POET IN THE MAKING

A SYMPOSIUM ON HESTER PULTER’S POEMS AND THE PULTER PROJECT

JULY 26 and 27, 2018

The event is free, but please email Wendy Wall by July 16, 2018 to register.

KAPLAN SEMINAR ROOM
Kresge Hall 2-350
1880 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
[map]
THURSDAY: July 26
9:00-9:15 Welcome: Wendy Wall
9:15-9:30 Prelude: Leah Knight
“Founding The Pulter Project, Finding Hester Pulter: A Research Co-Creation Story”
9:30-11:00 Paper Session: The Sky’s No Limit
Victoria Burke - “Metaphysical Pulter: Playing Football with the Stars”
Lara Dodds - “Hester Pulter Observes the Eclipse; or, the Poetics of an Astronomical Event”
11:00-11:15 Break
11:15-12:30 Collective Voices: Lightning round
12:30-1:30 Lunch at Kaplan for speakers and registered participants
 1:30-3:00 Paper Session: Material and Poetic Recycling
Frances Dolan - “Hester Pulter's Dunghill Poetics”
Elizabeth Scott-Baumann - “Hester Pulter's Non-Sonnets”
3:00-3:15 Break
3:15-4:30 Experimenting with the Website:
Discussion with Technical Team: Matt Taylor (IT Director, MAD Studio, Northwestern), Sergei Kalugin (Web Developer, MAD Studio, Northwestern), Katherine E. Poland (Technical Assistant) and Josh Honn (Digital Humanities Librarian)
FRIDAY: July 27
9:00-10:30 Paper Session: Productive Loss
Sarah Ross, “‘To thee, and only thee, I will complain’: Complaint and its Refusal in Pulter's Religious Lyrics”
Elizabeth Kolkovich, “Editing Grief: Pulter's Jane Poems”
10:30-10:45 Break
10:45-12:15 Collective Voices: Editing Challenges: Macro, Micro, Theoretical, Practical
12:15-1:15 Lunch at Kaplan for registered guests and participants
1:15-1:45 Interlude: Wendy Wall, “Pulter and Making”
1:45-3:15 Collective Voices: Next Steps for The Pulter Project
3:15-3:30 Break
3:30-4:30 Epilogue: Discoveries, Takeaways, Ongoing Issues
4:30-5:30 Reception
Optional: Recording Pulter’s verse in MAD Studio audio booth

ABSTRACTS


Victoria E. Burke, University of Ottawa
Metaphysical Pulter: Playing Football with the Stars

In several of her poems Hester Pulter uses vivid imagery to depict her suffering. She is “enslaved to solitude” (poem 57, line 75), she has partaken of a petrifying spring (poem 38, lines 2-4), and her confinement is like being buried alive or enduring a living death (poem 57, lines 20 and 30). Freedom for her soul is only truly possible after death. But her “fancies” can allow her spirit to leave her gendered body, her “foot” spurning the earth and her mind rising above the conflicts below, until, she writes, “Methinks I play at football with the stars” (poem 38, lines 8, and 10-12). Depicting the earth as a sphere, a ball, a bowl, and even a football is not uncommon among early modern writers, but to imagine joyfully kicking stars like they were footballs in the heavens was unusual, especially since women were not depicted playing this sport at this time. Anne Southwell similarly conjures a whimsical image of a female speaker investigating the heavens in her elegy to Cicely Ridgway, Countess of Londonderry, when she imagines the Countess’s spirit flying among the planets. And in several of her poems Margaret Cavendish imagines alternate worlds in a lady’s earring. This paper argues that when female poets like Pulter use what we might call astronomical metaphysical conceits, they do so to give their female speakers power over their environment. Fanciful depictions of female figures roaming the heavens can allow a woman to be “free as [her] verse” (poem 57, line 103), in a way that she can never be as a woman on earth.

Lara Dodds, Mississippi State University
Hester Pulter Observes the Eclipse; Or, the Poetics of the Astronomical Event

In this paper I examine astronomy as a discourse of temporality. Many previous studies of astronomy and literature have examined astronomy-and especially the new astronomical discoveries of the seventeenth century-as a source of spatial imagery. The discovery of Jupiter's moons, observations of the Earth's moon, and speculations about the plurality of worlds all contribute to the literary construction of the other world as a space for the generation of narrative or the imagination of alternate lives (e.g. Mary Baine Campbell, Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe [1999]). Hester Pulter draws upon this poetics of astronomical space in poems such as "This was Written 1648. . ." in which the poem's speaker embarks upon an imaginary journey to each of the planets of the solar system. In this paper I examine the more mundane-in several senses of the world-use of astronomy, and its related discourse astrology, as a technology of temporality. As Raphael tells Adam in Book 8 of Paradise Lost, and in numerous almanacs, horoscopes, and other practical texts, astronomy is a tool for the management of time. In this paper I examine Pulter's engagement with astronomy as a discourse of time, with a particular focus on the opening poem of the volume, "The Eclipse," which includes a virtuoso poetic representation of both a lunar and solar eclipse. This poem, I suggest, theorizes a poetics of the astronomical event and provides a framework within which to read the temporalities of Pulter's larger poetic project.

