This study examines Tennyson's portrayals of the erotic and creative impulses, reading the poet's ubiquitous lover-artists as tropes that figure the desire for transcending the state of being human, a condition of personal fragmentation and limited knowledge. Ostensibly seeking to fulfill erotic wishes, construct utopias, or create grand artistic works, Tennyson's characters engage in a fundamentally spiritual quest, yearning to divine desire: to eternalize the fulfilment of their deepest wishes. Freud revealed how Victorians sublimated sexual desire into religious impulse. This book demonstrates, however, the remarkable way in which Tennyson's poems transact the opposing projection, transfiguring spiritual desire into erotic art. Brilliantly negotiating a middle ground between scientific skepticism and reactionary religiosity, his vastly popular poems suggest that fulfilment of "the wish too strong for words to name" lies in a sacramentality: only as means do art and eros allow transport beyond fragmentation. At a deep level, the poems conclude that language itself brokers transcendence through its very brokenness.
Contents: Tennyson and the poetics of transcendence: an introduction; "I would be dying evermore": divining desire in Tennyson’s early poems; Seeking truth in knowledge: quest and counter-quest in The Princess; "The wish too strong for words to name": In Memoriam and the poetry of desire; "The holy power of love": Maud and transcendence; Empty labor: the success of failure in Idylls of the King; Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.
The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series, the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global. Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies. The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies.