Chapter

TITHONUS, TIRESIAS, AND THE POLITICAL COMPOSITION OF THE SONG-BUILT CITY

Cornelia Pearsall

in Tennyson's Rapture

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780195150544
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199871124 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195150544.003.0007
 TITHONUS, TIRESIAS, AND THE POLITICAL COMPOSITION OF THE SONG-BUILT CITY

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This chapter examines the civic ambitions of the speakers of Tennyson’s dramatic monologues “Tithonus” and “Tiresias,” in particular, their relationship to Victorian aristocratic ideology. Pearsall details the ways in which Tennyson’s contemporaries decried him as a poet of the elite and illustrates the importance of Tennyson’s Whig political beliefs (influenced by Edmund Burke) for these dramatic monologues. The first section, “Tithonus and the Trojan Aristocracy,” explores Tithonus’s status as a representative of Troy’s ruling family, and the political, as well as poetic, significance of his ultimate transformation. The second section, “The Rapture of Tiresias,” examines Tiresias’s complex identification with the song-built city of Thebes. Pearsall argues that this speaker’s eventual rejection of the dramatic monologue in favor of the “heroic hymn” represents a refutation by Tennyson of William Gladstone’s populist theories of oratory. “Tiresias” is further examined in the context of the representation of rapture in Tennyson’s early poem “Semele.”

Keywords: dramatic monologue; aristocracy; Tithonus; Tiresias; Whig; Edmund Burke; Rapture; William Gladstone; Oratory; Semele

Chapter.  33482 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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