AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

‘A poem should not mean, but be’: poetic form vs. content in Algernon Charles Swinburne

by Aidan Philip Thompson

Institution: University of Birmingham
Department: School of English, Drama, American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Year: 2015
Keywords: PR English literature
Record ID: 1395013
Full text PDF: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/5872/


This thesis provides a chronological review of the major poetic works of Algernon Charles Swinburne in light of a recent resurgence of critical interest in his work. The thesis compares and contrasts the form and the content, with particular focus on the short, fixed-form poems developed by Swinburne, especially the roundel form that he developed from the French rondeaux. The aesthetic form is contrasted with the numerous instances of challenging or unpleasant content and subject matter that Swinburne grounded many of his poems in. The thesis analyses assertions that Swinburne had a preoccupation with sound and rhyme over any meaningful message to portray through his poetry, thus leaving his poems vacuous and devoid of meaning. This school of thought in Swinburnian studies is contrasted with opposing critical views that Swinburne as poet was a form of public moralist, writing to challenge traditional Victorian political, social and gender stereotypes. The thesis concludes that in refining verse form as heavily as Swinburne had done with the roundel, so this left little room for any further development, and resulted in part in the move to modernism and modernist literature.