The Tennyson Society Publications Board suggested the focus of the 22 essays in Tennyson Among the Poets (Oxford Univ. Press, hereafter TP), ed. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Seamus Perry; and the Tennyson Society also helped support the beautifully illustrated Tennyson Transformed: Alfred Lord Tennyson and Visual Culture, ed. Jim Cheshire (Lund Humphries, hereafter TT), a collection of 6 essays accompanying an exhibition catalogue. If the books have unifying preoccupations, the 15 essays in "Tennyson at Two Hundred," the VP special issue guest-edited by Herbert Tucker (47, no. 1: 1-347, hereafter "TTH"), range widely as befits a scholarly journal, though new historicism and culturally inflected formal analysis are recurring frames of reference. Christopher Ricks and Herbert Tucker contribute forewords to the collections (Ricks to both books), but alas no full-length essays, and they are missed. Still, their brief comments are worth seeking out, Ricks for his contention that even irreverent parodies testify to Tennyson's "unique unignorability" (TP, p. vii), Tucker for his nuanced comparison of the early "posy" for Rosa Baring ("TTH," p. 3) with "Roses on the Terrace" as he briefly considers Tennyson's anniversary poems. The bicentenary editors have very artfully organized their volumes, especially the longer collections, so that juxtaposed essays, like much of Tennyson's poetry, proceeds dialectically and with rich results. The year's work tout ensemble in fact testifies to the maturity of Tennyson studies and its extraordinary vitality.
Since poetry's embeddedness in other literary and cultural formations was a recurring feature of 2009 work, I begin with scholars who consider intertextuality itself. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst ("Introduction," TP) notes that Tennyson's reverberating echoes could signify a grand culmination of English poetic tradition, a profoundly collaborative writer, or a derivative writer of limited talent. Douglas-Fairhurst opts for Tennyson as an authentic poetic talent seeking to establish an audible voice in a media-saturated culture, as in "Mariana": "old voices" and footfalls resound in Mariana's room, but amid this entrapment "the blue fly sung in the pane," the stark monosyllables sounding an audibly unique rhythm issuing from a tiny voice within a chamber thronged with voices. Christopher Decker's title ("Tennyson's Limitations," TP) seems to confirm the dour implications of Tennysonian echoes (as Dinah Birch's skeptical yet sensitive essay, "Tennyson's Retrospective View" [TP], ultimately does). If Birch and Decker agree that Tennyson's narrative suspensions and recycling of precursors' language or situations were central to his poetic method, these features pinpoint what is most interesting in Tennyson according to Decker. For him, Tennyson's multiple allusions are a formal counterpart to simultaneous doubts about and fierce need to believe in the afterlife. Allusion, notably, often signals underlying anxieties, as in "he works his work, I mine" in "Ulysses," which Decker traces to the perverted father/ child relationship of The Cenci ("He does his will, I mine," 4.1.139). Concurrently, allusions indicate a hopeful desire to burst texts' limits and affirm abiding relationships with great precursors.
Eric Griffiths ("On Lines and Grooves from Shakespeare to Tennyson," TP) problematizes allusion and intertextuality when these are conceived as two poets speaking directly to each other since many intervening factors--textual editing, linguistic change, the projects of Standard English and heritage--reshape what is transmitted. Griffiths contends that meaningful allusions involve a complex response to a speaking situation, as when Tennyson echoes King Lear during the Prince's expulsion from Ida's realm, ratcheting up "push them out at gates" (iv.526-527) to "And with grim laughter thrust us out at gates" (iv.534). The glance toward Lear's expulsion by Regan, according to Griffiths, establishes how cruel the Prince considers his expulsion and his egotistical self-pity--one of many illuminating moments in this striking essay.
