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Epic: Britain's Heroic Muse 1790-1910

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Overview

This book is the first to provide a connected history of epic poetry in Britain between the French Revolution and the First World War. Although epic is widely held to have been shouldered aside by the novel, if not invalidated in advance by modernity, in fact the genre was practiced without interruption across the long nineteenth century by nearly every prominent Romantic and Victorian poet, and shoals of ambitious poetasters into the bargain. Poets kept the epic alive by revising its conventions to meet an overlapping series of changing realities: insurgent democracy, Napoleonic war, the rise of class consciousness and repeated reform of the franchise, challenges posed by scientific advance to religious belief and cherished notions of the human, the evolution of a postnationalist and eventually imperialist identity for Britain as the world's superpower. Each of these developments called on nineteenth-century epic to do what the genre had always done: affirm the unity of its sponsoring culture through a large utterance that both acknowledged the distinctive flowering of the modern and affirmed its rootedness in tradition. The best writers answered this call by figuring Britain's self-renewal and the genre's as versions of one another. In passing Herbert Tucker notices scores of mediocre congeners (and worse), so as to show where the challenge of a given decade fell and suggest what lay at stake. The background these lesser works provide throws into relief what the book stresses in extended discussions of several dozen major works: an unbroken history of daring experimentation in which circumspect, inventive, worried epoists engaged because the genre and the age alike demanded it.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I urge Romanticists and Victorianists to pick up this study of "Britain's Heroic Muse" - unquestionably the definitive book on nineteenth-century epic, noteworthy for its subtle analysis of the intersection of historical context and poetic form." —Linda H. Peterson, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199232987
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/2/2008
  • Pages: 752
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Herbert Tucker grew up in New England and was educated at Moses Brown School, Amherst College, and Yale University. He has served on the faculty at Northwestern University, the University of Michigan and, since 1986, the University of Virginia, where in 2003 he was named to the John C. Coleman Chair in English. At Virginia he is an associate editor for the journal New Literary History and a series editor in Victorian Literature and Culture for the University Press.

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Table of Contents

1. The Very Idea: Epic in the Head
2. On Calliope's Jalopy: Epic Rebuilt 1790-1800
3. Under Correction: Epic Conscripted 1800-1805
4. In Expiation: Epic Atonement 1805-1815
5. In Style: Epic Plush 1815-1820
6. To the Ending Doom: Epic Apocalypse 1820-1830
7. In Session: Forensic Epic 1830-1840
8. There and Back: Emigrant Epic 1840-1850
9. On Impulse: Spasmodic Epic 1850-1860
10. In Plight of Troth: Mythological Epic 1860-1870
11. For All the World: Eclectic Epic 1870-1895
12. At Long Last: Edwardian Epic 1895-1910
Bibliography of Poems Cited
Secondary Work Cited

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