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The Poetry of the Self-Taught

An Eighteenth-Century Phenomenon

Julie Prandi

The Poetry of the Self-Taught demonstrates the characteristic strengths of self-taught poetry and analyzes the factors that have caused most selftaught poets to disappear from anthologies and from literary history. Raising the question of whether or not their work should be read today and taken seriously – instead of being relegated to separate and unequal categories like women’s or «peasant» poetry – the book highlights interesting contrasts between the poetry of eighteenth-century autodidacts such as Robert Burns, Mary Leapor, C.D.F. Schubart, and Anna Louise Karsch and the work of their contemporaries, mainstream poets like Alexander Pope, James Thomson, C.F. Gellert, and Barthold Heinrich Brockes. Self-taught poetry is often treated as an index to the lives and times of the poets, but this book explores it with a different purpose: to understand and illustrate the commonalities in autodidactic poetics, imagery, rhetorical strategies, and themes. Concurrent with a recent upturn of interest in «laboring» or self-taught poets both in England and in Germany, The Poetry of the Self-Taught will be useful for courses focusing on such poets or those dealing with eighteenth-century literature.