How we conceptualize allusion, intertextuality, and influence is central to Erik Gray's Milton and the Victorians (Cornell Univ. Press). Dismantling influence and intertextuality as binaries, Gray transforms Victorians' complex interchange with Milton into a powerful tool of historicist and literary analysis. Response to Milton, he suggests (despite current skepticism about such divisions), usefully distinguishes Romanticism and Victorianism: if Milton was an enabling figure of sublime originality to major Romantic poets, Victorians contextualized Milton in relation to his newly recovered polemical writing, recognizing that Milton was partly shaped by his age. This made him seem all the greater since his poetic power endured nonetheless. Miltonic transmission among Victorians, then, was a "Diffusive Power" (the title of Gray's Tennyson chapter), characteristically functioning as one influence among many. Tennyson's Romanticism is evident in the overwhelming presence of Milton in "Armageddon," whereas the debt of the Idylls to Paradise Lost--the suspended narration of the central event (adultery) leading to a fall--is central but oblique. And unlike Wordsworth's and Keats's gravitation to the Miltonic sublime, Tennyson often jettisons Milton's high moral sentence in allusions, as when "genial spirits" in the epilogue to In Memoriam echoes Samson Agonistes ("my genial spirits droop" [1. 594]) only to underscore by contrast the speaker's rising buoyancy. Gray also finds diffused Miltonic influence in the sheer length of Tennyson's "epic elegy," a means by which he could sidestep the dominating precedent of "Lycidas."
James Norhnberg ("Eight Reflections of Tennyson's 'Ulysses,'" "TTH," pp. 101-150) and Henry Weinfield ("'Of happy men that have the power to die': Tennyson's 'Tithonus,'" VP 47, no. 2: 355-378) also adopt the model of multiple echoes rather than singular precursors and posit new sources for Tennyson's famous "pendent" poems. Norhnberg convincingly argues that in addition to Homer and Dante, Washington Irving's Life of Columbus and the figure of Columbus himself (another voyager beyond the world's known limits, quester after knowledge, and sometime colonial administrator) are key intertexts of "Ulysses." Within this framework other Western precedents, from Bacon to Byron, also come into play, and "Ulysses" and "Tithon" emerge as Antipodean poems, one set in the east at dawn, the other in the west at vespers. Weinfield adduces the relevance of Keats's Moneta, Freud, and Schopenhauer to "Tithonus" but above all finds its true "burthen," announced in the opening lines, in Ecclesiastes. Both intertexts link man and beast in mortality, acknowledge human desires to transcend it, and represent the wisdom that overcomes such vanity, as in the new-found serenity of Tennyson's closing lines.
Most 2009 essays addressing intertextuality nonetheless continue to position Tennyson in relation to a sole precursor, contemporary, or successor. A. A. Markley ("Tennyson and the Voices of Ovid's Heroines," TP) surveys the importance of Ovid's abandoned heroines and paired poems in the Heroides for Tennyson's dramatic monologues and for "tears of the widower" in In Memoriam, given the antecedent lament of Ariadne after Theseus' desertion in Letter X. Damian Love intriguingly posits the importance of Beowulf for the Idylls in "Hengist's Brood: Tennyson and the Anglo-Saxons" (Review of English Studies 60: 460-474), reminding us of Tennyson's translation of a Beowulf passage in the 1830s. Love traces the grimly bubbling red pond in "Gareth and Lynette" (absent from Malory) to the burning fires in Grendel's watery lair, and Arthur's barge to the legend of Scyld Scefing, the Danish warrior who arrives mysteriously from the sea and returns to it while dying. Anglo-Saxon allusions (including "Hengist's brood," in "Guinevere"), Love argues, inject a historicist note that runs athwart the Idylls' ostensible binary of heathens and civilization or linear models of progress since the heathens were progenitors of Victorian England.
Petrarch's Rime sparse, a sequence of 366 poems, is the reference point of Irene Hsiao's "Calculating Loss in Tennyson's In Memoriam" ("TTH," pp. 173-196), which revisits mourning and melancholia in light of Freud's revision in Ego and the Id, whereby mourning fails to culminate in separation from the lost object and gives rise to endless substitutions that cloak without dispelling loss. Noting how closely the Prologue of Tennyson's poem parallels Petrarch's introductory poems (both offering apologies for fixating on mourning and asserting the therapeutic function of "numbers" or meter), Hsaio locates the turning point of Tennyson's elegy not in Section 95 but 85, when apostrophe shifts front addressing the absent beloved to a second friend who is revealed as a substitution. It is by such repetitions, as in the repeated beatings of the mourner's heart, that life goes on. Like Erik Gray, N. K. Sugimura distinguishes Romantic and Victorian appropriations of Milton and reads the Idylls in relation to Paradise Lost ("Epic Sensibilities: 'Old Man' Milton and the Making of Tennyson's Idylls of the King," TP). But Sugimura's approach is closer to Bloom's oedipal paradigm, since, she argues, Tennyson's idyll-epic not only innovates upon Miltonic epic but refutes Milton's contention that Arthurian epic could never be universal. Michael O'Neill ("The Wheels of Being: Tennyson and Shelley," TP) freely acknowledges key work on Shelley and Tennyson by Tucker and Ricks but still brings fresh insights to the issue, especially in linking the invocation "Be near me" and the "prick and tingle" of the blood in In Memoriam (Section 50) to The Cenci, and the Lady of Shalott's delight in weaving to "The Witch of Atlas."
