While the term “Enlightenment” grows more contested by the day, the phrase “Enlightenment poetry” is still likely to suggest a tradition of verse dedicated to reason, empirical observation, and didacticism—works such as Alexander Pope's Essay on Man with its famous injunction to replace theological speculations with earthly investigations: “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; / The proper study of Mankind is Man.”1 This notion of Enlightenment poetry has been in circulation long enough that the college-aged narrator of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar could remark that she “hated the very idea of the eighteenth century, with all those smug men writing tight little couplets and being so dead keen on reason.”2 To be fair, professors at the front of the classroom during Plath's undergraduate years (and in the years since) contested this narrative—Donald Greene, for instance, wrote a memorable essay arguing that eighteenth-century poetry is not...

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