Elegy for an Age: The Presence of the Past in Victorian Literature

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Anthem Press, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 292 pages
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Now, in his magnum opus, John D Rosenberg gives us an overview, showing that the great Victorians were so disoriented and frightened by the pace of change around them that they ached back in beautiful elegies to the world that was disappearing. It is our story, too.' Prof. Garry Wills, Pulitzer Prize winner and Professor of History at Northwestern University 'Rosenberg's Elegy for an Age gathers together some of his best work to form a moving, elegiac reflection on writers themselves caught in a sense of time passing or past ... these are essays to return to, themselves classics of prose criticism.' Prof. Elizabeth Helsinger, Chair, Department of English, University of Chicago In an age of radical transformation, the Victorians were caught between a vanishing past and an uncertain future. In the face of such a dizzying present, connecting with their past became for the Victorians a kind of survival strategy - this nostalgia took forms as diverse as their obsession with history and origins; the religious revivalism of the Oxford Movement; and the new Houses of Parliament, built in 1834, whose design looked longingly back to the Middle Ages. This rich and elegant work describes how the unsettled cultural climate provided fertile soil for the flourishing of elegy. John Rosenberg shows how the phenomenon of elegy pervaded the writing of the period, tracing it through the voices of individuals from Carlyle, Tennyson, Darwin and Ruskin, to Swinburne, Pater, Dickens and Hopkins. Finally, he turns from particular elegists to a common experience that touched them all - the displacement of the older idea of the earthly city as a New Jerusalem by the rise of a new image of the Victorian city as an industrial Inferno, a wasteland of sprawling towns and of rivers so polluted they caught on fire. This beautifully written meditation provides a vivid, compelling and authoritative portrait of an era that, in the face of an exhilarating and menacing present, longingly embraced the stability and comfort of a past both real and imagined.
 

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Contents

History and the Human Voice
13
Tennysons In Memoriam
33
Tennyson and the Passing of Arthur
69
A Reading of Fors Clavigera
77
The Miracle of Ruskins Praeterita
119
Newman Arnold Hopkins
139
Swinburne and the Ravages of Time
163
Walter Pater and the Art of Evanescence
187
The Fall of the City
217
viii
281
91
288
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About the author (2005)

John D. Rosenberg is William Peterfield Trent Professor of English at Columbia University of New York. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including American Council of Learned Societies, Guggenheim and NEH fellowships. Among many works and editions, he has written 'The Darkening Glass, on Ruskin' (Columbia University Press, 1961); and 'Carlyle and the Burden of History' (Harvard University Press, 1985).

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