One of three lively essays that reassess Tennyson's relation to Robert Browning, Aidan Day's "Tennyson's Grotesque" (TP) argues that Browning's surface grotesque everywhere invokes the standard of coherence against which it is to be measured, making his poetry, in the end, more confident and consolatory than Tennyson's. In In Memoriam and Maud, in contrast, surface finish is countered by a resistant disorder in and beyond language. For example, in In Memoriam the recurring sibilants of Sections 34-35, which invoke the sounding of streams, are not resolved in form but sound beyond it to evoke relentless physical processes alien to human desire and efforts to construct meaning. Daniel Karlin ("Tennyson, Browning, Virgil," TP) triangulates the two preeminent Victorians in relation to Virgil. Tennyson's "To Virgil" (1882) "salute[s]" his Latin precursor (in a political context that calls empire into question) and expresses "love" for what lies beyond materiality--Virgil's supreme meter ("stateliest measure," Il. 37-39). Browning's "Pan and Luna" (1880) resists Virgilian prestige, asking how the Georgics can represent the chaste Luna submitting to Pan's rough advances. Though creating a fine imagist poem in his closing line, Browning, Karlin suggests, is simultaneously working out his relation to Tennyson; if Tennyson's rare superlative ("stateliest") shuts out Browning altogether, for Browning, Tennyson "was always within the gates" (Karlin, p. 114). Donald Hair even-handedly asserts that key poetic issues of the era played out in both poets and that both were equally modern, Tennyson possibly more so, though at their deaths Tennyson had come to be seen as out of date ("'Brother-Poets': Tennyson and Browning," TP). For example, if Browning's images looked back to emblem-book tradition and nonconformity, demanding cognitive critical analysis, Tennyson's images worked through suggestion and juxtaposition--an approach crucial to modernist poetics.
Kirstie Blair circumvents the usual oppositions that mark discussion of Tennyson and working-class poetry ("'Men my brothers, men the workers': Tennyson and the Victorian Working-Class Poet," TP), arguing that especially in his dialect poems Tennyson drew upon working-class conventions ("translating" them for a more privileged audience) and that working-class readers were familiar with his poetry through piratings, reprintings, and memorization. If Tennyson rarely encouraged aspiring working-class poets and instanced a "hungry people" in "Locksley Hall" (l. 135), the working-class speaker of "The May Queen" nonetheless found great popularity and the "Locksley Hall" meter itself was useful to artisanal poets as a signifier of industrialism. Marion Shaw ("Friendship, Poetry, and Insurrection: The Kemble Letters," TP) revisits Tennyson's relationship to the more privileged Apostles via the John Mitchell Kemble album of letters in Dunedin, Australia (a copy of which is available at the Tennyson Research Centre), tracing the constellation of factors that made plausible to men later so distinguished in life an expedition in support of Gen. Torrijos' insurrection in Spain. Both Anna Barton ("Delirious Bulldogs and Nasty Crockery: Tennyson as Nonsense Poet" ("TTH," pp. 313-330) and Richard Cronin (Edward Lear and Tennyson's Nonsense," TP) find Edward Lear's nonsense a useful avenue into what lies beyond sense in Tennyson's poetry. Barton demonstrates Tennyson's "shadow poetics of nonsense" ("TTH," p. 327) through poststructuralist and historicist analysis, contrasting Tennyson's "To E.L. on his Travels in Greece" with Lear's parody of Tennyson; the latter astutely exposes what Tennyson omits or distorts in reacting to Lear's book, for Tennyson appropriates Lear's place names into a haunting collocation of sound and rhythm that severs semantics and sonorities, as in the later lin-lanlone of bells in "Far--Far--Away." Though also alert to Tennysonian acoustics, Cronin zeroes in on upended logic or categories that emerge when he reads others' parodies of Tennyson back into the poetry. He finds the incongruity of King Arthur wearing a frock coat in a dream, for example, less clumsy than indicative of the appeal and impossibility of a contemporary Arthur: in a dream Arthur can be completely different and still himself.
