Robert Browning's Moral-Aesthetic Theory, 1833-1855

Robert Browning's Moral-Aesthetic Theory, 1833-1855

Robert Browning's Moral-Aesthetic Theory, 1833-1855

Robert Browning's Moral-Aesthetic Theory, 1833-1855

Excerpt

This study is an attempt to present a unified and coherent analysis of the progressive development of Robert Browning's ideas concerning the nature and purpose of art, and the role of the artist, between 1833 and 1855. It is generally recognized that the growth of Browning's aesthetic is closely related to, and in large part dependent on, the growth of his moral ideas, that is, on his conception of man and of man's relationship to society and to God. It is also generally recognized that by 1855 Browning had clearly formulated his theory of imperfection--that the artist, and indeed all men, must pursue the infinite, even though it is unattainable, and that this pursuit must be attempted recognizing, and to some degree celebrating, the always incomplete and ultimately disappointing nature of the finite. However, despite the proliferation of Browning studies in the last decade, there is as yet no single work which examines, through a detailed chronological study of his early poetry, the progress of Browning's movement toward the goal he finally did reach in 1855.

This work does not pretend to present a new view of Browning's development, and it does not promise its reader an original philosophic theory concerning the end result of that development. But it is intended to supply, particularly for the needs of the student of Victorian literature, what has hitherto been lacking in Browning studies: a careful step-by-step analysis of the development of Browning's moral-aesthetic ideas--the problems he faced, the solutions he formulated as he grew toward his poetic maturity--and an examination of the intimate connection which exists between that mature work and the apprentice work out of which it evolved.

The justification of this kind of study lies within its limitations.

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