Theresa H. Nguyen


Theresa Nguyen became involved in research through several independent study courses with Professor Hugh Roberts. Her work in these courses enhanced her knowledge of Romanticism, and she developed a specific interest in women writers of the Romantic period. For this project, she examined one woman poet’s efforts to work out and defend her position as a writer through an elegy on a fellow woman writer, a process Theresa found to be a fascinating one that involved many other fields, allowing her to expand her research into culture and genre. Theresa has recently completed her Master of Philosophy degree in English Studies in Eighteenth Century and Romantic Literature at the University of Cambridge. triangle.gif (504 bytes)




Through the memorialization of Felicia Browne Hemans in the poem “Felicia Hemans,” Letitia Elizabeth Landon works to resolve the double bind that fame presents to women writers. Hemans and Landon, like other women writers of the Romantic period, had to contend with the paradoxical situation of needing celebrity to succeed financially, while that same celebrity also threatened their reputation. Landon employs, ultimately appropriates, and finally renovates the conventions of form and mode, of elegy and of Sensibility, in terms that allow for a positive position of female celebrity. She does this through a reworking of the Promethean figure into a body of Sensibility with which the woman writer can be identified and therefore inserted into a mythic tradition of creators. Hemans is then presented to be fully active and wholly creative—as being both Prometheus and the vulture who tormented him—thus occupying the whole image of creative genius. Finally, by securing eternal fame for Hemans as a literary grandmother, Landon constructs a literary genealogy for women writers in which she can situate herself. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

Hugh John Roberts

School of Humanities

This paper provides an original and suggestive reading of Letitia Landon’s elegy on Felicia Hemans—a remarkable instance of one widely read woman poet of the early nineteenth century publicly mourning the death of another. Theresa Nguyen complexly situates the poem within the overlapping contexts of the poets’ biographies, the history of women’s writing, the history of Sensibility and its reception, and the wider Romantic obsession with the figure of Prometheus. Nguyen’s essay reads Landon’s poem as attempting to turn the standard tropes of the Eighteenth Century literature of Sensibility on their heads so as to break the woman author out of the prison of purely passive receptivity. This project, entirely of Nguyen’s own devising, gave her invaluable experience in literary research and scholarship, which she put to good use at Cambridge University. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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