Charlotte Sussman, “Epic, Exile, and the Global: Felicia Hemans's The Forest Sanctuary” (pp. 481–512) Why are there no children in the poems that Felicia Hemans wrote about the New World in the 1820s? Despite the longstanding representation of the Americas as a place where British culture might be renewed and reproduced, Hemans's poems depict it as a place where lineages end and human fecundity fails. From one perspective, these poems can be read as a topical political intervention into the widespread debate during this decade over the value of emigration. From another perspective, however, Hemans's poems can be seen as interrogating literary representations of the gendering of exile, particularly those inherited from epic poetry. The first issue is synchronic: it asks what the absence of child-bearing in these poems can tell us about the political landscape of the early nineteenth century. The second issue is diachronic: it raises questions about literary history—the development of genres over time. This essay argues that the two issues intersect in Hemans's The Forest Sanctuary (1826), in the poem's implicit reevaluation of the role of the female body in the individual and mass migrations that characterized the long eighteenth century. In this way, Hemans engages with epic to narrate neither the founding nor the decline of a nation. Rather, through this genre, she explores the detachment of persons from nations and from the demands of that social formation on the procreative capacity of the female body.
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