Essays in Romanticism

Legitimizing Voice: Petrarchan Form in Mary Darby Robinson's Sonnet Sequence, Sappho and Phaon

Essays in Romanticism (2012), 19, (1), 65–82.

Abstract

This article explores Mary Robinson's use of the "legitimate" sonnet form as a means of establishing specifically poetic authority for women writers in general, but for herself in particular. Appropriating both the voices of Sappho and of Petrarch, Robinson portrays the passion that stifled Sappho's art, but simultaneously reclaims the female voice through the sonnet sequence itself. Redirecting attention from biographical readings of Robinson's work, the essay sets the cultural and literary contexts for Robinson's use of the sonnet sequence, and then provides a detailed reading of the work, demonstrating her use of male-dominated tradition in order to challenge and redefine that tradition.

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Author details

Goulding, Susan