Tomorrow, I’ll be leading a Scholar’s Day mock classroom event with 9 newly-admitted students who received high academic awards. My presentation is titled “Beware Women! Jonathan Swift and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu on Women and Writing in the 18th Century.” I love to teach these classes, particularly because they offer us an opportunity to start off on an exciting, academic footing with our new students, but also because there’s always the possibility of stealing a few more English majors to fill our coffers! I’ll be teaching two of my favorite poems from the 18th century, Swift’s “Lady’s Dressing Room” and Montagu’s richly-titled response–“The Reasons that Induced Dr. S— to Write a Poem Call’d ‘The Lady’s Dressing Room.'” I’ve taught other classes using these texts, but typically I foreground formal issues of meter and rhyme to lead into a discussion of parody and satire. For the mock class tomorrow, I’m going to foreground questions of gender and authorship, framed by the role of poetry in the public sphere.
Here’s my presentation handout, as well as a page from J. Paul Hunter’s essay on “Couplets and Conversation,” from The Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Poetry. I’ve also got a recording of Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and Montagu’s “Reasons that Induced…,” which we’ll listen to–I’m going to have students read Hunter aloud, instead of the poems, as I want them to be able to devote more energy to comprehending the verses. Here’s a PDF of the two poems, annotated–Swift’s is annotated by Jack Lynch, and Montagu’s, by me.