Conference Contribution Details
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Tonra, Justin
BARS2015: International Conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies
"Orientalising the "Angels": Thomas Moore's Reactionary Muse"
Cardiff University, UK
Conference Paper
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First published in 1822, Thomas Moore’s The Loves of the Angels was a three-part long poem about romantic love between heavenly beings and mortals. Though reviews of the poem were generally positive, a prevailing current of moral inquiry was judged by the author to threaten its success. Moore took immediate action to “orientalise” the poem by “mak[ing] the ‘Angels’ completely eastern” and removing all references to Christianity. Alluding to the success of his previous foray into romantic orientalism, Lalla Rookh (1817), Moore remarked that “The Koran supplies Angels, as poetical at least as the orthodox ones, and the name Allah offends nobody,” (UTM 1:260) and thus, for the fifth edition of the poem, the angels’ conversion to Islam was completed.   This paper uses perspectives from literary criticism, textual scholarship, and book history to present the case of The Loves of the Angels’ revision. It analyses Moore’s active engagement with the literary marketplace, arguing that his responsiveness to critics and readers reveals a poet who was willing to revise his work to satisfy the demands and desires of his audience. At once, this situation presents a poet alert to the social, economic, and cultural forces of the market, and an attitude to revision vastly at odds with traditional formulations of romantic authorship and inspiration. The revisions for the fifth edition of The Loves of the Angels are less a revelation of a poetic ideal in developmental flux than a reactionary corrective intended to preserve the work’s commercial potential and the author’s personal reputation.
NUI Galway
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