Anglo-American Antiphony: The Late Romanticism of Tennyson and Emerson

By Richard E. Brantley | Go to book overview

SIX
Theodiceal Impulse

Tennyson's theodicy ranks with such other comprehensive, profound corollaries of his philosophical theology as his spiritual sense. He, like Milton and the authoror the Book of Job, attempts to vindicate the justice of God, especially God's ordaining or permitting natural and moral evil. Ricks, in finding "affinities" between In Memoriam and John Berryman's Dream Songs, points out that both are "theodicies."1Culler finds fault, however, with the theodicy of In Memoriam: "Tennyson is not attempting a complete theodicy. . . . Rather he offers . . . mere guesses at truth, which dimple the surface of his pool of tears but do not penetrate to the depths."2 I argue, to the contrary, that among the most successful characteristics of In Momoriam is its impulse toward theodicy.

Boyd-Carpenter tells an anecdote fraught with implications for the poem's theodiceal aspect:

{Tennyson} never shirked the hard and dismaying facts of life. Once he made me take to my room Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man. There never was such a passionate philippic against Nature as this book contained. The universe was one vast scene of murder; the deep aspirations and noble visions of men were the follies of flies buzzing for a brief moment in the presence of inexorable destruction. Life was bottled sunshine; death the silent-footed butler who withdrew the cork. The book, with its fierce invective, had a strange rhapsodical charm. It put with irate and verbose extravagance the fact that sometimes

Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against {man's} creed

-97-

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Anglo-American Antiphony: The Late Romanticism of Tennyson and Emerson
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Prelude ix
  • Theme and Variations 1
  • Exposition the First - The Method of in Memoriam 25
  • One - Introit 27
  • Two - Empirical Procedures 33
  • Three - Evangelical Principles 51
  • Four - Philosophical Theology 65
  • Five - Spiritual Sense 90
  • Six - Theodiceal Impulse 97
  • Seven - Set Pieces 106
  • Eight - Language Method 115
  • Nine - Intra-Romantic Relationships 127
  • Exposition the Second - The Method of Emerson's Prose 151
  • Ten - Introit 153
  • Eleven - Perspective-By-Perspective Understanding 160
  • Twelve - Religious Methodology 166
  • Thirteen - Suspenseful Subjectivity 177
  • Fourteen - Experience and Faith 193
  • Fifteen - Roots of Theory 204
  • Sixteen - The Play of Skepticism 211
  • Seventeen - Language Method 236
  • Recapitulation and Cadenza 245
  • Notes 277
  • Works Cited 313
  • Index 337
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