Tennyson's Unquiet Brain

Gregory Tate

in The Poet's Mind

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199659418
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191749018 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

Tennyson's Unquiet Brain

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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This chapter, focusing on Tennyson's poems In Memoriam and Maud, argues that, despite the reservations of Arnold and Clough, psychological analysis remained a central concern of Victorian poetry in the 1850s. Examining Tennyson's personal knowledge of the doctor Matthew Allen's theories of insanity, and placing the poet's writing in the context of contemporary ideas about physiology and evolutionary psychology, the chapter argues that In Memoriam and Maud share an interest in exploring the physical conditions of thought and the vulnerability of the embodied mind. Despite their differences in tone and formal structure, both poems dramatize a collision between two opposing models of psychology, one founded on the physical brain and the other on the metaphysical soul. Both poems were also appropriated by Victorian theorists such as Lewes and the psychiatrist John Charles Bucknill as evidence of the links between poetry and the study of the mind.

Keywords: Tennyson; In Memoriam; Maud; Allen; Lewes; Bucknill; brain; evolutionary psychology; physiology; insanity

Chapter.  14292 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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