, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 325–335 | Cite as

"His way is thro' Chaos and the Bottomless and Pathless": The Gender of Madness in Alfred Tennyson's Poetry

  • Marysa Demoor


This article deals with the theme of madness in Lord Alfred Tennyson's poetry. It is well-known that several of Tennyson's relatives suffered from bouts of insanity. Indeed, Tennyson himself at one time feared he would succumb to one or other mental disease. The subject has already drawn the attention of several Tennysonian specialists and Ann Colley devoted an entire book to it in 1985, but this essay focuses on the hitherto unnoticed importance of gender to the madness issue. It contends that Tennyson's early poems, featuring melancholy, medieval young women as protagonists, gave him the opportunity of describing the disease in people who were far removed from his own situation and person. Only when he was happily married and the father of two sons did he create a male character who might be said to mirror some of his own experiences.


Mental Disease Young Woman Comparative Literature Historical Linguistic Male Character 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marysa Demoor
    • 1
  1. 1.Vakgroep EnglesUniversiteit GentGentBelgium

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