British Literature

Auden has called Alfred Lord Tennyson, the `Stupidest of English poets. ’ Auden wrote, “There was little about melancholia that [Tennyson] didn’t know; there was little else that he did. ” Do you agree with Auden’s assessment? Why or why not? Wystan Hugh Auden, in Forewords and Afterwords, claims that Alfred Lord Tennyson “had the finest ear, perhaps of any English poet…he was also undoubtedly the stupidest” (204). One may easily agree with his initial claim regarding Tennyson’s possession of a ‘fine ear’.

Consider for example, the words that he used to describe an individual’s dilemma regarding his religious beliefs as they are presented in his poem “In Memoriam. ” He states, “Strong Son of God…/ (W)e have not seen thy face, / By faith, and faith alone, embrace, /Believing where we cannot prove” (Tennyson 5). The power of these lines immediately allows the reader to share the conflict experienced by the individual speaking within the poem.

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As opposed to agreeing with Auden’s initial claim regarding Tennyson’s possession of a ‘fine ear,’ it is difficult to concur with his second claim that Tennyson is ‘the stupidest English poet. ’ The reason for this initially lies in Auden’s failure to present his reasons as to why he considers Tennyson to be ‘the stupidest English poet. ’ He does not state whether he considers Tennyson to be ‘the stupidest English poet’ due to his choice of topics in his works or due to his discussion of the topics that he has chosen in his works.
One may argue that the basis for Auden’s claim is evident as he states, “There was little about melancholia that [Tennyson] didn’t know; there was little else he did” (204). If one is to assume that the basis for his claim that Tennyson is ‘the stupidest English poet’ is based on his criticism of both Tennyson’s topics as well as his discussion of these topics within his works, as can be seen in his statement regarding Tennyson’s discussion of ‘melancholia,’ it is still difficult to agree with Auden’s claim due to Tennyson’s ability to combine both the aesthetic and the analytic aspects of creativity in his works.
For example, although Tennyson was a part of the Victorian Era, he was able to critically assess the issues during his time. His discussion of the inconclusiveness within “In Memoriam” shows his ability to point out the problems caused by Christian theology to its members. By stating that the only recourse for the members of the Christian Church is to believe in the tenets of Christian theology, Tennyson was able to point out that the religion is characterized by an incoherent system of beliefs.
Question Number Six: Many critics have said of James Joyce’s The Dead that all the characters are partly dead and are performing a funeral ritual as the caretaker looks on. Do you agree? Why or why not? James Joyce, in his novel The Dead, presents the different meanings associated with the concept of death. This is apparent as he associates death not only with an individual’s biological lack of life but also as he associates death with an individual’s inability to live.
To live here refers to an individual’s inability to appreciate life which is apparent either in his continuous plight for death itself [i. e. committing suicidal acts] or in his adaptation of a mechanical life. Within the text, this distinction is apparent as the narrator contrasts ‘moments of ecstasy’ to ‘years of dull existence’. In addition to this, one is also presented with the images of individuals that are alive yet apathetic to their existence in contrast to the images of objects that are brimming with life in their surroundings. Consider for example the following passage:
The morning was still dark. A dull yellow light brooded over the houses and the river and the sky seemed to be descending. It was slushy underfoot and only streaks and patches of snow lay on the roofs on the parapets of the quay and on the area railings…Gabriel’s eyes were…bright with happiness…A wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart…Like the tender fire of stars moments of their life together. (Joyce 56) In this passage, one sees the emphasis on Gabriel’s bright mood in contrast to the deadening characteristics of their surroundings.
This deadening characteristic of their surroundings is further more emphasized within the text as Joyce compares these surroundings and the individuals within it to those who are attending a funeral. For Joyce, all these individuals are trapped within their own self-made caskets of life as they continually strive to the attainment of their own biological death. In the case of Gabriel, this is apparent as he slowly realizes the gravity of his past offenses thereby leading him to adhere to a passive form of life.
Question Number Eight: According to John Stallworthy and Jahan Ramazani, Virginia Woolf writes “in an informal, personal, playfully polemical tone, which is implicitly linked to her identity as a female writer. ” Yet she proposed literature that would be ‘androgynous in mind’ and resonate equally with men and women. Is Virginia Woolf primarily a feminist writer, or is she ‘androgynous in mind’? John Stallworthy and Jahan Ramazani, in their discussion of Virginia Woolf’s works, argue that Woolf writes “in an informal, personal, playfully polemical tone, which is implicitly linked to her identity as a female writer.
” Initially, one may state that this contradicts Woolf’s quest to develop literature which is ‘androgynous in mind’ since this may imply that Woolf is unable to transcend her gender as her gender is apparent in her writing style. It is important to note however that there is a difference between the two concepts [concepts: ‘style’ and ‘mindset’] since ‘style’ merely refers to the extrinsic aspect of an individual’s work whereas ‘mindset’ refers to the intrinsic aspect of an individual’s work.
If such is the case, it follows that to produce works that are characterized by the typical style associated to one’s gender does not necessarily entail that the content of one’s work is also the same as the content of the works that are typically associated with one’s gender. In addition to this, it is important to note that there is no contradiction in claiming that one is a feminist writer and one is a writer who opts for the development of literature which is ‘androgynous in mind.
’ It is important to note that one of the main assumptions of feminism is to enable equality between the sexes. Despite the varying means through which such equality is deemed to be achievable in the different strands of feminism, the similarity between these strands of feminism can be traced to their plight for the creation of a gender free society. Virginia Woolf, in her essay “A Room of One’s Own,” opts for the construction of this gender free society as she argues that it is only by developing an androgynous mindset that individuals will be able to actualize their full potentialities.
She states, “It is when this fusion takes place [the fusion between the rational and the emotive] that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties” (Woolf 128). Within this context, if one is to consider a feminist as an individual who opts for the equality between the sexes and if one is to consider an ‘androgynous mind’ as a mind that uses both its rational and emotive aspects, one may state that Woolf is both a feminist writer and a writer who is androgynous in mind since there is no difference between the two.
Works Cited Auden, Wystan Hugh. Foreword and Afterwords. Ed. Edward Mendelson. Np: Vintage Books, 1990. Joyce, James. The Dead. California: Coyote Canyon P, 2008. Tennyson, Alfred. “In Memoriam. ” In Memoriam, Maud and Other Poems. Np: Kessinger Publishing, 2004. Woolf, Virginia. “A Room of One’s Own. ” A Room of One’s Own and, Three Guineas. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

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