Hoffman draws upon the work of Eduardo Cadava, who contends that the language of photography preceded the medium; Geoffrey Batchen, who underscores the role of real-world light in "writing" on paper to tease out photography's epistemological complexities; C. S. Pierce's concept of "indexicality," whereby an object (e.g., a photographic image) at once signifies a prior cause or effect (as in the writing of light) but also bears upon the memory, sense, and affect of the person for whom the object is a sign; and Roland Barthes, whose concept of the "punctum" in Camera Lucida (1980) posits the inseparability of the photographic image from imagination and language. If photography is defined by indexicality and Barthesian desires to recover a past that can never be more than an imagined event, Hoffman argues, then the language of photography ceases to be anachronistic and becomes a powerful hermeneutic for Tennyson's passion of the past that invests landscapes with vanished figures. The nineteenth-century photographers of Tennysonian landscapes inevitably failed to capture the import of the poetry, since the detailed landscapes of the text had fused with the poet's inward sensibility and imagination. Hoffman's framework is especially apt for "The Miller's Daughter" (1832; rev. 1842), which explicitly inscribes an aperture of vision (the window out of which Alice leans) and the effects of light in creating an image when a leaping trout triggers what the young speaker next saw, the "reflex of a beauteous form" (l. 77) on the water's surface. Hoffman more briefly discusses the language of photography in In Memoriam. I missed any reference to Angela Leighton's memorable discussion of the "flash" when Hoffman discusses Section 95, but Hoffman's elegant essay is an effective contribution to Tennyson studies.
Of the long poems discussed in 2014, which I take in order of the poems' publication, The Princess (1847) is one of two narratives examined in Anna Barton's "Long Vacation Pastorals: Clough, Tennyson and the Poetry of the Liberal University" (Victorian Literature and Culture 42.2: 251-266). Part of Barton's larger project on Victorian poetry and liberalism, this essay references Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Between Men (1985) to argue that Arthur Hugh Clough's The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich (1848) is more exclusionary in class and gender than is The Princess. For Barton, the ostensibly free play of the mind offered within a liberal university education is always predicated on excluding all but a few, a manifestation of boundaries consonant with the bounded metered forms of most nineteenth-century poems. Though Clough's protagonist Philip has broken out of the university during the long vacation, his participation in a reading party reinstates all the "liberal" rules of university life, and at most, Barton argues, Philip at the end merely reestablishes in New Zealand a mirror of English culture left behind (cp. Jason Rudy, briefly cited below). But the tale told in The Princess is made at the behest of women (Lilia and her aunt) in the mode they dictate, a "summer's ... tale" (Prologue, 1. 204). Though the women's university within that tale is ultimately broken up, Barton finds this poem's conclusion more open-ended than Clough's since it explicitly engages with life beyond university walls.
Two important analyses of In Memoriam (1850) appeared in 2014, though they take quite different approaches. Gender studies are central to Mary Jean Corbett's '"No Second Friend'?: Perpetual Maidenhood and Second Marriage in In Memoriam and 'The Conjugial Angel'" (ELH 81.1: 299-323). Referencing Sedgwick's Between Men, Sharon Marcus's Between Women (2007), and A. S. Byatt's feminist critique of Emily Tennyson Jesse's exclusion from In Memoriam in The Conjugial Angel (1994), Corbett persuasively demonstrates why Victorians would have seen no conflict between the Epilogue's heterosexual marriage and Tennyson's comparisons of himself to a widow, fiancee or wife as well as friend or brother of Hallam. Her argument also emerges from her own productive exploration of marriage, kinship, and incest in nineteenth-century fiction in Family Likeness (2008). If Sedgwick and Marcus argue that homosociality forwards rather than impedes heterosexual unions, Tennyson, according to Corbett, shows how marriage can promote same-sex love. Victorians' concept of marriage as the creation of "one flesh" meant that brothers and sisters of the bride and groom (who might well have been friends before) became literal siblings after the wedding. Hence the anticipated marriage of Hallam to Tennyson's (unnamed) sister would have brought them even closer, and the two men's blood would have mingled (as in the offspring of married couples) in the children Tennyson is left to contemplate only in imagination. Corbett in fact notes how often Hallam figures as a procreator in the poem or mediates couplings as a shadowy third party, as in the imagined conception of a child on the wedding night in the Epilogue, the sections characterizing Hallam as "More than my brothers are to me" (Section 9, line 20; 79, line 1), or Tennyson's anxiety as to the propriety or possibility of a second friendship (Section 85). If on one hand Corbett deconstructs the old binary of "straight" versus "queer" readings of the poem, she also circles back to reframe the poem in fresh feminist and homosocial terms. In representing Hallam as "more" than a brother since "he supplied my want the more / As his unlikeness fitted mine" (79.19-20), Tennyson