Frances E. Dolan, University of California at Davis
Hester Pulter’s Dunghill Poetics

I will use one of Pulter’s favorite images–the dunghill–to discuss both her poetics and my participation in the project. Pulter routinely describes the earth as a dunghill (and a mother).

Compared to some of her alchemical images, the dunghill might not appear to require much glossing. A dunghill is a pile of shit or as the OED puts it, “a heap or hillock of dung or refuse.” But if shit happens, as the saying goes, dunghills do not. They have to be carefully constructed, ripened, and maintained, and were, in the course of the seventeenth century, revalued and promoted as part of a larger reconsideration of waste as resource. Agricultural treatises encouraging the construction of dunghills reveal that, as image, the dunghill is more complicated than it first appears, as is Pulter’s theology. Contempt for the dunghill earth, for soil and flesh, keeps breaking down to reveal attachment and indebtedness. The dunghill requires judicious (rather than indiscriminate) gathering and patient fermenting. In this way, it models Pulter’s own poetic process, which includes borrowing, recombining, and ruminating, as well as the accretive and collaborative process of the edition itself.
Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, King’s College London
Hester Pulter’s Non-Sonnets

Biographical accounts of Hester Pulter often open with John Milton’s poem to her sister, Margaret Ley. Yet the form in which he wrote–a sonnet–was not one Pulter chose to write in, and indeed relatively few seventeenth-century women did so. In her essay “Where had all the flowers gone?” (2012), Diana Henderson suggests that we should read as sonnets many poems by women which have some sonnet qualities, though she also cautions that the desire to cast these poems as sonnets might prove a wrongheaded way of measuring women to men’s standards. My paper will explore both these sides of the argument in relation to several of Pulter’s short poems, including “The Circle” 1, 2 and 4, and “The Hope.” It will explore the intersections of aesthetic and material form in these poems, insofar as these can be disentangled in Pulter’s manuscript works. I will focus on Pulter’s rhetoric of circularity, her attention to circles, revolutions and centers, and the intersections of these with the sonnet form, the sonnet cycle and earlier procreation sonnets.

Sarah C. E. Ross, Victoria University of Wellington
"To thee, and only thee, I will complain": Complaint and its Refusal in Pulter’s Religious Lyrics

Hester Pulter’s corpus is already recognised as an important engagement in the poetry of complaint, the open-ended amplification of woe that proliferates through the Renaissance and is harnessed to the expression of amorous, religious, political, and generalised loss. Katie Smith, in her doctoral thesis, has explored the legacy of Ovidian complaint in Pulter’s work; Alice Eardley has written on the (cognate) expression of melancholy in her verse; and Kate Chedgzoy and I, among others, have written on the ways in which poems such as “The Complaint of Thames” repurpose the male-authored, female-voiced framed complaint to the ends of female political engagement. But what of Pulter’s religious lyrics? To what extent do they position themselves as complaints, and how do they articulate their relationship to the religious complaint tradition?

This paper asks what (if anything) is to be gained by reading Pulter’s religious lyrics through the lens of complaint, and examines the way her devotional postures and rhetoric of supplication move between complaint, meditation, and a distinctly Pulterian mode of philosophical consolation. Seeking in part to define “religious complaint” in the mid-seventeenth-century, this paper will explore her lyrics’ paradoxical dynamic of abandonment and certainty in God’s love, and examine the ways in which Pulter and women like her mobilise “private” devotion to the plaintful expression of worldy loss and / or to petition for redress in this world or beyond.

Elizabeth Kolkovich, The Ohio State University, Mansfield
Editing Grief: Pulter’s Jane Poems

Pulter’s “Upon the death of my dear and lovely daughter” (Poem 10) reimagines the parental grief poem. It experiments with a range of approaches to death and loss drawn from Christianity, classical myth, advice literature, and love poetry. As Pulter imagines speaking to a broad audience, she critiques her culture’s attitude toward grief and instead advocates indulgence. The Jane poems illustrate especially well how Pulter’s poems frequently echo and expand one another, and the manuscript in which they appear reveals Pulter’s own indulgent return to the loss of Jane. One line in “Upon the death” is crossed out, and nine new lines are marked for insertion in its place. I speculate that this addition is authorially sanctioned, part of a subtle but significant trend of authorial revisiting and revising poems in the manuscript. This paper explains my rationale for editing “Upon the death” two ways and explores what “early” and “late” versions of the poem reveal about Pulter’s style and process. More broadly, this paper investigates how understanding Pulter as an editor further illuminates one of her main poetic motifs: the sometimes comforting and sometimes devastating circle.