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Rhetorical Styles of Reason and Sensibility in the Poems of Anna Laetitia Barbauld(Kanto Review of English Literature)

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  • Rhetorical styles of reason and sensibility in the poems of Anna Laetitia Barbauld

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Abstract

In the poems of Anna Barbauld, which she mainly composed in her twenties, her private affection for others is fused with a reasoned writing style. The affection that Barbauld felt developed through her friendly associations with others-as exemplified in her "friendship poems," "To Mrs. P[riestley], with some Drawings of Birds and Insects" or "The Invitation: To Miss B*****"-is fused with the neoclassical rhetoric form of heroic couplets in the poem. It is also assumed that she deliberately used such antithetical rhetorical styles, in order to present the ideal female inner characteristic of sensibility and poetic vision of communion with God as evidenced in "Summer Evening's Meditation" or "Ode to Deity." Barbauld's social and religious background as well as her unique position as a female Dissenter yielded considerable influence on her writing technique. Being critical of the rational Unitarian culture which valued reason to humanize Jesus Christ, Barbauld claims that sensibilities, supported by reason, are enhanced in imagining God and virtue, which may provide an insight into the origins of the Romantic poetics of imagination. She was also in a peculiar position, living in the domain of the private sphere, which was different from the public sphere of the male Dissenters. Therefore, her status can be described as a "double dissent" (Ross 93). This paper argues that Barbauld tried to invent a style of poetry allowing the free expressions of sensibilities within the formalistic rhetorical style of reason.

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