adopts the logic usually applied to bride and groom. And the anxiety about a "second friend" likewise appropriates to same-sex relations the primacy of first love in heterosexual couples and anxiety over the afterlife in the event of remarriage after a spouse's death. It was of course legal to remarry, but a strict gender binary operated because of the imperative of female sexual chastity. Corbett quotes the horror of even the radical William Cobbett at women's remarriage, attitudes that illuminate Tennyson's suppression of his sister's mourning in the poem once she had pledged herself to Hallam. These fluid Victorian concepts of kinship relations and spiritual or physical unions also clarify the differing twentieth-century assumptions evident in A. S. Byatt's character Lilias Papagay, who associates marriage with consummated sexual relations and pleasure; to her, Emily's unconsummated relation to Hallam is rendered moot and her marriage to Richard Jesse is entirely fitting. Victorians, in Corbett's essay, are far queerer in their own conception of marriage and mingling.
In the special issue of VP devoted to science and poetry (41.1: 2003), Anna Henchman first explored the significance in In Memoriam of three astronomical concepts: refraction, parallax, and "orbing" (the process by which elevation above the earth's surface reveals it to be a sphere). Henchman has freshly restated her argument in the chapter entitled "Grief in Motion: Parallax and Orbing in Tennyson" in The St any Sky Within: Astronomy and the Reach of the Mind in Victorian Literature (Oxford Univ. Press). The larger study contends that astronomical findings in the nineteenth century created new self-awareness and urgency about point of view, whether in what one saw standing on earth (an illusion that the stars move while the earth is fixed) or in an imagined God perspective out in space looking back at earth--all complicated by awareness that even in imagining a God-centered view the perceiver remains fixed on earth and is capable of seeing only from an earth-bound perspective. Literary responses to these new apperceptions included the multi-plot novel or large-scale poem with multiple centers of consciousness and narratives or characters in motion that suddenly zoomed out to a perspective in space or in to a close up. Her chapter on Tennyson demonstrates the multiplicity but also the specificity of ways that Tennyson draws upon astronomy in the poem and their effects on poetic form. Sections 24 ("And was the day of my delight / As pure and perfect as I say" [11. 1-2]) and 121 (the "Hesper-Phosphor" stanzas) come in for greatest attention, as well as the "Fair ship" sequence, when Hallam is simultaneously viewed in his coffin and on arrival at the quay-side. Increasingly, Tennyson suggests that both immediate sensory experience and astronomical theory can be false in one sense, true in another (as with the contention in Section 3 that the stars "blindly run" (1. 5). Ultimately she argues that Tennyson rewrites Shelley's "Adonais," for whom cosmic stellar spaces are fixed and hierarchical, instead giving us an elegy with a cosmos constantly in motion and producing perspectives that are forever relative.
Michelle Geric's fine essay, "Reading Maud's Remains: Tennyson, Geological Processes, and Palaeontological Reconstructions" (Victorian Literature and Culture 42.1:59-79) draws upon earth sciences and deft historicist investigation to illuminate Tennyson's 1855 poem. Tennyson's reading of Charles Lyell is well known, but Geric's historical context for addressing the speaker's preoccupations with death, burial, the impinging of the past on the present and the possibility of being remembered in the future also includes the advance preview that Tennyson was given of the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace; Tennyson's delight in the dinosaurs that paleontologist Richard Owen placed in their geologically appropriate strata; the partial reconstructions of past civilizations on display as well (e.g., Egyptian or Pompeiian); and Victorian memorial remains (such as rings or locks of hair). The new scientific awareness of fossil remains and processes of fossilization combined with awareness of earth as composed of formerly living organic matter, Geric argues, indicated the possibility of reconstructing a past from fragments. But the very awareness of all those pasts embedded in stone and soil (including layers of past civilizations such as Roman ruins beneath English soil) also served as reminders that all of us become inert material remains at some point and posed questions about how nineteenth-century Britain would itself be read by future peoples. Likewise the narrator weaves into his own narrative elements already or in process of being fossilized (as he is "Gorgonised" [1.464] by the brother's stare) even as he worries that his own existence, material and immaterial, will be erased. The "dreadful hollow" (1.1) also takes on new meaning in this richly contextualized argument. Geric parallels the mangling and flattening of the father's body under the rock to the way animal fossils form; to Lyell's and Gideon Mantell's writings about organic life crushed and recomposed into soil or coal (the source of the rival lord's wealth); and to the red rock cliff that Tennyson's study window looked out upon from the room where he wrote Maud. The speaker's positioning on a naval ship at the poem's end likewise takes on new geological meaning since Lyell had also written about the sea's action in preserving the bodies of those killed in battle.