Essays on Tennyson, Swinburne, and Morris suggest, like Blair's essay, that some assumed antinomies between Tennyson and his contemporaries require qualification. My "'Frater Ave?' Tennyson and Swinburne" (TP) acknowledges the two poets' entrenched ideological differences yet also traces their abiding regard for each other's achievements and the new work to which each was driven by awareness of his younger or older rival. Peter Faulkner similarly notes in "Morris and Tennyson" (Journal of Morris Studies 18, no. 2: 15-51) that Morris' early detection of a "bullying" "element" in Tennyson (p. 18) did not preclude Morris' continuing respect; indeed, Morris rebuked an undergraduate's derision in 1869 and defended Tennyson's blank verse in 1885. Even when Tennyson takes the stand against socialists in The Tables Turned, or Nupkins Awakened (1887), Morris treats Tennyson more gently and tolerantly than the Archbishop of Canterbury or Professor Tyndall.
Tennyson's intertextual relation to twentieth-century poets informs another cluster of essays. Like Swinburne and Morris, Hardy mingled skepticisra and respect for Tennyson, as Helen Small makes clear ("Hardy's Tennyson," TP); if Hardy's 1912-1913 poems responding to Emma's death refuse Tennysonian mellifluousness, "The Going" adopts an "abba" rhyme scheme in each stanza'a concluding quatrain and incorporates several other Tennysonian echoes. Samantha Matthews ("After Tennyson: The Presence of the Poet, 1892-1918," TP) notes the simultaneous popularity and consignment to the past of Tennyson after his death and his resurgence during World War I when a paper shortage drove readers back to older works. If linking Tennyson to Eliot is familiar, John Morton ("T. S. Eliot and Tennyson," TP) points out the unmistakable allusion to "Ulysses" in an early draft of The Waste Land that, with Pound's encouragement, Eliot cut. A clear allusion to The Princess remained--"O swallow, swallow"--but only after 1936 did Eliot's conversation with Tennyson become visible in The Four Quartets and Eliot's wartime broadcast to India on Tennyson. Auden's reference to Tennyson's stupidity is notorious in Tennyson studies. Yet John Fuller ("Tennyson and Auden," TP) reminds us that in his early, soon-suppressed "Locksley Hall" Auden adopted Tennyson's meter and title to protest England's slide into corrupt exploitation of workers by the rich; other allusions and syntactic patterns indicate that for Auden the inauthentic Tennyson stood alongside an appealing figure of a black-blooded poet thwarted in love and besieged by grief he could not fully articulate. In "Betjeman's Tennyson" (TP) Seamus Perry argues that in deliberately signaling the poet's unease in the prologue to "Morte d'Arthur" or epilogue to The Princess Tennyson fashions a stance characteristic of Betjeman, who refused to take himself seriously in print and, like his precursor laureate, deliberately interwove the prosaic with sonority and complex emotion to indicate their inseparability. Indeed, Perry contends that the proto-aestheticism singled out by Arthur Hallam's 1831 essay represents only one facet of Tennyson and ignores the daring readiness with which Tennyson incorporated the everyday into the overtly poetic.
I turn now from intertextual studies to historically inflected cultural analysis. In The Age of Eclecticism: Literature and Culture in Britain (Ohio State Univ. Press), Christine Bolus-Reichert defines eclecticism as an endemic philosophical and aesthetic category in nineteenth-century culture, one that registered and mediated anxiety about how the current age could create an original style yet sustain historical continuity. "Volitional" (rather than naive) eclecticism was a knowing, self-aware approach to analyzing multiple cultural legacies and engaging in cultural translation. The Cambridge Apostles' commitment to the sympathetic imagination (which encouraged inhabiting another's perspective without surrendering personal identity) and comparing multiple perspectives to identify a common principle thus underwrote volitional eclecticism and the medley form in The Princess. For the Prologue, notably, balances implements of war and peace while also synthesizing the country house poem with the modernity of a Mechanics Institute. Ida's fallacy, in contrast, is to desire spurning the past altogether and to theorize an alternative that can be maintained only by withdrawing from society and its pressing realities.
