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The refining crucible : Shakespeare and lyric sequences in Victorian England

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Ransley, Ambrose Allan Digby 1985 , 'The refining crucible : Shakespeare and lyric sequences in Victorian England', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Since the early years of the Victorian era, Shakespeare's
pre-eminence as a dramatist has itself prompted much of the
attention paid to his Sonnets, because their celebrated
biographical 'hints' suggest knowledge of the 'real life' of
this most universal of English creative geniuses. Indeed it was
simply the fact that Shakespeare was the author of these poems
that induced several influential Victorians to read them at
all. Five of the major poets of Victorian England wrote lyric
sequences which have suffered a like fate. Tennyson's In
Memoriam, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the
Portuguese, Christina Rossetti's Manna Innominata, Dante Gabriel
Rossetti's The ttouse of Life and George Meredith's Modern Love -
all of these have been read as autobiography, as thinly
disguised, or even transparent, confessions of actual experience..
This dissertation takes the view that poetry must stand on
its own, independent of the poets' biographies. It con tends
that what makes Shakespeare's sonnets and these Victorian
sequences lastingly valuable is the central consciousness of
each one, regarded as an artistic creation, not as an
autobiographical sketch of the poet. This central consciousness,
this poetic protagonist, I call the 'sequence persona'.
To demonstrate the presence of a persona proper to each of
these five Victorian sequences, I have adopted a quite new
critical approach. Chapter I demonstrates the existence in
Shakespeare's Sonnets of what I call the Shakespearean persona.
This involves close textual analysis of a number of the poems
and includes some differentiation of Shakespeare's methods from
(vi)
those of other Elizabethans such as Sir Philip Sidney and
Edmund Spenser. Out of this comes a thesis to the effect that
Shakespeare's sonnets are unconventional in their content and
language because they cumulatively create an individual rather
than a Petrarchan sensibility.
Chapter I offers, in itself, a contribution to the study
of Shakespeare's Sonnets, but its main purpose in the
dissertation is to locate a crucible in which the poetic
emotions of the Victorians were refined to produce a new yield
of artistic gold. Chapters II-V demonstrate the existence
of an equally distinct persona, akin to that of Shakespeare's
Sonnets, in each of the named Victorian sequences. I accompany
this analysis with, and indeed often conduct it through, a
comparison of individual Victorian poems and particular
Shakespearean sonnets. The Conclusion codifies, clear of
poetic analysis, the usefulness of reading these major
nineteenth-century sequences with the Shakespearean model in
mind, and suggests that the method adopted in this dissertation
might well be used for fresh study of other less unified and
less important examples of Vi~torian love poetry.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Ransley, Ambrose Allan Digby
Keywords: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616, Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616, English poetry, Love poetry, English, Persona (Literature)
Copyright Holders: The Author
Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1986. Bibliography: leaf 231-246

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