Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart

Hardcover | April 15, 2006

byKirstie Blair

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Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart is a significant and timely study of nineteenth-century poetry and poetics. It considers why and how the heart became a vital image in Victorian poetry, and argues that the intense focus on heart imagery in many major Victorian poems highlightsanxieties in this period about the ability of poetry to act upon its readers. In the course of the nineteenth century, this study argues, increased doubt about the validity of feeling led to the depiction of the literary heart as alienated, distant, outside the control of mind and will. Thiscoincided with a notable rise in medical literature specifically concerned with the pathological heart, and with the development of new techniques and instruments of investigation such as the stethoscope. As poets feared for the health of their own hearts, their poetry embodies concerns about awidespread culture of heartsickness in both form and content. In addition, concerns about the heart's status and actions reflect upon questions of religious faith and doubt, and feed into issues of gender and nationalism. This book argues that it is vital to understand how this wider culture of theheart informed poetry and was in turn influenced by poetic constructs. Individual chapters on Barrett Browning, Arnold, and Tennyson explore the vital presence of the heart in major works by these poets - including Aurora Leigh, 'Empedocles on Etna', In Memoriam, and Maud - while the wide-rangingopening chapters present an argument for the mutual influence of poetry and physiology in the period and trace the development of new theories of rhythm as organic and affective.

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Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart is a significant and timely study of nineteenth-century poetry and poetics. It considers why and how the heart became a vital image in Victorian poetry, and argues that the intense focus on heart imagery in many major Victorian poems highlightsanxieties in this period about the ability of p...

Kirstie Blair is a lecturer in the Department of English Literature in the University of Glasgow, and has previously taught at Keble College and St Peter's College, Oxford. Her primary research interests lie in Victorian literature, particularly poetry and poetic form, literature and medicine, and literature and religion. She has publ...

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Paperback|Jan 31 2005

$37.67 online$40.95list price(save 8%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.92 inPublished:April 15, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199273944

ISBN - 13:9780199273942

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Table of Contents

1. Proved on the Pulses: Heart Disease in Victorian Literature and Culture2. Shocks and Spasms: Rhythm and the Pulse of Verse3. 'Ill-lodged in a woman's breast': Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Woman's Heart4. 'The old unquiet breast': Matthew Arnold, Heartsickness, and the Culture of Doubt5. 'Raving of dead men's dust and beating hearts': Tennyson and the Pathological Heart

Editorial Reviews

"As the most substantial study of Victorian poetry I read this year, Blair's book is valuable for its attention to how the formal resources of poetry mediate broader cultural conversations."--Margaret Russett, Studies in English Literature