, no. 2 (2013): 275-285.

(8) John Stuart Mill, "What Is Poetry?," in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. M. H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt, 7th ed., 2 vols. (New York: Norton, 2000), 2: 1143.

(9) See Kirstie Blair, Form and Faith in Victorian Poetry and Religion (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012); Deirdre David, Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy: Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1987); Linda M. Lewis, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Spiritual Progress: Face to Face with God (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1998); Cynthia Scheinberg, Women's Poetry and Religion in Victorian England: Jewish Identity and Christian Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002); Marjorie Stone, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (London: Macmillan, 1995); and Stone, "A Heretic Believer: Victorian Religious Doubt and New Contexts for Elizabeth Barrett Browning's A Drama of Exile,' 'The Virgin Mary' and 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point,' " Studies in Browning and His Circle 26 (2005): 7-40. For information on the Victorian sage tradition in general, see Tricia Lootens, Lost Saints: Silence, Gender, and Victorian Literary Canonization (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1996) and Thais E. Morgan, ed., Victorian Sages and Cultural Discourse: Renegotiating Gender and Power (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990).

(10) R. H. Horne, "Miss E. B. Barrett and Mrs. Norton," in A New Spirit of the Age, ed. R. H. Horne (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1844), p. 270.

(11) E. C. Stedman, "Elizabeth Barrett Browning," Scribner's 1 (1873): 113.

(12) George Stillman Hillard, Six Months in Italy, 2 vols. (Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1853), 1:178.

(13) Sophia Hawthorne, Notes in England and Italy (New York: G. P. Putnam and Son, 1869), pp. 362,401-402.

(14) See Robert Browning, "The Ring and the Book," bk. 1, 11. 1390-1416, vol. 7 of The Poetical Works of Robert Browning, ed. Stefan Hawlin and Tim Burney (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 72-74.

(15) In Religious Imaginaries: The Liturgical and Poetic Practices of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Adelaide Procter (Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 2012), Karen Dieleman argues that EBB's affiliation as a Congregationalist is central to her understanding of poetry, thus conflicting with other scholars of Victorian female poets and religious practice who see denominational differences as immaterial to contemporary readings of their work. According to Dieleman, EBB's "religious imaginary is primarily formed ... by language conveying truth," which mimics the Congregationalist belief that "the verbal dimensions of worship took precedence over visual, meditative, or ceremonial possibilities" (pp. 20, 24). Focusing on this discursive form of worship, Dieleman labels EBB a "poet-preacher," explicitly rejecting the prophetic potential of her poems (p. 50). Such a designation dilutes the power of EBB's verse to enact change in the world and relegates it to a strictly religious context.

(16) Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Isa Blagden, August 24, 1853, in Edward C. McAleer, "New Letters from Mrs. Browning to Isa Blagden," PMLA 66, no. 5 (1951): 596.

(17) Elizabeth Barrett Browning to H.S. Boyd, March 3, 1845, in The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Frederic G. Kenyon, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1897), 1: 243 (emphasis in the original). Hereafter cited as Letters.

(18) Swedenborg, Arcana Caelestia, (New York: American Swedenborg Printing and Publishing Society, 1882), 3: 309-310.

(19) For an extended discussion of EBB's "revivified" aesthetic, see Charles LaPorte's Victorian Poets and the Changing Bible (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 2011), pp. 23-66.

(20) Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford, March 1855, in The Brownings Correspondence, ed. Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Edward Hagan, Joseph Phelan and Rhian Williams, 22 vols. (Winfield, KS: Wedgestone Press, 2014), 21:111. All future references to this collection will be cited as BC.

(21) EBB first mentions the works of Swedenborg in a letter to Mary Russell Mitford dated 1840, four years before the publication of her first foray into social-problem poems with "The Cry of the Children," which was published in Blackwoods in 1842, and later with "The Cry of the Human" in her 1844 collection Poems. Of course, Swedenborg is only one among several forces that influenced this complex shift, including EBB's relationship with Richard Hengist Horne, her reading of the parliamentary "Blue Books" for "The Cry of the Children," and her marriage and move to Italy. BC, 4:247.

