Modernism In The Victorian Period

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Defining Victorian literature in any satisfactory and comprehensive manner has proven troublesome for critics ever since the nineteenth century came to a close. The movement roughly comprises the years from 1830 to 1900, though there is ample disagreement regarding even this simple point. The name given to the period is borrowed from the royal matriarch of England, Queen Victoria, who sat on throne from 1837 to 1901. One has difficulty determining with any accuracy where the Romantic Movement of the early nineteenth century leaves off and the Victorian Period begins because these traditions have so many aspects in common. Likewise, identifying the point where Victorianism gives way completely to Modernism is no easy task. Literary periods are…show more content…
Like everything else, poetry and poetics underwent an evolution during the nineteenth century. Both the purpose of poetry and its basic style and tone changed drastically during the Victorian Period. In the first half of the nineteenth century, poetry was still mired in the escapist, abstract imagery and themes of the earlier generation. While essayists and novelists were confronting social issues head-on, poets for their part remained ambivalent at best. This self-induced coma gradually lifted, and by mid-century most poets had moved away from the abstractions and metaphysical tropes of the Romantics and fashioned a more down-to-earth, realistic kind of verse. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was the master of simple, earthy lyricism to which everyone could relate. His In Memoriam shows off this simplicity and economy of verse, while remaining an effective and moving elegy for his deceased friend Arthur Hallam. The obsession with the natural world and the imagination that so clearly distinguished the Romantic poets was supplanted during the Victorian Period by a clear-headed, almost utilitarian kind of poetics. The subject matter of Victorian poetry was quite often socially-oriented, but this was by no means set in stone. Victorian poets were nothing if not masters of variety and inventiveness. Robert Browning’s dramatic monologues, for example, covered a wide array of subjects, from lucid dreams to the nature of art and even the meaning of existence. Throughout his various aesthetic experiments, Browning never failed to inject humanity into his subject matter. “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church,” one of Browning’s most famous poems, demonstrates the intensity and psychological realism he was able to portray in the space of a few hundred
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