Keynote speakers: Virginia Jackson and Suvir Kaul

The wager of this symposium is simple: historical poetics needs the 18th century, and 18th-century studies needs historical poetics. For over a decade, a group of 19th-century scholars has been practicing historical poetics, building arguments around the core insight that ideas about what poetry is and what it means to make and read it change over time—that these are ineluctably historical ideas. A group of 18th-century and Romantic specialists is now asking whether and how this approach applies to pre-1800 poetry. Eighteenth-century verse was produced before lyricization, before poetry as such was equated with the lyric, and its students have long recognized that limited modern ideas about poetry cannot do justice to this period's proliferation of forgotten poets and genres, tropes and terms. Yet old historicisms die hard, and form-minded scholarship in eighteenth-century studies has been uneven in exploring verse that departs from the supposedly universal norms of post-Romantic lyric.

This symposium will bring together 18th- and 19th-century scholars for shared methodological reflection and conversation.

How might attention to 18th-century verse enrich or complicate recent arguments that decenter the 19th-century lyric? What might traditions of historicist reading in 18th-century studies bring to historical poetics? How might the latter reshape the former? What does it mean to do historical poetics both before and after lyricization? Symposium participants will explore such questions in a combination of traditional panels, larger roundtable discussions, and a graduate student caucus meeting.

The two-day symposium will be held on November 3 and 4 (with a graduate student caucus the night of November 2) at Connecticut College in New London, conveniently accessible by plane, train, or car. The event will pay tribute to the legacy of Paul Fussell (1924–2012), an influential member of the College's faculty and a grandfather of historical poetics.


The symposium is sponsored by the Frederick Henry Sykes Memorial Lectureship Fund, the English Department, the Slavic Studies Department, and the Classics Department.


Symposium participants are asked to pay the registration fee online.


Historical Poetics Symposium Program (pdf)

One of the events on the program is a symposium-wide seminar on Toru Dutt, the idea being that we will all read the same common text in advance and have a large group conversation about it. Find the seminar reading here: Toru Dutt Poems. (We expect the conversation will focus on the two Dutt poems, 'Sita' and 'The Royal Ascetic and the Hind.' If your reading time is limited, you might concentrate on those two works.

Those events open to the public are listed on the Connecticut College Calendar of Events.


We have arranged for Symposium attendees to book discounted rooms at the nearby Spring Hills Suites in New London. Follow this link to make booking reservations.


Please send questions to

Keynote Speakers

Virginia Jackson

Virginia Jackson is the UCI Endowed Chair in Rhetoric, Departments of English and Comparative Literature, Critical Theory, at the University of California, Irvine. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton. Her book “Dickinson's Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading” (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005) won the 2005 Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book and the 2006 Christian Gauss Award, Phi Beta Kappa. She is the editor of “On Periodization: Selected Papers from the English Institute” (ACLS Humanities E-Book, 2010) and, with Yopie Prins, “The Lyric Theory Reader” (Johns Hopkins UP, 2014). Her book “Before Modernism: The Invention of American Poetry” is forthcoming from Princeton UP. She is a founding member of the Historical Poetics working group and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for 2011–2012.

Suvir Kaul

Suvir Kaul is the A. M. Rosenthal Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his B.A. (Hons.), M.A., and M.Phil. degrees from the University of Delhi, and his Ph.D. from Cornell University. He has published four books, Of Gardens and Graves: Kashmir, Poetry, Politics (Duke University Press, 2017; New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2015), Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Postcolonial Studies (Edinburgh University Press, 2009), Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire: English Verse in the Long Eighteenth Century (University Press of Virginia, 2000; Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), and Thomas Gray and Literary Authority: Ideology and Poetics in Eighteenth-Century England (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992; Stanford University Press, 1992), and has edited a collection of essays entitled The Partitions of Memory: The Afterlife of the Division of India (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001; London: C. Hurst, 2001; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002). He has also co-edited (with Ania Loomba, Antoinette Burton, Matti Bunzl, and Jed Esty) an interdisciplinary volume entitled Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005; Delhi: Permanent Black, 2005). At Penn, he has served as the Director of the South Asia Center (2005–2007) and as the Chair of the English Department (2007–2010).

Organizing Committee

  • Anna Foy, University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Meredith Martin, Princeton University
  • Lisa Moore, University of Texas at Austin
  • James Mulholland, North Carolina State University
  • Courtney Weiss Smith, Wesleyan University
  • Dustin D. Stewart, Columbia University
  • Jeff Strabone, Connecticut College