Winsor Seniors Present at the Boston Browning Society

May 18, 2022—Two Winsor seniors had the opportunity to present at the 2022 annual Boston Browning Society meeting and lecture series at the College Club in Boston. The students prepared their talks for the 2022 Elizabeth Chellis Lectures while studying 19th century British Literature taught by English faculty Jennifer Skeele '71, P'98, '02

In front of more than 50 guests, including Head of School Sarah Pelmas and Boston Browning Society President Dr. Keith Arbor, Winsor senior Ana Sophia Leissner ’22 presented her paper and analysis on “The Last Duchess” by Robert Browning. Tristen Leone ’22 presented her paper on “A Musical Instrument” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, entitled “Overshadowed in the Title: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘A Musical Instrument.’”

It was wonderful for audience members to hear the modern-day perspectives and interpretations of these classics through the students’ line-by-line dissection and analysis. A Q&A session followed with probing questions about what lines stood out for you?; did you know in advance what the other was writing about? While the students did not know in advance the topic of the other’s paper, both were interested in showing how 19th century poems continue to appeal to modern readers interested in issues of gender and misogyny. During her lifetime, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's reputation as a poet overshadowed that of her spouse, who was sometimes referred to as “Mrs. Browning's husband,” but his work later gained recognition by critics.

Five or six years ago, a friend of Ms. Skeele, who is a member of the Boston Browning Society, asked whether she could entice some Winsor students to give a paper to the Society. “I pitched it to my class—and no takers. A year or so later, Mikayla Chen ’19 and Claire Quinn ’19 actually did it, each of them standing at a podium to read their papers about poems written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.” During the pandemic, the program was put on hold. 

However, when Ms. Skeele introduced the idea this year to her students to do the independent research necessary to write a substantial paper on Elizabeth Barrett Browning, multiple hands went up. “To my delight, multiple students immediately said that they would be honored by the opportunity!” said Ms. Skeele. 

Their papers will be stored in the archives of The Boston Browning Society, founded in 1885, which provides a focus for contemporary interest in the works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.