Aurora Leigh
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Aurora Leigh

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,076 ratings  ·  57 reviews
The text is accompanied by both explanatory annotations and textual notes. "Backgrounds and Contexts" includes thirty letters or letter excerpts by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning that trace Aurora Leigh s inception, evolution, and publication. Seven contemporary documents on the "woman question," prostitution, socialism, and poetic theory place the text his...more
Paperback, 584 pages
Published November 17th 1995 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1856)
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Ellis
Actual rating is closer to 3.75 stars.

Ah, Aurora Leigh, how do I review thee?
Shall I recount the ways in which you made me cry,
the nights of frustration, the days of recluse,
since I had a dissertation to finish,
and you were just so damn unreadable?



Aurora Leigh is a weird book.

With that, I reworked my basic sigh of desperation while I was writing into the opening line of my dissertation, because this book is just fucking weird, man.

I regularly doubted if I should keep that introduction, but my a...more
Melanie
I'm normally not a huge poetry fan (especially English poetry), but I make an exception for *Aurora Leigh.* A verse novel, an urban epic, a working wife and househusband: there's too much paradox here not to love it.
Kara Brockett
Maybe this poem fascinates me because I go to Baylor. Maybe these words excite me because I can stroll through the Armstrong-Browning library and see early drafts of Aurora Leigh in the author's own handwriting. Maybe EBB's living room furniture releases some abundance of curiosity in my mind that pops the words off the page. Maybe I like this poem because I know that EBB and I have read many of the same books and this produces some type of brain kinship.

I'm not really sure.

All I know is that I...more
Liz
I needed a break from my Gothic teen novels so decided to read this epic poem by one of my favorite poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I thought it was beautiful. It was a feminist story to some extent and a good attempt to describe what it is to be an artist/poet. I was touched by much of the imagery and eloquence in the writing. Was it an easy read, no. It took me a while to get through simply because I really had to concentrate on what I was reading. I guess it was a good thing I moved away fr...more
Christin
I think I have always secretly wanted to be EBB/Aurora Leigh and that is why this text about the profound power of writing and the staggering beauty of reading gives my soul hope. Plus, it's a novel in verse. Could YOU write a novel in verse?
Aileen
I am surprised to say that I really liked this. I think if asked before I read it if I would enjoy Victorian feminist epic poetry, I would have answered with a definitive no. The plot of this is a bit predictable, but there are some really lovely images in here. And I was also a bit shocked by how violent it all was - mostly in metaphor, though not entirely. Which I think is pretty interesting when you hold it up alongside the idea of poetry as a feminine thing - both gendered female, if a poem...more
Joanne
Readers should be greeted with a warning that this is a longer narrative poem than Paradise Lost. That being said, it's also a great story full of intrigue, references of Italy versus England, feminism, and literature. The love story, albeit very Jane Eyre, is also touching (although I'd like to imagine they're slightly more distant cousins than described). Aurora is a great female character and a wonderful individual in her own right. Her search for truth and poetry is admirable, as is the stor...more
JoAnn Jordan
This is a great novel in verse. Though long the story is well told. I had missed this masterpiece earlier in life and am quite glad to find it now.

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy love stories or poetry.
Cody
You'd think I'd eventually tire of reading about the plight of the struggling artist. Well, I guess I kind of have...but this is in verse...and gorgeously written!
Diana
So much fun to read. Elizabeth Barrett Browning takes "the narrative" to the next level, while suggesting some revolutionary ideas for the 19th century.
Joseph Tepperman
so masterfully written! moreso than anything i've seen from her husband bob.
Valerie
This is not the edition I read, which was in library binding (that bluish stuff that's used to bind serials), and definitely didn't have annotations or critical comment. I might like all that, if I got it, but I didn't have it when I read the book.

I find that I remember the contents very poorly. I do remember (now that I'm reminded) that there were parts about Italy. Enough description, in fact, to convince me that I never want to go there, at least the part she describes. I've always been of th...more
Casey Harvey
Cited as both a novel and verse, Browning's modern epic Aurora Leigh raises everyday life into the ranks of other epic tales such as King Arthur or Hercules, arguing that a true epic poem mirrors reality and not some grandiose, mythic character and/or story. Following the story of the titular character in a true kunstlerroman, Browning highlights specific issues certainly central to the Victorian age of her writing and applicable to the current period: the role of the (female) artist, class bias...more
Leslie
Nov 15, 2011 Leslie added it
Shelves: college-books
Aurora Leigh is to Elizabeth Barrett Browning as the Prelude is to William Wordsworth--thus is the poetry class description. That statement has much truth though, since Aurora Leigh Browning's version of the poet's journey. However, her poetic journey is markedly different from Wordsworth's in that she focuses on the woman's journey and presents her story as an epic narrative in novel format. Aurora Leigh, the poem's heroine, struggles with what she feels is her calling to poetry, for she has to...more
H
from BOOK ONE:

A book in one hand,--mere statistics, (if
I chanced to lift the cover) count of all
The goats whose bears are sprouting down toward hell.