Drawing upon Julia Kristeva and M. M. Bakhtin, Molly Hillard also links literary form and models of temporality in "'A Perfect Form in Perfect Rest': Spellbinding Narratives and Tennyson's 'Day Dream'" (Narrative 17, no. 3: 312-333), arguing that Tennyson adopts the physiologically tinged model of progress advanced by Thomas Carlyle (as a systole-diastole), and the gendered physiology of circulation set forth by James Wilkinson to free himself from feminized poetry. In "The Day-Dream" (one of several "sleeper" poems of the 1830s and 1840s) the castle's sleeping inhabitants, likened to embryos, exemplify feminized suspension in contrast to the propulsive prince whose heart quickens as he approaches and at whose arrival fountains spurt into the air--a gestational trope that signals eruption into a new, modern era. Allison Adler Kroll ("Tennyson and the Metaphysics of Material Culture: The Early Poetry," VP 47, no. 3: 461-480) turns to the rival claims of material preservation versus fable in national heritage, arguing that in "The Palace of Art" and "Ode to Memory" Tennyson ultimately links memory both to affective community and material location (a cottage). She connects this to the cultural debate about where and how two splendid painting collections inherited by the nation were to be housed--with the "cabinet of curiosities" arrangement of the British Museum (which she compares to the haphazard treasures of the soul's palace) ultimately being rejected in favor of a new national gallery.
Three other studies turn to the interchange between poetic form and nineteenth-century science. In Electric Meters: Victorian Physiological Poetics (Ohio Univ. Press), Jason Rudy reminds us of the longstanding association between poetry's effects and a shock, flash, or spark. Such physiological poetics became aligned with electricity in an era of electric telegraphs, new approaches to nerve impulses, and electric field theory. Rhythm and meter paralleled electricity as nearly instantaneous transmissions that precede verbal awareness or analysis, and an ability to touch or unify communities instantaneously had political implications. As Rudy notes of The Princess ("Tennyson's Telegraphic Poetics," chap. 2), working-glass girls in the Prologue are linked in a circuit by holding hands, and then, as the electric current passes through all, are "dislinked" to shrieks of laughter. Here, Rudy contends, Tennyson announces his poetic form and structure, a narrative passing from hand to hand at once connected and dislinked and involving the political issues of women's education and Chartism. If Ida's university, unlike the intercalary lyrics, shut women off from emotion and stress intellect alone, her giving in to sensation and feeling helps effect a new bond or union--though her angry blush troped in terms of rick-burning warns that that too strong a feeling can erupt into violence.
In "Tennyson and the Embodied Mind" ("TTH," pp. 61-80) Gregory Tare approaches physiological poetics in relation to theories of physiological psychology developed by George Henry Lewes and Herbert Spencer. Tennyson may have wished to affirm a unified identity and transcendent soul but could not ignore instability and fragmentation due to time and change. Even Hallam's "On Sympathy" enforces fragmentation insofar as the mind assumes successive states, and numerous essays in the Quarterly Review, to which Tennyson's father subscribed, explicitly associated diseased physiology of mind with fragmentation. Tate then reads "The Two Voices," "St. Simeon Stylites," "Ulysses," and "Tithon" within this framework, seeing them centered less on persuasion (as Cornelia Pearsall argued in 2008) than on process and theories of mind revealed--as when both Ulysses and Tithon experience an acute sense of being cut off from their earlier selves. "Unnumbered Polypi" ("TTH," pp. 7-23) by the late Richard Maxwell, points out that in the decades immediately preceding "The Kraken," "polypi" could designate cephalopodic animals such as the squid or octopi or tiny sea creatures that, like plants, multiplied when cut in two. In the first half of Tennyson's poem, the kraken appears in vegetative guise, battening on the sea floor, but behaves as an animal when the apocalypse forces it to flee the heated deep. The kraken's very distance from the human, however, simultaneously hints at affinities since humans begin as primitive embryos feeding passively upon what comes to them in a process whereby ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.
Only Dennis Taylor ("Tennyson's Catholic Years: A Point of Contact," "TTH," pp. 285-312) takes up the issue of Tennyson and Victorian religion, arguing that Hallam's idealized Catholicism inspired by Dante, the Apostles' ecumenicism, and Tennyson's own mysticism (which made the real presence signified by the Catholic Eucharist compelling), induced a life-long receptivity to Catholicism that co-existed with Protestant revulsion from "superstition." If "The Palace of Art" begins with a Madonna derived from Dante and Hallam and culminates in a dark Gothic version implying corruption, "The Holy Grail" focuses on the reality of the cup, which opens up competing Catholic, Protestant, and secular responses as well as tacitly exploring to what degree the national church has foundations in Catholicism. Perhaps the closest analogue to Taylor's essay is W. David Shaw's "Tennyson and Zeno: Three Infinities" ("TTH," pp. 81-99), which while challenging Tennyson scholars to brush up their calculus explores Tennyson's response to the infinite (whether as time, mindscape, or God). In Shaw's hands Tennyson becomes a wisdom writer, at times almost a yoga master whose rhythms and focus shift toward meditation that exceeds analytic consciousness. Shaw's Tennyson, then, is also a mystic, able to see and accept simultaneously the incompatible infinities of God's absoluteness and the infinite time and space of nineteenth-century science.
