Victorian Poetry As Cultural Critique: The Politics of Performative Language

Overview

In recent cultural studies, poetry has become something of a neglected genre. Warwick Slinn seeks to reverse that trend and argues that a fundamental continuity between the meaning of a poetic trope and the social function of language can be established through speech act theory—specifically through the linguistically based model of performativity.

Victorian Poetry as Cultural Critique discusses five Victorian poems in order to show how their display of language enacts a ...

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Overview

In recent cultural studies, poetry has become something of a neglected genre. Warwick Slinn seeks to reverse that trend and argues that a fundamental continuity between the meaning of a poetic trope and the social function of language can be established through speech act theory—specifically through the linguistically based model of performativity.

Victorian Poetry as Cultural Critique discusses five Victorian poems in order to show how their display of language enacts a cultural critique, examining the conditions and realization of social and political discourses. Slinn begins by distinguishing the main conceptual strands of performativity and then explains how each poem dramatizes a fluid mix of identity, power, and ideology. By foregrounding such events as speech acts, these poems expose the politics of power relationships and show how performative language is inextricable from the means by which power relationships are enacted. Focusing on the internal dynamics of specific poems, Slinn challenges the separation of poetic language from social criticism and eventually questions traditional perceptions of poetic form itself.

The selected poems, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Arthur Hugh Clough, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Augusta Webster, offer a range of contentious issues that are in themselves politically challenging. The poets address such diverse and problematic concerns as slavery, sexual politics, prostitution, consciousness, agency, aestheticism, religious belief, and philosophical idealism. The discussion of each poem attends to the complexity of the poem’s utterance, its historical contexts, and its broader implications for cultural meaning.

E. Warwick Slinn, Associate Professor in the School of English and Media Studies, Massey University, New Zealand, is the author of Browning and the Fictions of Identity and The Discourse of Self in Victorian Poetry (Virginia).

Victorian Literature and Culture Series

University of Virginia Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813921662
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2003
  • Series: Victorian Literature and Culture Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

E. Warwick Slinn, Associate Professor in the School of English and Media Studies, Massey University, New Zealand, is the author of Browning and the Fictions of Identity and The Discourse of Self in Victorian Poetry (Virginia).

University of Virginia Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Poetry and Culture: Performativity and Critique 9
2 Browning's Bishop Conceives a Tomb: Cultural Ordering as Cutural Critique 32
3 The Mark as Matrix: Subject(ion) and Agency in Barrett Browning's "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" 56
4 Clough's Resisted Performative: Material Act and Bacchanalian Revel in Dipsychus 90
5 Prostitution, Representation, and Desire: The Politics of Male Liberalism in D. G. Rossetti's "Jenny" 123
6 Webster's Castaway Courtesan: Living on the Cultural Margin 158
Afterword: Form as Process 185
Notes 191
Bibliography 203
Index 213
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