January 26, 2021

Transformative Conversation: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Literary Imagination

Event Series: The Christian Literary Imagination

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Throughout her writing career, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry consistently bears witness to the concepts and practices of her Congregationalist upbringing, despite the divergence of her spiritual ideas in later life. From regular participation in Congregationalist worship, Barrett Browning develops a literary and religious imagination that privileges language over symbol as a means of revelation, focusing on the significance of dialogue and speech as vehicles for progress and change.

In conversation with Michael Scott, Clare Broome Saunders explored the transformative conversation in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s work and the ways in which her experiments with form–especially dramatic monologue, epic, and the sonnet sequence–expose the social and political impetus of her literary imagination.

This event was sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project, the Georgetown Humanities Initiative, the Georgetown Master’s Program in the Engaged and Public Humanities, and the Las Casas Institute (Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford). It is part of a year-long series on the "Christian Literary Imagination."


Dr. Clare Broome Saunders is the senior tutor and a fellow at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford. She is a member of the faculty of English at the University of Oxford, lecturer in English at St Catherine’s College, and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her research interests include nineteenth century women's poetry, uses of history, and European travel writers, as reflected in her publications, most notably Louisa Stuart Costello: A 19th Century Writing Life (2015); Women, Travel Writing, and Truth (2014); and Women Writers and Nineteenth-Century Medievalism (2009). Current research projects include a book on medievalism and politics from 1830 to 1918 and work on the influence of William Blake on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry.

Professor Michael Scott (moderator) is Senior Dean and Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, college adviser for postgraduate students, and a Member of the Las Casas Institute at the University of Oxford. He also serves as senior adviser to the president at Georgetown University. Scott was on the editorial board which relaunched Critical Survey from Oxford University Press. Scott previously served as the pro vice chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University.