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“Out of me, out of me!”: Andrea, Ulysses, and Victorian Revisions of Egotistical Lyric

Gray, Erik I.

The Victorian poets registered their discomfort with the Romantic lyric, and especially the “conversational” lyric, in their dramatic monologues, where the profusion of grotesque details and comic allusions ironize the egotistical speaker. I wish to begin with an extended reading of “Andrea del Sarto,” first briefly exploring its self-ironizing allusions to Shakespearean comedy, and then considering its relationship to “The Eolian Harp,” the conversation poem with which I believe it is intended to contrast. I shall then go on to discuss subsequent Victorian responses to the problem of lyric egotism. For the early dramatic monologues of Browning and Tennyson did not of course solve the difficulty, but were themselves subject to revision and ironization as the poets continued to experiment. Most notably, some of Tennyson’s late lyrics combine the intimacy of the conversation poem with the irony and dramatic immediacy of the monologue, and so manage partially to efface their own dependence on a single speaking voice.

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Title
Victorian Poetry

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Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Published Here
May 18, 2015