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Religion Remix’d: The Language of Romanticism between Canon and Archive

On Monday, October 10, Mark Algee-Hewitt presented some work from his project “Religion Remix’d: The Language of Romanticism between Canon and Archive.”

The poets that we have traditionally studied as “Romantic” are outliers among their contemporaries. Even as Wordsworth issued the call for poetry on the “incidents and situations of common life” the vast majority of poetry written between 1780 and 1830 took traditional, frequently religious, subjects and imagery as its object. And yet, the vocabulary of religion is not absent from the work of the canonical poets of the period, including Wordsworth, Hemans, Smith, and, of course, Blake. Despite the semantic similarities of their poetry to the archival religious poetry of the period, their use of religious language does not bring them any closer to the religious poetry of their less famous contemporaries. In this project, I use a set of computational methods to explore how canonical poets appropriate the semantics of religion, using it to construct a wholly new discourse in a way that remains inaccessible to traditional critical methods and sheds light on the differentiation of the canon and the archive.