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Victorian Poetry Now: Poets, Poems and Poetics

ISBN: 978-1-4443-4042-6
552 pages
June 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Victorian Poetry Now: Poets, Poems and Poetics (1444340425) cover image
This book is the definitive guide to Victorian poetry, which its author approaches in the light of modern critical concerns and contemporary contexts.
  • Valentine Cunningham exhibits encyclopedic knowledge of the poetry produced in this period and offers dazzling close readings of a number of well-known poems
  • Draws on the work of major Victorian poets and their  works as well as many of the less well-known poets and poems
  • Reads poems and poets in the light of both Victorian and modern critical concerns
  • Places poetry in its personal, aesthetic, historical, and ideological context
  • Organized in terms of the Victorian anxieties of self, body, and melancholy
  • Argues that rhyming/repetition is the major formal feature of Victorian poetry
  • Highlights the Victorian obsession with small subjects in small poems
  • Shows how Victorian poetry attempts to engage with the modern subject and how its modernity segues into modernism and postmodernism

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Part I: So Far as the Words are Concerned.

1. Words, words, words and more words.

2. Rhyming/repeating.

3. Making noise/noising truths.

4. These rhyming/repeating games are serious.

Part II: Contents and Discontents of the Forms.

5. Down-sizing.

6. Selving.

7. Fleshly feelings.

8. Mourning and melancholia.

9. Modernizing the subject.

10. Victorian modernismus.

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Valentine Cunningham is Professor of English Language and Literature at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.  His publications include Everywhere Spoken Against: Dissent in the Victorian Novel (1975), In The Reading Gaol: Postmodernity, Texts, and History (Blackwell, 1994), The Victorians: An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics (ed., Blackwell, 2000), and Reading After Theory (Blackwell, 2002).
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"Cunningham surveys Victorian poetry’s variety, its compelling rhythms and prosody, its linguistics and narrativity, its hermeneutics and histories, with a spontaneity of style that never ceases to refresh and enliven its reader.  One feels transported to the lecture hall while reading Cunningham’s prose, addressed by a passionate and lively speaker who deftly moves between content and form from a foundation of vast knowledge about the period’s religious, medical, criminological, political, social, and aesthetic discourses and stories." (Journal of Victorian Culture Online, June 2012)

"Victorian Poetry Now is a brilliant book, and a challenging, engaging and stimulating read.  It looks at a rich range of themes expressed by the poets, and makes one aware, if one was not aware already, that the poetry is a formidable cultural achievement."  (Essays in CriticismJuly 2013)

"An extraordinary book ... offers much to critics and students looking for strong and contentious readings of a great variety of poems ... a book that says a very great deal indeed." (Tennyson Research Bulletin, 2013)

"An immense book both in scope and spirit, as encompassing and enterprising as the great literature it celebrates. Valentine Cunningham is master equally of big sweep and minute particular, and his book is a triumph of what Coleridge called 'genial criticism'."
Seamus Perry, Balliol College, Oxford

"Whole-field study is rare in literary scholarship because it demands so much of the single scholar. Victorian Poetry Now contains material for ten monographs. Valentine Cunningham has immersed himself in one of the richest--and least explored--areas of our literary heritage and has emerged to tell us about it, concisely and, from time to time, with a touch of mischief. He takes Victorian Poetry out of history and makes it necessary to read, and relish, now. To few works of literary history and commentary can one add the injunction 'enjoy!'. This is one."
John Sutherland, University College, London

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