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Title: The Lyric in Victorian Memory
Authors: Alfano, Veronica Rose
Advisors: Gray, Erik
Stewart, Susan
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Housman
Subjects: British and Irish literature
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Many critics affirm that Victorian lyric is overshadowed either by the rising novel or, in studies that concentrate on Victorian verse, by the dramatic monologue. My project, however, posits that the mnemonic nature of brief, evocative lyric poems helps to explain their persistence not only in individual memory but also in the canon. Combining a formalist approach with historical analysis and examination of reception history, I explore lyric poetry's links to physical and cultural remembering, as well as to Victorian writers' thematization of memory and forgetting. My first chapter examines the often-anthologized songs that punctuate Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1847 <italic>The Princess</italic>. Although Tennyson writes this poem partly in order to eschew effeminate lyric in favor of masculine epic, he interrupts the blank-verse narrative (told by men) with short verses (sung by women). The vague nostalgia of these lyrics, which derails <italic>The Princess</italic>'s plot, also constitutes its chief claim on canonical memory. Unmanly songs sabotage Tennyson's authorial identity, but my second chapter shows that Christina Rossetti derives her distinctive voice from confinement in brief, mnemonic poems and in the grave. Beneath the humble self-forgetfulness of a poem like "When I am dead, my dearest" (1848) is a determined claim on the reader's remembrance - and a revision of the sentimental Victorian "poetess" figure. Amnesia underlies Arthur Symons's transformations of dancers into disjointed abstractions in <italic>London Nights</italic> (1895); my third chapter, however, proposes that his efforts to efface context are overcome by shamefaced recollection of setting and character. For Symons, memory is a form of conscience. If Symons cannot sustain lyrical amnesia, I claim in my fourth chapter, A. E. Housman cannot escape it. As he tries to commemorate individuals in his 1896 <italic>A Shropshire Lad</italic>, they fade into commonplaces; just so, this volume's repetitive poems blur together in the mind. Housman's impersonal nostalgia is shot through with forgetfulness. Considering the status of these poems as anthology favorites alongside critical misrememberings of their authors, I argue that Victorian lyrics - which attempt in vain to recapture lost time and to memorialize their subjects - echo the period's simultaneous obsession with and alienation from the past.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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