Browning's Epic Psychology

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

Browning's Epic Psychology

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This chapter takes Browning's The Ring and the Book, and the positive critical reception of the poem, as evidence that, by 1870, psychological analysis had been widely accepted as a subject for poetry. Browning's use of the dramatic monologue form to convey and interrogate his speakers' thoughts attests to the growing authority of psychological analysis in Victorian literary culture. His incorporation of these monologues into a psychological epic reflects the rise of theories of physiological psychology that refigured thought as a physical process, suitable material for epic as well as lyric poetry. Browning puts forward a defence of the poetic analysis of psychology in the opening and closing books of his poem and in his letters to Julia Wedgwood. This chapter considers the theories of physiological psychology that Browning encountered in his reading, before examining Browning's analyses of psychological processes in the dramatic monologues of The Ring and the Book.

Keywords: Browning; The Ring and the Book; Julia Wedgwood; dramatic monologue; epic; physiological psychology

Chapter.  13288 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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