"The Poetry of Tennyson" by A. Dwight Culler

The Poetry of Tennyson A. Dwight Culler

Publication date:
01 Jan 1977
Yale University Press
292 pages: 232 x 152 x 21mm
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This book offers a comprehensive interpretation of the entire range of Tennyson’s poetry, with emphasis on the great period up to and including In Memoriam, but also with chapters on Maud, the Idylls of the King, and the best of the later poems.  Taking the view that every poem contains its own literary history, Dwight Culler traces Tennyson’s evolving image of himself as a poet and the relation of this image to changing literary structures.  He particularly emphasizes the “frame” device by which Tennyson first mediated between himself and the world and then, inverting it, placed himself in the world.  He also explores the longer “composted” poem by which Tennyson declared himself a Victorian Alexandrian. 


Eschewing the autobiographical emphasis of recent years, Culler provides readings of Maud, Locksley Hall, The Palace of Art, Tithonus, and the Idylls of the King that depart significantly from previous interpretations.  His sympathy for the Victorian element in Tennyson also recovers for modern taste several neglected areas of the poetry: the English Idylls, the civic poem, and the poems of social converse.  Culler sees Tennyson’s faith in the magical power of the word as the source of his gift and, when he loses that faith, the reason for its decline.