Four essays in 2009 make gender a central focus. Linda H. Peterson ("Tennyson and the Ladies," "TTH," pp. 25-43) adduces a purloined letter for Tennyson's "lady" poems and later career: Anna Jameson's analysis of Shakespearean heroines in Characteristics of Women (1832) has lain in plain sight all along-it is even mentioned by Arthur Hallam--but has been ignored until now. Yet Jameson and Tennyson share the common method of identifying a leading trait at the outset, then using it to weigh characteristics of women and their social roles. Tennyson's early pairing of the Shakespearean characters Isabel and Mariana in 1830, moreover, forecast the female pairings of the 1859 Idylls and related generic experiments setting lyric against epic, song against heroic action. Ingrid Ranum ("An Adventure in Modern Marriage: Domestic Development in Tennyson's Geraint and Enid and The Marriage of Geraint," "TTH," pp. 241-257) links Enid to Sarah Stickney Ellis, since Ellis reports men's preference for silent women yet also advises women to speak up to guide husbands morally and spiritually. Thus Ellis tacitly acknowledges--like the Enid idylls--marriage's inherent contradictions. Clare Broome Saunders (Women Writers and Nineteenth-Century Medievalism, Palgrave Macmillan) juxtaposes Tennyson's Guinevere to alternative representations by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (an American), Violet Fane, M. E. Braddon, and several women illustrators. Laura Fasick argues that The Princess may be more progressive than we sometimes grant when seen in the context of Victorian educational reform; the poem's prologue chimes with progressives' belief in mingling sexes and classes, exercising body and mind, and joining serious study to play, in contrast to the rigid men's universities after which Ida's is modeled ("The Reform of Women's Education in Tennyson's The Princess and Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida," Gender and Victorian Reform [Cambridge Scholars, 2008]:, pp. 26-43).
Acoustic, visual, and print culture formed another important strand of Tennyson criticism in 2009. Though it also concerns gender and intertextuality, Angela Leighton's "Tennyson, by Ear" (TP) is most important for its exploration of Tennysonian soundscapes and the creativity they inspired in Christina Rossetti and Virginia Woolf. Leighton suggests that literature, relative to other verbal expression, is founded in a distinguishing melody or hum that is more than the sum of its sounding words, so much so that listening for it can be a positive act that generates a new melody in turn (as with Rossetti, who heard the recurring "weary" in Tennyson's verse and put it to inventive use in her own). Both Peter McDonald ("Tennyson's Dying Fall," TP) and William Pritchard ("Epistolary Tennyson: The Art of Suspension," "TTH," pp. 331-347) are like Leighton eloquent guides to how we might freshly listen to Tennyson, whether to cadences embedded in phrases that cross lines and in which further verbal play unfolds (McDonald), or to the feminine ending of each stanza's third line in "The Daisy," which "giv[es] the upcoming anapest something to answer to" (Pritchard, p. 338). After considering how "Charge of the Light Brigade" could be responsibly recited today, Jason Camlot argues that it would necessarily entail awareness of Victorian recitation conventions and of embedded ideologies made apparent by historical distance and critique ("Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' (1854),'" Key Victorian Texts Forum, Victorian Review 35, no. 1: 27-32). Camlot's brief piece is usefully read alongside Matthew Rubery's "Play it Again, Sam Weller: New Digital Audiobooks and Old Ways of Reading" (Journal of Victorian Culture 13, no. 1 : 58-79), which includes the BBC website at which Tennyson's recitation of the poem can be heard.
