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29 November 2023 - 29 November 2023

1:00PM - 2:30PM

Online (Zoom)

  • Free

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All welcome to our Departmental Research Seminar, featuring Dr Ruth Abbott of the University of Cambridge.

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Thomas Gray and Jacob Bryant, ‘Tripos verses’, from Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC 3.0)

This paper will explore the ontological questions raised by the encounter with poems in archives. Most poems in most archives prompt the same question—what is this?—and they thereby challenge expectations of what a poem will be. When are two related texts versions or parts of the same poem, for instance, and when are they instead two different poems? What about poems that were never finished or were never originally conceived of as ‘poems’? And how are poems in archives framed by surrounding materials, be those materials other poems or other kinds of writing altogether? Through a close study of Thomas Gray’s commonplace book, this chapter focuses on the interpretative challenges prompted by such ontological questions. Using Gray’s methods as its example, the chapter experiments with what it means to read manuscript poems synchronically within the archival documents in which they are found, rather than diachronically in search of sources or variants.

A link to the digital collection which relates to the topic of the paper is included here, in case anyone wants to see the manuscripts in advance:

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Meeting ID: 939 6928 7118

Passcode: 536242