Victorian Poetry Now: Poets, Poems, Poetics

Victorian Poetry Now: Poets, Poems, Poetics

Victorian Poetry Now: Poets, Poems, Poetics

Victorian Poetry Now: Poets, Poems, Poetics

Synopsis

This book is the definitive guide to Victorian poetry, which its author approaches in the light of modern critical concerns and contemporary contexts.
  • Valentine Cunningham exhibits encyclopedic knowledge of the poetry produced in this period and offers dazzling close readings of a number of well-known poems
  • Draws on the work of major Victorian poets and their works as well as many of the less well-known poets and poems
  • Reads poems and poets in the light of both Victorian and modern critical concerns
  • Places poetry in its personal, aesthetic, historical, and ideological context
  • Organized in terms of the Victorian anxieties of self, body, and melancholy
  • Argues that rhyming/repetition is the major formal feature of Victorian poetry
  • Highlights the Victorian obsession with small subjects in small poems
  • Shows how Victorian poetry attempts to engage with the modern subject and how its modernity segues into modernism and postmodernism

Excerpt

This critical-historical account of Victorian poetry attempts to give some sense – to make some sense – of the productions of the most aweingly productive period of poetry there’s ever been, in any language. Just how many ‘Victorian’ poets and poems there were really came home to me in compiling my Blackwells collection The Victorians: An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics (2000), with its 158 named poets (and a ghostly band of not-allthat-bad poets excluded for reasons only of space). Most of the discussion in this book has grown out of lectures and classes at Oxford and elsewhere seeking to arm undergraduates and graduates – and still more grown-up readers too – with some map through this densely matted overgrowth and undergrowth. How to see the wood for the trees, and the trees for the wood. To make out the figures in this very large carpet. To see, in Matthew Arnold’s phrase, the poetic object ‘as in itself it really is’ – though reckoning the poetic object, the text, not as some neatly bounded, autotelic, done and dusted, perfectly finished thing (did Arnold ever really think that?), but as it indeed is, a messy, fluid scene or drama of language, its ‘final’ words never unconscious of their precedent try-outs (many of them now handily, and always eye-openingly, available in major editions), and in many cases bearing the traces of its as it were evolutionary ancestors in earlier poems (what we now think of as its intertextual forebears); its words slippery to grip, given as they are more to connotation than denotation, to multivalence rather than singleness of mind; its grammar happily fuzzy (as modern grammarians have it); its referentiality so difficult to pin down because this writing is so utterly receptive to the world of things outside it. These texts are deictic alright, but pointing all over the place. This textuality is so porous: all at once also intertextual and contextual.

Every genre, said Derrida on a wise occasion, overflows all boundaries assigned to it. And so it is with every item in consideration by my title: poem, poetics, poet even, certainly poetry, and of course Victorian.

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