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Tennyson's Language

Tennyson's Language

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 206
  • Book Info
    Tennyson's Language
    Book Description:

    Hair offers a significant contribution to the development of linguistic theory in Britain while also providing some close readings of key passages of Tennyson's work and examinations of the poet's faith and views of society.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5959-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. [vii]-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    In his pioneering essay of 1980 –’ “Flowering in a Lonely Word”: Tennyson and the Victorian Study of Language’ –Patrick Greig Scott comments on ‘how relatively silent the recent studies have been about Tennyson’s own view of language, and about the kinds of linguistic awareness he might have expected of his readers.’¹ Etymology, Scott argues, is central to that awareness, which involves a shift in the understanding of the origin and derivation of words from the old philology, based mainly upon Locke, to the new philology, with its historical and comparative studies of world languages. Scott’s subject is also mine....

  5. Chapter One ‘Matter-moulded forms of speech’
    (pp. 7-40)

    Tennyson began his career at a time when, although the new philology from the continent, with its emphasis on the historical and comparative study of languages, was establishing itself in England, older notions about language were still very much about, particularly the notion that, in Hans Aarsleff s words, ‘the chief end of language study is the knowledge of mind,’¹ The starting point for an examination of Tennyson’s language must, then, be the epistemology which is suggested by it, and the eclectic nature of that epistemology is nowhere more apparent than in the phrase, ‘matter-moulded forms of speech.’

    The phrase...

  6. Chapter Two ‘A landscape-painter in words, a colourist’
    (pp. 41-56)

    Poetry has always been thought of as affecting the eye and the ear more than the other senses, its effects being explored in the conventional analogies between poetry and painting, and between poetry and music. In his 1831 review of thePoems, Chiefly Lyrical,Hallam deals with Tennyson’s work almost entirely in terms of sight and hearing, these two senses, he told Tennyson in a letter, being ‘those employed in the processes of imagination.’ This letter was written at about the same time as the review (it is dated 26 July 1831), and in it Hallam contrasts his own senses,...

  7. Chapter Three ‘I hear a voice’
    (pp. 57-74)

    The poetry of sensation appeals to the ear as strongly as it does to the eye, and the source of this appeal is in the experience and nature of the poets themselves: ‘their fine organs trembled into emotion’ at sounds as well as colours and movements, their feelings of music were ‘full and deep,’ and they themselves were ‘full of deep and varied melodies.’¹ Hallam’s words suggest the conventional analogy between poetry and music, poetry being articulate sound, while music expresses what words cannot. The analogy narrows this difference, and we must define the ways in which Hallam is drawing...

  8. Chapter Four ‘At the sound of my name’
    (pp. 75-87)

    There are two different conceptions of language to be found in Tennyson’s work and indeed throughout the nineteenth century,’ Dwight Culler writes in the first chapter of his book on Tennyson’s poetry:

    On the one hand, there was the view that words were the poor husks of reality, abstract denotative counters which were the product of the understanding generalizing upon sense experience. Such words corresponded to classes of objects in the phenomenal world but to nothing more. On the other hand, there was still alive something of the older conception of language as a magical instrument, a means of incantation...

  9. Chapter Five ‘Heart-affluence in discursive talk’: In Memoriam
    (pp. 88-134)

    ‘Heart-affluence in discursive talk’ is the first line of section cix ofIn Memoriam,and it is the first item of the poet’s catalogue of Hallam’s character in that lyric. The phrase neatly sums up two kinds of language in the poem, ‘heart-affluence’ being the expression of feelings and emotions while ‘discursive talk’ is the product of the understanding. Ideally, the feelings and the understanding should work in harmony, and indeed there is the suggestion in the prologue that they did so in the poet’s own experience before Hallam’s death; his death destroyed that harmony, and the poet must struggle...

  10. Chapter Six ‘Man’s word is God in man’: Idylls of the King
    (pp. 135-169)

    Idylls of the Kingis permeated with a sense of the new philology which gained ground rapidly in England from 1830 on.¹ It was new in part because it transformed the study of classical languages and literature so that Donaldson, for instance, could claim that hisThe New Cratylus(1839) is a contribution, as he says in his subtitle, ‘towards a more accurate knowledge of the Greek language’ because he has rendered ‘the resources of a more comprehensive philology available for the improvement of the grammar and lexicography of the Greek language, and for the criticism and interpretation of the...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 170-174)

    The reader may find useful an attempt to summarize Tennyson’s views of language. Those views have a place in the idealist philosophy which Tennyson’s experience at Cambridge made his own – his informal education, as opposed to the official curriculum. His place among the Apostles, the ‘Germano-Coleridgian’ character of that society (a character established by Maurice and Sterling, and maintained by Hallam and Trench), and the reaction against Locke by Whewell and others, all contributed to Tennyson’s understanding of the nature of words and of grammar. In the idealist position, the perceiving mind is primary. The shapes which it brings to...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 175-192)
  13. Index
    (pp. 193-198)