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Victorian Poets and the Politics of Culture

Discourse and Ideology
Antony H. Harrison

BUY Paper · 189 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813928401 · $24.50 · Apr 2014

With the publication of his ambitious new work Victorian Poets and the Politics of Culture, Antony H. Harrison continues his exploration of poetry as a significant force in the construction of English culture from 1837–1900.

In chapters focusing on Victorian medievalist discourse, Alfred Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Matthew Arnold, and Christina Rossetti, Harrison examines a range of Victorian poems in order to show the cultural work they accomplish. He illuminates, for example, such culturally prominent Victorian mythologies as the exaltation of motherhood, the Romanic appropriation of transcendent art, and the idealization of the gypsy as a culturally alien, exotic Other. His investigation of the ways in which the authors intervene in the discourses that articulate such mythologies and thereby accrue cultural power—along with his analysis of what constitutes "cultural power"—are original contributions to the field of Victorian studies.

"The power of Victorian poetry by midcentury was enhanced by the institutionalization of particular channels through which it circulated," Harrison writes. "poetry was 'consumed' in more varied forms than was other literature." Victorian Poets and the Politics of Culture has implications for both cultural studies and the study of literature outside the Victorian period.


Antony Harrison's approach is quite special within the field of Victorian poetry. He resists treating poems as purely aesthertic objects; instead, he sees them as cultural artifacts and, as such, as participants in contemporary cultural discourses. His strength is his ability to keep an eye on the specific language of a poem and, simultaneously, on the larger cultural discourse in which it participates.

Linda Peterson, Yale University  

About the Author: 

Antony H. Harrison is Professor of English at North Carolina State University and the author of several books in Victorian studies. He is the editor of The Letters of Christina Rossetti (Virginia) and coeditor of the forthcoming New Essays on Christina Rossetti.

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