The Victorian poetic imagination and astronomy: Tennyson, De Quincey, Hopkins and Hardy

Daw, Gillian Jane (2012) The Victorian poetic imagination and astronomy: Tennyson, De Quincey, Hopkins and Hardy. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the effect of astronomy on the Victorian poetic imagination. It centres on four writers of the period: Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas De Quincey, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Hardy. To date this subject has received surprisingly little critical focus. This study redresses this lack, by revealing how these writers engaged creatively with the possibilities and limitations of contemporary astronomical science and its technologies. It argues that astronomy gave all four writers important metaphors and analogies, enabling them to project a sense of self-discovery in their writing. It shows how their interest in scientific texts, their association with prominent astronomers of the period, and their own astronomical observations, had a profound effect on their creative imagination. This thesis uses their texts, personal diaries, notebooks, letters and library collections to reveal their interest in the science of astronomy. Likewise, it researches the astronomical texts they studied, including those of the leading scientists of the day such as John Frederick William Herschel, John Pringle Nichol and Richard Anthony Proctor. The argument places Tennyson, De Quincey, Hopkins and Hardy’s interest in astronomy within the period’s cultural fascination with the science, and establishes them as both consumers and producers of astronomical knowledge. Each of the writers studied avidly watched the night sky through the telescopes he owned, had access to, or by the naked eye. Important to this enquiry, is a discussion of the optical technology of the telescope as a transparent framing and mirroring device, and how its use results in intense and visionary experiences in the work of these writers. This study crosses the traditional divides of science and literature, to show how these four writers achieved a synthesis of scientific and poetic thought in their writing.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0500 Poetry
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR4000 19th century, 1770/1800-1890/1900
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2012 15:02
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2021 07:45
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/39743

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