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The Evolution of the Plagiarist: Natural History in Anna Seward's Order of Poetics

The Evolution of the Plagiarist: Natural History in Anna Seward's Order of Poetics This essay explains Anna Seward's famous, vitriolic attacks on the poetic plagiarisms of Charlotte Smith by examining them within the framework of natural history. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the vocabularies and methodologies of natural history overlapped with those of literary criticism. Taxonomic concerns with fixity and dynamism, with order and hybridity, permeated Seward's critical endeavors, which were central to her literary reputation. It is my contention that Seward's thinking about literary imitation was shaped by a belief in fixed biological forms. Her response to the zoological texts of the naturalist Erasmus Darwin elucidates her disapproval of Smith's (and Darwin's) poetic borrowings as examples of degenerative, stylistic hybrids. This study thus explores the tendency of Seward and her contemporaries to think in terms of interrelations between biological and poetic forms. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Eighteenth-Century Life Duke University Press

The Evolution of the Plagiarist: Natural History in Anna Seward's Order of Poetics

Eighteenth-Century Life , Volume 33 (3) – Oct 1, 2009

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Duke University Press
ISSN
0098-2601
eISSN
1086-3192
DOI
10.1215/00982601-2009-005
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This essay explains Anna Seward's famous, vitriolic attacks on the poetic plagiarisms of Charlotte Smith by examining them within the framework of natural history. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the vocabularies and methodologies of natural history overlapped with those of literary criticism. Taxonomic concerns with fixity and dynamism, with order and hybridity, permeated Seward's critical endeavors, which were central to her literary reputation. It is my contention that Seward's thinking about literary imitation was shaped by a belief in fixed biological forms. Her response to the zoological texts of the naturalist Erasmus Darwin elucidates her disapproval of Smith's (and Darwin's) poetic borrowings as examples of degenerative, stylistic hybrids. This study thus explores the tendency of Seward and her contemporaries to think in terms of interrelations between biological and poetic forms.

Journal

Eighteenth-Century LifeDuke University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2009

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