The beautifully illustrated Tennyson Transformed (cited earlier) takes up Victorian visuality rather than soundscapes. Two essays shed new light on Gustave Dore's 1867-1868 illustrations of the 1859 Idylls. Jim Cheshire's "Introduction: Tennyson and Victorian Culture" situates them amid larger market forces surrounding Tennyson's volumes; a "Crystal Palace Dore Art Union" in London, for example, was advertised by a handbill and offered exhibition subscriptions that included a bonus prize--usually illustrations of "Elaine"--and chance to win an original Dora. Julia Thomas ("'Always another poem': Victorian Illustrations of Tennyson") links Dore's overt divergences from Tennyson's text to the artist's reliance on a translation; yet not only were Dore's the first illustrations by a living French artist of a living English poet, but the rapid translations of Tennyson's text into French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Swedish following the Dore illustrated edition also suggests that his departures paradoxically helped return other readers to the text (if at a linguistic distance). These essays are usefully read alongside Barbara Lupack's comparison of Dore's and Julia Margaret Cameron's illustrations of the Idylls in Illustrating Camelot (D. S. Brewer, 2008), another beautifully produced volume. Dore, Lupack contends, set aside Tennyson's emphasis on women to concentrate on characters' relationship to landscape; though Cameron's illustrations were far less successful commercially, her photographic illustrations not only made women central figures again but also carried an individual stamp, whether by imparting humanity to Vivien and artistic agency to Enid or by reversing Tennyson's order in her handwritten titles appearing on photos. Lupack is also worth consulting for her analysis of Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale's Vivien and a seldom-reproduced Howard Pyle color illustration of Lancelot and his coiling black curls in "The Lady of Shalott." Cameron's biographer Colin Ford makes the case that Cameron's tableaux vivants arrangements and domestic theatricals helped impel Tennyson toward the theater late in his career ("'More fair than words can say': Tennyson and Julia Margaret Cameron," TT), while Ben Stoker ("Alfred: Informal Portraits of a Poet") surveys the mythologizing of Tennyson as Romantic or aged poet in contemporary images. Leonee Ormond's richly layered "Tennyson and the Artists" (TT) explores the degree to which Tennyson's own ambiguities and intertexts (e.g., Shakespeare in "Mariana") inspired Victorian painters. She finds the most satisfying response to his poetry in John Millais's "Speak! Speak!" (1894-1895), which also features the reading of letters by a dead hand and a suddenly fathomed presence (as in Section 95 of In Memoriam), but displaces these to an ancient Roman setting. John Lord ("Greatness Confirmed: The Sculpted Portraits of Tennyson," TT) examines idealized treatments of Tennyson versus an emergent realist aesthetic in sculptures associated both with the Pre-Raphaelites and continental sculptors.
Visuality is important in "Tennyson's Process," a chapter in Sally Busheli's Text as Process: Creative Composition in Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Dickinson (Univ. of Virginia Press), for very different reasons. If Jerome McGann argues that "transmission" is part of a literary text's meaning, she asserts the complementary principle that "making" is too (p. 5), and seeks a systematic method and theorization of compositional process situated within Anglo-American tradition (if also drawing upon German and French textual criticism). Merging post-structuralism and intentionality, Bushell posits an authorial subject as one force bringing a text and its meaning into being yet functioning as only one of many factors including social, authorial, and publishing networks; material and historical conditions; language as such; and co-creative readers. She deems Tennyson a "reproductive" writer who needed to go out of the self and return during his invention process, and who proceeded by "self-translation" (since he composed in his head, set the text on a page, read it aloud to intimates while still revising, and revisited it again in proof). Within this model, his manuscript doodles and drawings are not incidental but intrinsic, as he paused amid writing, swerved into doodling, and derived something from it to bring back into the text. She compares, for example, the large head drawn on the manuscript of "Morte d'Arthur" to the death mask of John Keats by Joseph Severn, which mutely suggested Hallam's equivalence to a poet of great promise cut down in youth. Tennyson's invention often continued after publication, and rather than seeing the cumulative Idylls as a serial, she emphasizes their recombinant function (another form of going out and return), a formal feature intrinsically related both to their origins (when Tennyson seemed not to have a strong sense of the whole) and the poet's and readers' engagement in an unusually complex ongoing hermeneutic circle of interpretation.
