Forgetting FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát

Gray, Erik I.

Readers have not forgotten the Rubáiyát: by the end of the nineteenth century it “must have been a serious contender for the title of the most popular long poem in English,” and since then it has steadily continued to appear in innumerable (usually illustrated) editions. Critics, on the other hand, seem to have taken FitzGerald at his word. The critical corpus is small; even major recent studies of Victorian poetry scarcely mention the poem. Yet ironically, it is the Rubáiyát’s treatment of forgetting that marks it as a central text not only of Victorian poetry but of a rich and continuing literary tradition. FitzGerald’s poem gives a new twist to a widespread mid-Victorian preoccupation, the problem of striking an appropriate balance between memory and oblivion.


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SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900

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Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Published Here
February 16, 2016


[Note: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article published in
Studies in English Literature following peer review. The version of record is
“Forgetting FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát,” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
41.4 (Autumn 2001), 765-783.]