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Title: The Balladic Empire: Nineteenth-Century Poetry, British Imperial Identity, and the Idea of the Ballad
Authors: Schulz, John Arthur
Advisors: Martin, Meredith
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Ballad
British Imperialism
Literary History
Romantic Poetry
Victorian Poetry
Subjects: English literature
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Balladic Empire offers a historicized understanding of how, after the eighteenth-centuryballad revival, the genre’s discursive instabilities—the uncertainty as to what a ballad was, is, or could be—became an idea of genre that both infused and shaped nineteenth-century poetry concerned with British imperial identity. Sometimes this poetry took the shape of the ballad, other times it evoked the idea of the ballad through other generic modes, such as epic or monodrama. Beginning with Britain’s First Reform Bill (1832), The Balladic Empire touches down at key points of intensity for the British Empire throughout the Victorian era: the war scares with France in the 1840s, the Crimean War with Russia between 1855–59; the aftermath of the 1857 Indian Rebellion; and the renewed imperial crises with Russia over territory with Afghanistan in the 1870s and 1880s. During Britain’s Reform Era, Thomas Babington Macaulay relied on two co-dependent, yet contradictory ideas of the ballad’s historicity to mythologize British liberalism in both his historiographical theories and his enormously popular Lays of Ancient Rome (1842). During the imperial crises of the 1850s–80s, Poet-Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson used the mad pages of Maud (1855) to anxiously ruminate upon the ballad’s galvanizing affects as both an irrecoverable and enduring resource for his own modern “songs to nerve a nation’s heart,” as he sought to hold an imperiled Empire together. In the wake of the 1857 Indian Rebellion, the British Indian subject and poet Toru Dutt evoked the ballad’s legibility as epic in her Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan (1882) to unsettle the Empire’s primitivizing view of Indian civilization. The indeterminate idea of the ballad was a meta-generic language shared by poets looking to glorify, suture, and trouble British imperial identity, poets both metropolitan and global. Throughout its chapters, The Balladic Empire calls attention to the fragility of the British imperial enterprise, sheds light on the alternative worlds imagined by its subordinated cultures, and offers a historical poetics of an unstable, often incoherent genre, that alters our sense of the ballad’s nationalistic work.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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