From allusion to intertext: reading Wordsworth in Tennyson, Browning and Hopkins

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Thomas, Jayne
  • Subject: PR

Critics have long acknowledged the allusive effect of William Wordsworth’s language in the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning and Gerard Manley Hopkins. This thesis abjures allusive influence to focus on the intertextual presence of Wordsworth in poems by each of these authors. Its methodology hinges on a separation between an intentional authorial allusivity and an involuntary, or unbidden, intertextuality. As a result of this heuristic, the poets are seen to be caught within a Wordsworthian web, which complicates the way in which their poetry functions. The authorial entrapment that results is anxiety-generating, but the thesis does not place this anxiety within a Bloomian paradigm. Its concentration on male, canonical authors is Bloomian, however, as is its acceptance that the meaning of the texts by Tennyson, Browning and Hopkins discussed is a Wordsworthian poem.\ud \ud Chapter One investigates the intertextual strategies of Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’ (1842), which work to expose the loss attendant upon the Wordsworthian transcendent moment. The poem’s recasting of Arthur Henry Hallam’s own unconscious Wordsworthian allegiance in ‘Timbuctoo’ (1829) leads into the analysis, in Chapter Two, of Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1850) and its implicit reliance on the language of Wordsworthian transcendence as a means by which both to assuage the poet’s grief at the death of Hallam and his dissatisfaction with contemporary scientific and theological discourse. Chapter Three develops the previous chapters’ findings by tracing how Tennyson’s ‘Tithonus’ (1860) rewrites Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’ (1798). Chapter Four examines Wordsworth’s presence in two Browning monologues, ‘Saul’ (1855) and ‘A Death in the Desert’ (1864), demonstrating how the poems find a new use for the language of lyrical interiority. Chapter Five considers Hopkins’ unconscious inscription of Wordsworth’s poetry and the threat it poses to his Incarnationalism and linguistic practice alike. The thesis finds its conclusion in the literary-historical effects that the after-presence of Wordsworth’s language engenders, which become an embodiment of legacy. The depth of each poet’s literary dependency on Wordsworth is also brought into focus, allowing the thesis to claim the earlier poet as a primary influence upon the trinity of later figures it addresses.
  • References (10)

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