Two short articles in the Tennyson Research Bulletin address Enoch Arden (1864). Norman Page's 1998 essay in the Kyoto Review reached few western readers and has been reprinted to mark the 150th anniversary of the poem's publication. In "Tennyson's Sense of an Ending: The Problem of 'Enoch Arden'" (TRB 10.3: 219-235), Page argues that the poem's antepenultimate line ("So passed the strong heroic soul away" [l. 909]) and final line ("Had seldom seen a costlier funeral" [l. 911]) are contesting endings that generate irony. The antepenultimate line reframes heroism to include passive inaction and restraint, and confers a kind of benediction on Enoch. The final line narrates the purely commercial reward given to the man who was always a commercial failure and reinscribes the wealth Philip conferred upon Annie through illegal marriage, leaving unresolved the status of Annie and her youngest child. Ann Kennedy Smith contributes to publishing and reception studies in "Tennyson Seen from There: Enoch Arden's French Reception" (TRB 10.3: 251-265). Interest in Byron had so dominated in France that Tennyson was largely ignored prior to 1864. The Tauschnitz edition of Enoch Arden (printed from Tennyson's manuscript) founded his popularity there, generating multiple editions and translations and becoming for some time a school text for those studying English. Smith finds a possible cause in the many traditional stories in Brittany of returning sailors after a long absence; and some speculated that Tennyson's poem had been influenced by Breton tradition. The Tauschnitz was also one more factor in Tennyson's break with the Moxon firm. Though importing Tauschnitz editions was illegal, they were much cheaper than English editions; and so many entered the country through the international post that Tennyson's royalties dropped. When James Payne suggested that Tennyson decrease his share of royalties in the illustrated Idylls of the King, he set in motion Tennyson's departure from the firm.
In The Rhetoric of Retelling Old Romances: Medievalist Poetry by Alfred Tennyson and William Morris (Tokyo: Eihosha, 2015), Yoshiko Seki takes up Idylls of the King (1859-1885) not from the standpoint of popularity but of initial Victorian hostility to medievalist poetry when the age was so bent on understanding itself in the present. For Tennyson and Morris, she contends, medievalism was not an easy default mode but one that had to be rhetorically framed in terms amenable to "modern" Victorians. Tennyson's solution was to set the work in a continuous present, the "tableland of life" (Tennyson's phrase quoted in Hallam Tennyson's Memoir  2: 127), rather than narrating an epic past. As well, Tennyson responded to contemporary issues such as women's increasingly prominent roles (in the 1859 Idylls) and the impact of Darwin's Origin of the Species (in the 1869 installment). Ethos also figured in his rhetoric: his position as laureate to the Queen made attention to Arthurian women even more plausible in 1859.
Suppositions that gender in the Idylls has been sufficiently explored are belied by two articles in VP. In '"Mighty through thy Meats and Drinks Am I': The Gendered Politics of Feast and Fast in Tennyson's Idylls of the King" (52.2: 225-249), Charlotte Boyce offers a fascinating interdisciplinary analysis of the health or symptomatic decline of the realm in relation to the gendered consumption or denial of food. Noting prior attention to the presumed alignment of Percivale's sister, the nun who first reports a vision of the Holy Grail, with anorexia, Boyce considerably complicates Tennyson's representation of women's relation to food by exploring the nun's positive counterpart, the abstemious Enid whom Geraint first sees denying herself food to serve Geraint and her parents. Later she again displays the self-discipline proper to a pure woman when she flatly refuses to eat or drink in Doorm's court. Yet Boyce avoids simple binaries. Neither Guinevere nor Ettarre can eat when balked in desire, whether Guinevere at the feast where Lancelot's love for Elaine is bruited or Ettarre after her love "veers" to Pelleas at the end and she "pines" away (l. 483).
