Browning in the 1830s
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The thesis concentrates on Browning's three long poems of the 1830s. Each is looked at individually, with the emphasis on Sordello, which is by far the most complex. These poems share certain themes, through the development of which Browning's poetic maturation may be seen. All three are centrally concerned with individual quest, towards idealistic but unrealistic goals, in which the protagonists explore their inner selves. In Pauline, this quest is largely towards self-knowledge; the exploration is complicated but disorganized; this may be justified on grounds of psychological realism, but the poem's two characters do not interact. Formal dialogue in Paracelsus renders this exploration more accessible to the reader, but at the expense of the psychological realism afforded by Pauline's narrator. Paracelsus, though, takes the reader further in understanding why the protagonist has failed and how he might succeed. In Sordello, the quest is complicated by the attention paid to the complex historical background of 12th and 13th century Italy, events from which affect the protagonist's motivation. Other characters are given substance, and real interaction is seen between them. The reader sees Sordello through their eyes, as well as through those of a narrator who himself moves in and out of the action. The poem itself provides a bridge between earlier Romantic ideals and the exploration of the implications of these ideals in real people in a real and troubled world. The aim of the thesis is to provide an introduction to these difficult poems in their own right and to show how Browning develops through them.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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