I read books bad and good--some bad and good
At once: good aims not always make good books;
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards, even; . . .
The world of books is still the world, I write,
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God,
To keep and hearten: with some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimmin...more
Meredith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Falina
This very long poem revolves around the creation of a woman poet in the Victorian period and does include a central love story, but by the time I got to the romantic climax I was so overwhelmingly tired of it all that I didn't even get a little thrill, whereas a good angsty romance usually leaves me writhing on the floor, grinning like an idiot. Also, AL is a devout Christian, and there is a lot of stuff about god taking care of things, etc., which I, as an atheist, find excruciating. There are...more
Helen Walton
It's kind of Jane Eyre in verse with the hero a strange mixture of Mr Rochester and St John Rivers. But the plot - enjoyable as it is - is the least of pleasures of this book. The way she sustains the rhythm of poetry while telling the narrative is unsurpassed and their vision of the New Jerusalem between men and women at the end is just astonishingly beautiful. I own it in a lovely old 19th century edition and I adore it.
Emily
I wrote a paper on this "verse-novel":

Potentialities of Alternated Color: Race and the Problem of Representation in Aurora Leigh.

Whoo!

It's a slog, no doubt, and some of it does not live up to modern feminist standards. (Or does it? The battle rages on.)

Has some truly wonderful moments:

We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating profits...so much help
By so much reading. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,...more
Annamir
It's a bit too precious. I wondered at her: Both traditional and wise, she wants to be adored.
Jess
I'm no poetry fanatic so this rating is pretty crazy for me.
Belinda
Aurora Leigh is a text that looks at the accessibility of women in the Victorian era. Not only is Aurora Leigh campaigning her right to write, but also to subconsciously defy her gender conventions. She fights the love she has for Romney Leigh to pursue her successful career, admittedly while she suffers for dismissing this love, without it she would not be able to meet the characters along the way which ultimately determine her ending. Whilst the ending of Aurora Leigh does not follow a determi...more
Jesikah Sundin
I have always LOVED this poem...
Sarah
Another case of the absent .5 star increment stifling my creativity and expression.
This is a great example of thoughtful and scholarly publishing making an old work relevant and accessible. High fives to Norton for moving beyond biography and getting into the meat of EBB's writing and not just harping on her personal life. The inclusion of relevant contemporary criticism as well as more recent scholarly essays made me sit up a bit straighter and get as much out of this work as I could. A refresh...more
Robyn
I usually take great care of my books but I found myself throwing this one across the room...numerous times. It is so boring! I could not get through five pages without falling asleep. I get that this is supposed to be agreat epic poem but it just feels like Browning is trying too hard to prove herself. She drops so many references to classic literature and the bible that it seems like she's simply saying "See- I've read a lot, I must be a great artist." Ugh I get it already. I am so glad to be...more
J. Alfred
Barrett Browning's first published work (she was 14) was a long poem on the battle of Marathon in imitation of Pope. This, one of her last works, is her take on the epic: it is a brooding, Romantic thing, full of anxiety about the place of art in society and the place of the woman writer in the artistic tradition. It's The Odyssey mixed with Pride and Prejudice (sort of), and it is very much worthwhile, especially if one likes her Sonnets from the Portugese (one should!).
Liz
I am not very good at appreciating poetry, which is why I was so shocked to discover that I really liked this book. Then I realized that Aurora Leigh is a Victorian Novel in blank verse, so of course I would love it. Passions, drama, noble heroes redefining the meaning of the gentleman, the unending struggle with being a woman and a person.
Yep, Aurora Leigh is Jane Eyre in verse. And it was awesome!
Kathi Olsen
This book was a little difficult for me to get through. Considering it's in Victorian free verse, I'm really glad that it wasn't one that we had to analyze in high school or college. Remember some of the strange things they make you read and report on????? Some parts I really liked and some I struggled through. However, if this is your thing, go for it. Probably won't re-read this.
James
Jan 02, 2014 James marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by Arnold Bennett in his early 20th century essay on 'How to live twenty-four hours a day' as "an infinitely finer English novel, written by a woman, than anything by George Eliot or the Brontes, or even Jane Austen."
Olivia
This is one awesome novel in verse, arguably an epic poem. There were absolutely beautiful aspects of it, but it also frustrated the hell out of me. I apparently like American Victorians way more than the original British Victorians. The Brits are just kind of annoying. So slow, so understated, so prone to description. Give me modernism or give me death;)
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Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most respected poets of the Victorian era.
More about Elizabeth Barrett Browning...
Sonnets from the Portuguese Love Poems of Elizabeth and Robert Browning The Complete Poetical Works Aurora Leigh and Other Poems How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways. Love Poems Of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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“Earth's crammed with heaven...
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”
705 likes
“Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret room
Piled high with cases in my father’s name;
Piled high, packed large,--where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning’s dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books!”
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