Throughout the nineteenth century, and thus throughout Tennyson’s career, questions of individual agency governed the real daily lives of individual people and the social structure of England itself. Tennyson’s poetic maturation after Hallam’s death, his supposed anti-Romanticism and his laureateship have become tenets in the criticism of his poetry, and these in turn continue to uphold his reputation among contemporary readers as a preeminent arch-Victorian whose political conservatism surfaces in various forms of nationalistic sentiment and anti-individualism.1 But it is not entirely clear that Tennyson abandons his interest in the individual in the ways that we have come to expect from England’s state poet. Tennyson responds to the question of individualism by attempting to dispel the purely hierarchical relationship between society and the individual as it develops in the nineteenth century, developing poetic forms which express a more dynamic and thus more complex vision of the individual’s social experience.2 This is not to take a radical approach to Tennyson by relocating him on the side of militant individualism; many of Tennyson’s poems situate the individual within broader social structures in ways which qualify or limit the individual’s claim to anything like epistemological privilege.
KeywordsHuman Agency Poetic Form Charity Worker Nationalistic Sentiment Public Execution
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- 2.See, for example, Michael Timko, ‘The Victorianism of Victorian Literature’, New Literary History 6 (1974–5): 602–27.Google Scholar
- 13.For a thorough discussion of Rizpah’s madness, see Roger Platizky, A Blueprint of His Dissent: Madness and Method in Tennyson’s Poetry (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
- 15.See Gerhard Joseph, Tennyson and the Text: The Weaver’s Shuttle (London: Oxford University Press, 1992).Google Scholar