This chapter emphasizes how Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a woman who was largely self-taught, successfully negotiated gender difficulties by choosing to concentrate on poetry rather than philological scholarship. Her autobiographical essays demonstrate how a woman whose access to the classics was comparatively easy might imagine herself as the author of a female epic, ‘the feminine of Homer’. In her earliest poems, she attempted to emulate the poetry of canonical authors such as Homer, Milton, and Pope. The Italian Risorgimento enabled her to write a poem on an epic subject with a contemporary setting, Casa Guidi Windows. In Aurora Leigh, Barrett Browning draws on classical epic, the mock-heroic poetry of Pope and Byron, and Victorian women's novels to create a new kind of epic.
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