Time and place
in Reading poetry
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This chapter considers how time and place are represented in poetry. It presents two well known Victorian elegiac poems, one by Tennyson, and one by Matthew Arnold. The chapter investigates the precise nature of certain poetic effects. Tennyson's In Memoriam sequence, comprising 133 poems, was written over a period of 17 years following the death of his university friend Arthur Hallam. Matthew Arnold's poem 'Thyrsis' was written in memory of his friend and fellow poet Arthur Hugh Clough, with whom he had shared his undergraduate years at Oxford. The elegy is in many ways a puzzling form of poetry, but a key motif is always to seem to want to suspend time and circumstance. The unsettling of notions of time and place in poetry is particularly marked in the case of elegiac poems, for the dichotomy between absence and presence is also deconstructed as a consequence of the chronotopic disturbance.


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