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Alice Cary (April 26, 1820 – February 12, 1871) was an American poet, one of the leading literary figures of her time, and an influential contributor to American literature in the mid-nineteenth century. Her works encapsulate the transition in American poetry from a derivative of European traditions to a more distinct American voice, addressing social issues and the pastoral beauty of the American landscape.

Literary Background: Alice Cary grew up in Ohio, in a rural environment that provided the backdrop for much of her poetry. Along with her sister Phoebe Cary, Alice became part of a tradition of women poets who carved out a space for female voices in American literature.

Early Influences: The Cary sisters were largely self-taught. Their literary inclinations were nurtured by their access to the libraries of neighbors and friends. Influenced by English Romantic poets, especially the lyricism of Wordsworth and the social engagement of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alice Cary's poetry also absorbed the cadences and themes of the American Transcendentalists.

Poetic Schools or Movements: While Alice Cary was not formally associated with a specific poetic school or movement, her work reflected a blend of Romanticism and early Realism. She is often associated with a group of female writers that emerged during the mid-nineteenth century, who wrote about social issues, domestic life, and gender roles.

Poetic Oeuvre: Phases and Themes: Alice Cary's literary output is characterized by its versatility and breadth, including ballads, lyric poems, parodies, and satires. Her poetry often centered on her abolitionist views, the plight of women, and the pastoral genre, with her experiences in rural Ohio imbuing her work with a distinctly American pastoral sensibility. Her volumes of poetry, such as "Poems of Alice and Phoebe Cary" (1850) and "Lyrics and Hymns" (1866), capture a nation in the throes of change—struggling with the aftermath of the Civil War, the push for women's rights, and the decline of the agrarian lifestyle.

Influence: Alice Cary was an advocate for women's rights and an abolitionist, using her writing to champion these causes. Her influence was both literary and social, as she was among the few women of her time who had a significant public voice. Her home in New York became a hub for social reformers and literary figures.

Honors: During her lifetime, Alice Cary was celebrated as a key figure in the American literary scene, but like many women writers of the period, her work did not receive the same lasting recognition as that of her male counterparts. Posthumously, her contributions have been reassessed, and she is now recognized as an important figure in American literary history.

Conclusion: Alice Cary's poetry remains a vital record of the cultural and social currents of her time. Her work bridged the gap between European influence and a burgeoning American literary tradition, speaking to the universal human experience while also advocating for the transformation of society's ills. As a pioneer among women writers, her legacy endures in the literary canon and as an inspiration for generations of poets who followed.


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