Only men are ever depicted heartily eating in the Idylls, especially Gareth and Geraint, who require healthy sustenance to accomplish their chivalric quests; and in the early days of the realm feasts in Arthur's hall ensure sociability and community. Masculine courtesy in dining is also a marker of male virtue; as Boyce notes, Balin's moments of crisis when he verges on loss of self-control and erratic violence repeatedly take place at table. Yet feasting can easily shade into male sensuality, as with the brutal Doorm or Tristram. Significantly, even Tennyson's villainous women are never shown gorging or swilling, a clear indication of operative gender norms--though neither does Lancelot. On the other hand, the pure Percivale, Merlin tells Vivien, wandered into the precincts of prostitutes only because he had had too much wine. Fasting also assumes mobile significance; King Pelles may fast as an expression of religious fanaticism, but Victorians, Boyce reminds us, continued to observe national fast days, and one entry in Lady Tennyson's diary observes Tennyson temporarily fasting. The Idylls' male figures nonetheless more readily run into extremes of food consumption and unleash violence and destruction. Boyce reveals, then, that even so normative an activity as eating becomes a complex gendered signifier in the Idylls. And her work suggests the potential value of bringing food studies to bear upon Tennyson's work. To what degree might feasts and fastings relate to Victorian agricultural plenty or depression? What food is admissible to a narrative, and what role does class play in food consumption?
Benedick Turner likewise focuses on masculinity, but in "A Man's Work Must She Do: Female Manliness in Tennyson's Gareth and Lynette" (VP 52.3: 483-507), he argues that Lynette most exemplifies the masculine code Arthur enjoins upon Gareth in making him a knight: "utter hardihood," "utter gentleness," "utter faithfulness in love," and "uttermost obedience to the King" (ll. 542-544). Noting the strict binary between domestic spaces occupied by Bellicent and the emasculated Lot, and the masculine court in which the King alone is empowered to act, Turner posits a third space in which both men and women can acquire virtue. At first rude and resistant to the King's command when he assigns Gareth to her quest, Lynette is gradually lessoned in gentleness and, once drawn to Gareth, is steadfast in love. She also helps inspire Gareth to fuller achievement, first by insulting, then praising him. I do not share Turner's opinion that Gareth's achievement of masculine virtue is so pre-determined as to lack narrative interest. But Turner's treatment of Lynette is productive, making us realize anew not only the hardihood she demonstrates while on quest with Gareth but also the hardihood she presumably evinced to arrive at court in the first place.
Two other articles address masculinity but in relation to "Recollections of the Arabian Nights" and "Ulysses" respectively. In "Knowing the Orient: The Young Tennyson" (Nineteenth-Century Contexts 36:2: 125-134), Roger Ebbatson reads the former poem through the double screens of Orientalism and animal behavior. Orientalism as developed by Edward Said and others always has a component of gender, especially too-voluptuous desiring women or effeminate men. Oscillating between a repetitive refrain that implies Oriental stasis and the forward thrust of the narrative, the narrator penetrates, like other imperial figures, into the harem where the amorous woman awaits, but she is immediately displaced by the "good Haroun Alraschid" (l. 11ff.), who is revealed to have dominated the poem all along. Yet the oriental ruler's masculinity is subverted in the image of the "cloth of gold" that "Down-droop'd" from the throne (ll. 147, 149), which Ebbatson reads as an inscription of flaccidity. Tennyson's lyric passage on the bulbul's song takes Ebbatson, plausibly, into animal behavior and the connection of bird-song with territoriality. Ebbatson's reference to Konrad Lorenz is to be expected, but he also cites Theodor Adorno's and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's commentaries on bird-song, according to which bird-song offers only delusory escape from hegemonic social structures and follows pre-set patterns rather than evincing artistic spontaneity. Territoriality aligns very well with western appropriations of the Orient, and Ebbatson nicely demonstrates that a poem once termed resistant to interpretation by Herbert Tucker has facets amenable to interpretation after all. More briefly, Ruth Robbins applies to masculinity the methods previously applied to femininity to demonstrate its inherent fissures and the impossibility of living out its codes. She takes "Ulysses" as her point of departure in "Man-Made Fibres? The Split Personalities of Victorian Manliness" (Victoriographies: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Writing 4.2: 139-155). Ulysses insists on a binaristic cleavage of masculinity from the feminine domestic realm by the poem's end, and his condescension to Telemachus is based on the secondary distinction he makes between men who do and men who manage. But whereas Ulysses's construction of masculinity befits epic action and a heroic age, Robbins points out the potential inutility of such a view to colonial administrators (versus imperial conquerors), who may require precisely those intermediate middle terms of masculinity to benefit society. She then goes on to place Tennyson's poem in relation to Rudyard Kipling's "White Man's Burden" and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, which implicitly portray the self-destructiveness of living out normative masculine codes or the hypocrisy to which they drive men.
