"A Sensation of the Action": The Inscription of Performance in the Verse Dramas of Augusta Webster

"A Sensation of the Action": The Inscription of Performance in the Verse Dramas of Augusta Webster ANNMARIE STEFFES n an 1886 issue of the Athenaeum, the Victorian writer and political activist Augusta Webster wrote a tepid review of Lewis Morris's poetic drama Gycia, tactfully evading outright condemnation by ruminating on the genre more broadly. Webster, a writer of poetic dramas as well as a critic of them, penned this review a year before the publication of the last of her four verse dramas, and, therefore, her words speak to her own mature approach to dramatic writing. What Webster's critical consideration of Gycia makes clear is that poetic drama sets its sight on a rare--but important--kind of reader who revels in creating the world alongside the author, who possesses "the faculty of inward sight and hearing," and who seeks to inhabit the world of the literature he or she reads. Since the reader of drama desires "a sensation of the action" above and beyond "passive absorption" of novel reading, it is imperative, explains Webster, that such a work "need not, indeed should not, be written with any modifications of dramatic treatment to differentiate it from acting plays" and that authors of this genre remember that "the plays that act best read best."1 Her lackluster response http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Victorian Poetry West Virginia University Press

"A Sensation of the Action": The Inscription of Performance in the Verse Dramas of Augusta Webster

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Abstract

ANNMARIE STEFFES n an 1886 issue of the Athenaeum, the Victorian writer and political activist Augusta Webster wrote a tepid review of Lewis Morris's poetic drama Gycia, tactfully evading outright condemnation by ruminating on the genre more broadly. Webster, a writer of poetic dramas as well as a critic of them, penned this review a year before the publication of the last of her four verse dramas, and, therefore, her words speak to her own mature approach to dramatic writing. What Webster's critical consideration of Gycia makes clear is that poetic drama sets its sight on a rare--but important--kind of reader who revels in creating the world alongside the author, who possesses "the faculty of inward sight and hearing," and who seeks to inhabit the world of the literature he or she reads. Since the reader of drama desires "a sensation of the action" above and beyond "passive absorption" of novel reading, it is imperative, explains Webster, that such a work "need not, indeed should not, be written with any modifications of dramatic treatment to differentiate it from acting plays" and that authors of this genre remember that "the plays that act best read best."1 Her lackluster response

Journal

Victorian PoetryWest Virginia University Press

Published: Jun 27, 2017

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