The Victorian Poetry, Prose, and Drama.
T h e V i c t o r i a n P o e t r y
C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s :
- developed in the context of the novel
- experimented with long narrative poems: A. Tennyson’s Maud, E. Barrett-Browning’s Aurora Leigh, R. Browning’s The Ring and the Book, & oth.
- function: accord. to public expectation poets should be sages with sth to teach x but: older generation poets discomforted with the public role: A. Tennyson, R. Browning, and M. Arnold > younger generation poets distanced themselves from the public, embracing an identity as bohemian rebels
F o r m :
- experiments with character and perspective: R. Browning’s The Ring and the Book with the plot presented through 10 different perspectives
- dramatic monologue
- visual detail = use of detail to construct visual images repres. the poem’s dominant emotion => brings poets and painters close together
- sound = use of sound to convey meaning ‘where words would not’ (Arthur Hallam): the beautiful cadences of A. Tennyson and C. A. Swinburne x the roughness of R. Browning and G. M. Hopkins
S u b j e c t :
- heroic materials of the past: M. Arnold
- materials of the poet’s own age: E. Barrett-Browning
< strongly infl. by the Romantics x but: lacked the confidence the Romantics felt in the power of the imagination
> W. Wordworth’s “Lines Written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, an address to his sister upon revisiting a landscape x M. Arnold’s “Resignation”, the same subject x but: his rocks and sky ‘seem to bear rather than rejoice’
> J. Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” x T. Hardy’s “The Darkling Trush”, the nightingale becoming ‘an aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small’
- Victorian reaction to the Romantic subjectivity:
(a) attenuated Romanticism = art pursued for its own sake: D. G. Rossetti, C. A. Swinburne, & oth.
(b) dramatic monologue = a lyric poem in the voice of a speaker ironically distinct from the poet, ‘lyric in expression’ x but: ‘dramatic in principle’ (R. Browning): R. Browning, A. Tennyson, & oth.
T h e V i c t o r i a n N o v e l
C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s :
- novel = dominant form, extraordinary various in style and genre:
> C. Dickens’s extravagant comedy
> the Brontë sisters’ gothic romance
> W. M. Thackeray’s satire
> G. Eliot’s psychological fiction
> by the end of the c. also crime, mystery, and horror novels, sci-fi, detective stories, etc.
- function: accord. to public expectation the novel should depict social problems to stimulate efforts for social reform: C. Dickens, E. Gaskell, & oth.
F o r m :
(a) a sprawling, panoramic expanse: orig. publ. in a serial form encouraging a certain kind of plotting and pacing > novels = ‘large loose baggy monsters’ (H. James)
(b) a multitude of characters, a number of plots: repres. a large and comprehensive social world
(c) a realistic presentation: repres. a social world sharing the features of the one we inhabit
C o n c e r n :
(a) the protagonist’s effort to define his/her place in society:
- stratified society x but: a chance for upward mobility: C. Dickens’s Pip can aspire to the ‘great expectations’ of the novel’s title, and C. Brontë’s Jane Eyre can marry her employer = a landed gentleman
(b) the woman’s struggle for self-realisation:
- woman = the repres. protagonist whose search for fulfilment emblematises the human condition
- ‘a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with meanness of opportunity’ (G. Eliot, Prelude to Middlemarch): Jane Eyre, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, even Becky Sharp, & oth.
> women for the 1st time major authors: J. Austen, the Brontës, E. Gaskell, and G. Eliot <=> the novel easily accessible for women writers = conc. with the domestic life they knew well, not built on uni education, not burdened by an august tradition as poetry, etc.
T h e V i c t o r i a n P r o s e ( i . e . N o n - f i c t i o n )
< the term used to distinguish non-fiction prose writers from fiction writers and: to stress the centrality of argument and persuasion to Victorian intellectual life
- incl. history, biography, theology, criticism, etc.
- conc. with a wide range of controversial relig., political, and aesthetic topics
- the periodical = the vehicle of the Victorian prose
- function: didactic mission in urgent social and moral issues
> M. Arnold + W. Pater: culture, i.e. the serious appreciation of great works of lit., provides the immanence and meaning people once found in relig.
> M. Arnold x W. Pater: A.’s culture = a moral experience x P.’s culture = an aesthetic experience
=> moral + aesthetic experience = the basis for the claims of modern lit. criticism
T h e V i c t o r i a n D r a m a a n d T h e a t r e
- theatre = a flourishing and pop. institution
=> wide appeal x but: limited artistic achievement
- comedy of Victorian pretence and hypocrisy: G. B. Shaw’s ‘problem plays' on difficult social issues, infl. by the socially controversial plays of Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906) x O. Wilde’s comedies
- infl. of drama in the novel:
> C. Dickens composed many scenes in his novels with theatrical techniques
> W. M. Thackeray repres. himself as the puppetmaster of his characters + employed the stock gestures and expressions of melodramatic acting in his illustr. in Vanity Fair
> + A. Tennyson, R. Browning, and H. James = unsuccessful playwrights
Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.
Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.
Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.