In Memoriam: Reader-Response and the Virtual Construction of Consolation

By Eric Bontempo.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: November 16, 2016 $US5.00

Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s intensely personal poem “In Memoriam” remains a gold mine for scholarship that probes the nineteenth century’s conflict between science and faith. Tennyson’s grief over losing his beloved Arthur Hallam intermixes with epistemological issues of nature and God resulting from discoveries by scientists such as William Whewell and Charles Lyell. As a long poem composed across two decades, “In Memoriam” enables the scholar to trace the gradual process of consolation, but few have traced the poem’s ability to incite a phenomenological response in readers. My article fills this gap by exploring the significance of Tennyson publishing what was essentially his private journal. Through publication, Tennyson reminds himself and his audience that community binds people together and transforms an otherwise cold and ruthless nature into something more hopeful. Moreover, literature functions as a tool whereby humanity can exert their autonomy and sense of community. Mutuality and togetherness, I think, become important qualities of nineteenth-century life because they are a means of coping with science, modernity, and the Industrial Revolution. The purpose of this article is to witness how Tennyson deals with his estrangement from Nature and to glean what we can from his wisdom on the subject of living in the age of “the Anthropocene.”

Keywords: Phenomenology, Victorian Studies, Reader-Response, Religion and Literature, Poetics

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 14, Issue 4, December 2016, pp.11-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: November 16, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 470.232KB)).

Eric Bontempo

Master's Student, Department of English, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA