Academic journal article Victorian Poetry

General Materials

Academic journal article Victorian Poetry

General Materials

Article excerpt

Five books are featured here in the general materials section: one introduction to the period and its poetry, one reader of previously published criticism, two monographs, and one massive handbook. From undergraduates relatively unfamiliar with Victorian poetry to specialized researchers with detailed knowledge of Irish doggerel, readers from many walks of academic life should find subjects of productive interest in this year's volumes. Despite their heterogeneity, these books all devote sustained attention to work by Alfred Tennyson and Gerard Manley Hopkins, suggesting that these two poets, at least, retain their ability to speak to a broad spectrum of interlocutors.

Like earlier volumes in Bloomsbury's Texts and Contexts series, Rosie Miles's Victorian Poetry in Context: Texts and Contexts (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), is addressed primarily to undergraduates, although first-time teachers will also find contextual information, textual suggestions, and writing prompts sure to enrich their classrooms. Indeed, the book's ten chapters, organized into three parts, could serve as the framework for a responsible survey course on Victorian poetry. The book begins with "Contexts," which over the course of two chapters offers a breathless overview of some of the period's social, cultural, political, and literary concerns, each punctuated by briefly allusive clusters of topically relevant Victorian poems. Part two, "Texts," composed of six chapters, builds on this literary-historical infrastructure to offer somewhat more detailed readings of a much smaller number of mostly canonical poems: Tennyson's In Memoriam (1850); Robert Browning's "Porphyria's Lover" (1836), "My Last Duchess" (1842), "Fra Lippo Lippi" (1855), and "Andrea del Sarto" (1855); Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1856); Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" (1862); Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "Jenny" (1870); Augusta Webster's "A Castaway" (1870); and representative fin-de-siecle poems from Amy Levy and Arthur Symons. Finally, in part three, "Wider Contexts," two chapters survey some of the major developments in Victorian poetry criticism written since the 1950s and begin to explore "the very diverse ways in which Victorian poets and poems have lived on into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries" (149). Miles does her best work in this last section: chapter nine's bibliographical essay, although relatively silent about postcolonial approaches, thoughtfully identifies, categorizes, and evaluates a significant portion of the writing on and anthologizing of Victorian poetry, from Robert Langbaum's Poetry of Experience (1957) forward; chapter ten, "Afterlives and Adaptations," begins with a cogent explanation of the complex poetics of Hopkins, progresses through Thomas Hardy's poetic modernism, pauses briefly to consider High Modernist reactions against their poetic predecessors, and finally romps through numerous echoes and afterimages of Victorian poetry in subsequent poetry, fiction, popular music, pornography, graphic novels, fantasy role-playing games, television, and film. Last but not least, the concluding enumerative bibliography of anthologies, secondary criticism, and web resources should be of enormous benefit to graduate students in the process of constructing reading lists for field exams.

A number of the secondary sources listed by Miles are reproduced in whole or in part in Victorian Poets: A Critical Reader (Wiley Blackwell, 2014), edited by Valentine Cunningham. "The business of this collection," Cunningham writes in his Introduction, "is to show some of the new Theorized, and post-Theory, ways of reading Victorian poetry in action, the engagement with the now stretched canon, the application of renovating ideological and textual insistences to canonistas old and new" (6). In pursuit of this end, the volume's 442 pages reprint 21 previously published essays, some of which have already been reproduced before and at least one of which is included in a Routledge Revivals eBook released this year. …

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