Robert Patten's discussion of the Idylls ("The Contemporaneity of The Last Tournament," "TTH," pp. 259-283) is one of four works explicitly concerned with print culture. Like Kathryn Ledbetter (Tennyson and Victorian Periodicals, 2007), Patten contends that a periodical's surrounding print becomes part of a periodical poem's literary meaning. In issues of Contemporary Review leading up to "The Last Tournament" (December 1871), three prevailing topics were the Franco-Prussian and U.S. Civil War (which touched on war atrocities and imperial ambitions); faith and doubt; and aestheticism (including Robert Buchanan's "Poetry of the Fleshly School" in October). If the principal themes and figures of "The Last Tournament" integrated Tennyson's longstanding preoccupations, they also spoke in particular ways to his contemporaries. Stefanie Markovits' The Crimean War in the British Imagination (Cambridge Univ. Press) is both a media and cultural study of what she deems the first modern war, which generated ambivalent British response through its mix of heroism and absurdity and competing models of chivalric versus feminine heroism. She terms "The Charge of the Light Brigade" the war's most important cultural product and metonym, one that has retroactively shaped perceptions of the war's meaning (eclipsing, for example, the Heavy Brigade's successful sortie the same day). She examines Tennyson intertextually alongside other poets (Sydney Dobell, Alexander Smith, and, in "Childe Roland," Robert Browning) who also faced the problem of exercising poetic sympathy with an often unpopular war the poet had never seen. As well, she speculatively reads "The Charge" as the silenced military ballad of Maud, instancing this construct as a trope of the bafflement incited by new, modern warfare when there were no available forms or techniques to articulate its fractured meaning. Timothy Peltason ("What the Laureate Did Next: Maud," "TTH," pp. 197-219) also adopts a lens of print culture but turns to Dickens' Bleak House and Carlyle's Past and Present as key intertexts that illuminate the techniques Tennyson's monodrama shares with them: hallucinatory, exaggerated subjective perception and grim urban scenes combined with social critique, the speaker's very alienation attesting to underlying social ills.
Anne C. McCarthy ("'Who knows if he be dead'? Maud, Signification, and the Madhouse Canto," "TTH," pp. 221-239) takes Maud, intertextuality, and print culture as points of departure but, drawing upon Paul DeMan's work on referential aberration, principally examines self-referring elements that call reading and interpretation into question--just as Victorians themselves found it difficult to "read" when a body was really dead. In "The Breathing Space of Ballad: Tennyson's Stillborn Poetics" ("TTH," pp. 151-171), D. B. Ruderman reads several Tennyson texts (mostly unpublished in his lifetime) in relation to Freud's theory of birth trauma and the death wish and explores the ambivalence these works reveal about circulating poems. Allan C. Christensen offers a Lacanian reading in "Navigating in Perilous Seas of Language: In Memoriam and 'The Wreck of the Deutschland'" (VP 47, no. 2: 379-401), which examines these major works as parallel representations of the poet's transition from the traumatic rupture of union with the mother to the symbolic law of the father that allowed for agency in language. To Christensen, both poems' ships (tiny yet mobile due to crafting) afloat upon the immensity of the sea are tropes of their poetic projects.
Matthew Bevis addresses "Tennyson's Humour" (TP) but writes many of the funniest lines himself, in part because he finds Tennyson's attempts at overt humor unsuccessful and emphasizes Tennyson's responses to the fundamental absurdity of life. Reading Tennyson through the lens of Dante and Beckett, Bevis underscores Tennyson's self-parodic speakers, from St. Simeon Stylites' "hoar with rime" (1. 163, emphasis mine) to the tacit parody of Section 95 of In Memoriam in "Come into the garden, Maud." His essay is usefully read with Matthew Kaiser's "The World in Play: A Portrait of a Victorian Concept" (New Literary History 40, no. 1: 105-129). Kaiser's ultimate aim is to illuminate Victorians' experience of modernity in terms of the seven competing rhetorics of Brian Sutton-Smith's theory of play. Kaiser concludes by juxtaposing Matthew Arnold's critique of games-mad aristocrats (play as competition) and its cure in the free play of the mind with Tennyson's Idylls of the King, in which homosocial competition in jousts and tourneys leads to civic cohesion while the subversive, imaginary, self-enabling play of desiring women like Vivien or Ettarre undo it. Finally, in "Getting It Wrong in 'The Lady of Shalott'" ("TTH," pp. 45-59), Erik Gray argues that creating art demands seeing what is right and best, being aware that one is choosing wrongly, yet going ahead nonetheless--which enables the Lady to shift from weaving to creating song (a paradigm repeated at idyll-length in "Merlin and Vivien").
The more than 1000 pages of print devoted to Tennyson's poetry two hundred years after his birth suggests that he certainly did get things right, at least insofar as he crafted poetry that sustains interest and elicits such abiding response.
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|Title Annotation:||Guide to the Year's Work; Alfred Tennyson|
|Author:||Hughes, Linda K.|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2010|
|Next Article:||Victorian women poets.|