Civic subjects: Wordsworth, Tennyson, and the Victorian laureateship

  • Author / Creator
    Ellison, Carmen E.
  • Civic Subjects examines the ways in which poets laureate William Wordsworth and Alfred Tennyson negotiated the terrain between poetics and politics during the long reign of Queen Victoria – a period during which the monarchy was both contested (especially by popular republicanism) and in a state of transition. The first chapter traces important moments in the history of the office in Britain, both in order to establish the traditions handed down to Wordsworth and Tennyson and to clarify the office’s complex relationships to poetics, to reading publics, to the monarchy, and to the elected government. Despite the remarkable differences between the laureates examined, both have a common task: to balance the political claims of a monarchist institution against the responsibilities each feels to his own politics and poetics. Civic Subjects therefore examines circumstances where such negotiations become visible: Wordsworth’s insistently private laureate relationship with Queen Victoria; Tennyson’s early experiments in constructing a laureate voice in the Crimean War-era volume Maud, and Other Poems; and the role of Tennyson’s verse written to mark royal events (deaths, marriages, and anniversaries). Overall, Civic Subjects argues that the laureateship can illuminate both the contested power of poetry in public political life and the constant, sometimes violent, renegotiation of concepts of British citizenship. The structure of laureateship, wherein one poet is called upon to be a ventriloquist for the monarchy and for the people, simultaneously, makes legible the difficult ideological work of maintaining a coherent national narrative – especially during a period in which the role of monarchy in national life is repeatedly brought under fire, debates about the constitution of a proper political subjectivity are constantly embattled, and the poets laureate themselves hold strong views of their own on the politics of poetics.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Sinnema, Peter W. (English and Film Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Hamilton, Susan (English and Film Studies)
    • Lemire, Beverly (History and Classics)
    • Kooistra, Lorraine Janzen (English)
    • Wiesenthal, Christine (English and Film Studies)