Popular culture also figured in Tennyson studies in 2014. Jason Rudy's "Floating Worlds: Emigre Poetry and British Culture" (ELH 81.1: 225-250) explores original poetry composed during voyages to Australia and published in shipboard periodicals. In this contribution to periodical, poetry, and colonial studies, Tennyson himself figures as popular culture, that is, as part of the common fund of poetry that helped emigrants mediate the anxieties of being in between homeland and colonial settlement. Rudy instances "Come into the Boat, My lads," a parody of "Come into the Garden, Maud"; rather than Maud's narrowly bounded English garden, the poem is set on the open sea and involves young men who are almost separated from their ship carrying them to a new land when they go out rowing on a windless day. Amidst alienation and anxiety, Rudy suggests, there is nostalgic solace in the familiar rhythms and metrics of home even as the parody distances itself from the already-known. Tim Sadenwasser's "Maud by Moonlight: Tennyson and the Nineteenth-Century Vampire" (The Victorian 2.2: http://journals.sfu.ca/vict/index.php/vict/article/view/109/56) begins with the speaker's description of the vampiric sucking away of his father's wealth by Maud's father. Sadenwasser also notes Maud's power in Part I to invade the speaker's dreams against his will (always by moonlight), her pallor, and her erotically full lips evinced when as a child she held her pursed mouth up for dangled grapes. Citing comparable details in contemporary vampire literature, Sadenwasser shares an approach that is likely to be especially useful in attracting student interest to the poem. The full significance of the vampire motif is not entirely spelled out, however, especially in relation to Maud's transformation into what Sadenwasser terms a solar goddess in the last part of the poem.
I close with three brief articles illuminating Tennyson's biographical relationships. Jean Howard sheds new light on Tennyson's relation to Rosa Baring in "Rosa Baring's Birthday Book and an Unpublished Tennyson Verse" (Tennyson Research Bulletin 10.3: 280-290). Her essay can also be read as a feminist recovery of Rosa Baring as a figure in her own right, for Rosa Baring was an indefatigable traveler and travel diarist who visited Russia, Turkey, and Egypt amidst more conventional travels. Tennyson's poem in tribute to her meant enough that she saved the loose papers on which they were written until 1882, after which she pasted the verses into the birthday book her husband gave her that year. In discovering the birthday book verses, Howard also discovered a previously unpublished verse tribute by Tennyson to Rosa's older sister Georgina, which indicates the good terms Tennyson enjoyed with the family, not just Rosa herself. In '"Akbar's Dream': A Collaboration Between Tennyson and Benjamin Jowett" (TRB 10.3: 236-250), Leonee Ormond deftly marshals the evidence for considering this poem as a collaborative rather than single-author production. And in "The Consolation of Physiology: In Memoriam in G. H. Lewes's The Physiology Of Common Life" (Victorian Studies 56.3 [490-497]), Stefan Waldschmidt explores how the quotation of Section 45 of In Memoriam (shorn of its final stanza) found a place in G. H. Lewes's book on physiology. Both texts emphasize how an embodied self comes into being, but whereas the final stanza of Section 45 treats individuation as a necessary step to identity retained in the afterlife, Lewes sees physiology as itself a form of consolation, a means of ever-new learning, sensation, and development afforded through the body in an exchange with the outer world.
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|Title Annotation:||Guide to the Year's Work; Lord Tennyson Alfred|
|Author:||Hughes, Linda K.|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
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