(22) See Porter, Through a Glass Darkly, and BC.

(23) The narrative that Powers provided for his statue combined pathos, violence, and transnational appeal.

(24) Joy S. Kasson, Marble Queens and Captives: Women in Nineteenth-Century American Sculpture (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1990), p. 46.

(25) According to the headnote for the poem, the catalogue that accompanied the statue on tour stated, "The ostensible subject is merely a Grecian maiden, made captive by the Turks and exposed at Constantinople, for sale." Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Sandra Donaldson, Rita Patteson, Marjorie Stone, Beverly Taylor, Simon Avery, Cynthia Burgess, Clara Drummond and Barbara Neri, 5 vols. (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2010), 2: 147. This description also

calls attention to the statue's expression as one that exhibits a "type of resignation, uncompromising virtue, or sublime patience." However, while Powers may have intended his statue to exemplify an essence of almost spiritual martyrdom, other viewers saw instead a "licentious exhibition" of female victimization and violence. Still others saw the statue as a literal "white washing" of the tragedies of the American institution of slavery. Kimberly Snyder Manganelli relates the reactions of William Wells Brown to the exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851. Upon seeing the nude, "Wells Brown took a copy of the Punch cartoon The Virginian Slave. Intended as a Companion to Powers's 'Greek Slave,'... saying audibly, 'As an American fugitive slave, I place this "Virginian Slave" by the side of the "Greek Slave," as its most fitting companion.'" Manganelli, Transatlantic Spectacles of Race: The Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 2012), p. 71.

(26) Quoted in Jane Williams-Hogan, "Emanuel Swedenborg's Aesthetic Philosophy and Its Impact on Nineteenth-Century American Art," Toronto Journal of Theology 28, no. 1 (2012): 105-124.

(27) Orville Dewey, "Powers's Statues," The Union Magazine of Literature and Art, October 1847, 124.

(28) For more on the statue's contested meanings, see Kasson, Marble Queens and Captives.

(29) See Andrew M. Stauffer, "Elizabeth Barrett Browning's (Re)Visions of Slavery," English Language Notes 34, no. 4 (1997): 29-48; Stone, "Heretic Believer"; Marjorie Stone, "Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Garrisonians: 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point,' the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, and Abolitionist Discourse in the Liberty Bell," in Victorian Women Poets, ed. Alison Chapman (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 2003), pp. 33-55; and Sarah H. Ficke, "Crafting Social Criticism: Infanticide in 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point' and Aurora Leigh," VP 51, no. 2 (2013): 249-267.

(30) Stone, "Heretic Believer," p. 9.

(31) According to Sarah H. Ficke, in many infanticide tales, "the child's body ceases to have meaning because it is merely a container for the soul, which is released, rather than killed" in the act (pp. 252-253). For a history of the use of infanticide in transatlantic social-problem and antislavery literature as well as in EBB's own work, see Ficke, "Crafting Social Criticism."

(32) For more on cursing in EBB's poetry, see Marjorie Stone, "Cursing as One of the Fine Arts: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Political Poems," in Critical Essays on Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Sandra Donaldson (New York: G. K. Hall, 1999), pp. 184-201.

(33) Elizabeth Barrett Browning to John Kenyon, July 7, 1851, in Letters, 2: 13.

(34) Henry Chorley, "Poems before Congress," in The Athenaeum: Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts. January to June, I860 (London: James Holmes, 1860), p. 372.

(35) W.E. Aytoun, "Poetic Aberrations," Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine 87: 490-494.

(36) Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mrs. Martin, August 21, 1860, in Letters, 2: 406.

(37) Elaine Scarry, Dreaming by the Book (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), pp. 8-9.
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Date:Dec 22, 2015
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