To be specified published in:Landscapes of Realism: Rethinking literary realism in comparative perspectives. Volume I: Mapping realism
Edited by Dirk Göttsche, Rosa Mucignat and Robert Weninger
[Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages XXXII] 2021
► pp. 515–529
The benefit of reading marginal forms
Dramatic monologue and ekphrastic poetry
The dramatic monologue and ekphrastic poetry are minor forms with which many nineteenth-century authors, including realist novelists such as Thomas Hardy and Henry James, experimented. Both types of poems blend genres and modes in ways that these and other authors found appealing. James’s 1868 “The Story of a Masterpiece,” for instance, reworks Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue “My Last Duchess” by featuring a painter-narrator more concerned with his “own private impression” than the “actually existing.” This emphasis on subjectivity can make the poem seem antirealist. Unlike the panoramic views and detailed settings of the realist novel, the dramatic monologue and ekphrastic poetry seem to sacrifice the realist demand for heterogeneity and social amplitude for a dramatic omission of things (artworks) and persons, offering only partial portraits and dramatizing absence. Yet, there are important resonances with realism: an emphasis on the historical, wherein realism involves a mind working in relation to other minds, and mental renderings of time and space; the domestication of setting and subject, and an egalitarianism toward and mixing of genres (as exemplified in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “English idylls”); the importance of rhetorical purpose and the communalization of meaning; an ironic awareness of non-universality and the multiplicity of perspectives; and an emphasis on sensory perception and embodiment as a privileged source of meaning.
- 1.Introduction: Poetic innovation and the shift toward realism
- 2.The dramatic monologue and the techniques of sentimental realism – beyond accuracy
- 3.Robert Browning, Augusta Webster, and the materialization of the poetic scene
- 4.Ekphrastic poetry and a realism of the senses
- 5.Michael Field – historicizing feeling
Published online: 21 April 2021
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