Academic journal article Victorian Poetry

Robert Browning

Academic journal article Victorian Poetry

Robert Browning

Article excerpt

This year's entry rounds out the year 2010 which, as Britta Martens noted last fall, began as a productive period in Browning scholarship, including the publication of the Selected Poems (Longman, 2010) and volume 17 of The Brownings' Correspondence, edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, and Edward Hagan (Wedgestone Press, 2010). Like the two other major ongoing editorial projects on Browning, the Oxford edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Browning and The Complete Works of Robert Browning from Ohio Univ. Press, Kelley's work combines meticulous textual scholarship with extensive annotations and research materials. It is also a labor of love and a gift to scholars interested in the complex texture of Browning's life, in the genesis of the poems, in Browning as a writer of prose (a lifetime of letter writing constitutes a substantial body of work)-and in the intricate literary and cultural relations he was part of in British and international contexts. Researchers who have had to travel to archives on numerous continents to read unpublished correspondence will appreciate Kelley and his colleagues' careful assembling of this important Browning archive. As humanities research takes a digital turn, one wonders what additional possibilities new media may offer in terms of editorial projects on Browning and in supporting and promoting collaborations among Browning scholars involved in this foundational but often unrecognized work. The world of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEl) guidelines and computer mark-up languages may in fact make the field of textual editing one of the most exciting "new" areas of study. One wonders, too, what guises a future "digital Browning" may assume.

Browning figures in a number of book chapters and entries in new reference texts in 2010. In The Cambridge History of English Poetry (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010), Richard Cronin weaves Browning into his survey of the world of Victorian poetry, taking Browning's Sordello, character and poem, as as emblematic of the need on the part of Victorian poets "to find a style of their own" (p. 576). He reviews "Fra Lippo Lippi" as emblematic not just of the dramatic monologue, but also of the marketplace for publishing poetry in the Victorian era, as well as the question of relationships between artistic freedom and economics. Herbert Tucker contributes a chapter "Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning" to this volume (pp. 617-635), in which he considers the creative and intellectual synergy between the two poets in the context of what he terms the cultural formation of evangelical dissent. Musing that class-based interests inform what Victorians found uncouth about Browning's language--including the poems' evocation of "bodily sensation [with] strenuous thought"--Tucker traces Browning's poetic career as one half of this duo of "poised, self-critically self-confident children of poetic Romanticism and evangelical dissent" (p. 623). In his overview of Browning's work, Tucker suggests that Browning's volumes of poems, like his career, have their own distinctive rhythms. In Men and Women, for instance, Browning "tempers metres to temperaments" with "the prosodic equivalent of biorhythmic voiceprints" (p. 627). Browning's memory of Elizabeth Barrett after her death also forms part of that creative rhythm, as Barrett appears as "ghostly collaborator" in the imagery of the later works (p. 633).

Rhythm and pattern are at issue in several other book chapters on Browning. Conflict and Difference in Nineteenth-Century Literature (ed. Dinah Birch and Mark Llewellyn [Palgrave, 2010] ) is an essay collection focusing on "patterns of engagement with concepts of 'difference' and 'conflict'" (p. 1) and includes the essay "'Ever a Fighter': Browning's Struggle with Conflict" (pp. 33-51), also by Herbert Tucker. Tucker takes Hegel's dialectic as a starting point for his consideration of conflict and its resolution in Browning. Browning's pugnaciousness, together with the "skitter, careen, and lurch of his muscle-bound metric," Tucker contends, demands an equally energized response from his readers, a "state of artificially induced vigilance" (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.