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English professor celebrates lesser-known Romantic-era writers

Shelley King specializes in the areas of Romantic women writers, Victorian literature, and contemporary fantasy for children and young adults.

Shelley King (English) is passionate about Romantic-era literature, and particularly enjoys celebrating the work of lesser-known women writers from the period. For the past two decades Dr. King has researched, collected and taught the poetry and tales of Amelia Alderson Opie, a prolific writer in late 18th- and early 19th-century Britain.

“When I discovered Opie’s work, I realized that there was a whole world of under-acknowledged, yet brilliant and flourishing women writers in Romantic-era Britain,” says Dr. King. “I felt that a broader spectrum of Romantic literature needed to be revealed.”

In 2009 Dr. King co-edited The Collected Poems of Amelia Alderson Opie with her husband and colleague John Pierce (English). As the first Oxford University Press scholarly edition of the collected poetry of a woman writer from the Romantic period, it has provided a strong foundation for King’s continued research on Opie, allowing her to reference the poems she compiled.

More recently, Dr. King wrote an essay entitled “‘To delineate the human mind in its endless varieties’: Integral Lyric and Characterization in the Tales of Amelia Opie,” which argues that Opie rebels against the normal usage of poetry within the novel as a conscious, artificial break in genre. In the paper, to be published in 2013, Dr. King explores how Opie sees poetry not an artificial moment, but as a part of everyday life.

“In the same way that you might quote a song lyric to a person in daily conversation, Opie sees poetry as having a direct connection to real life,” says Dr. King. “It has a naturalized place in culture.”

In her 2011 essay “Portrait of a marriage: John and Amelia Opie and the Sister Arts,” King describes Opie’s relationship with her husband, a successful portrait artist whose subjects include notable writers and artists of the period. King examines the depictions of art within Opie’s writing, making connections between art forms and exploring how poetry and fiction reflect and illuminate life.

Dr. King is committed to blending research and teaching. This summer, she plans to work with Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellow Sarah Hobbs, who will produce digital editions of six manuscript letters by Opie to her cousin. Dr. King sees this activity as an excellent way to advance scholarship on Opie and to teach editorial skills to Queen’s students.