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‘Thousands of throbbing hearts' - Sentimentality and community in popular Victorian poetry: Longfellow's Evangeline and Tennyson's Enoch Arden

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Kirstie Blair

About Kirstie
Kirstie Blair is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her primary research interests are in Victorian poetry and Victorian religion, both separately and together. She has published widely in these fields. Recent publications include a special edition of Victorian Poetry on Tractarian poets, co-edited with Emma Mason, two articles on spasmodic poetry, and the monograph Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006).
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Abstract

This essay explores the function of sentimentality in popular nineteenth-century narrative poetry by focusing on Tennyson's Enoch Arden and Longfellow's Evangeline, two poems that have suffered relative critical neglect due to their status as sentimental verse. It argues that both texts, in their stories of exile, alienation and eventual recuperation, set up their hero and heroine as role-models for ways of feeling and use them to examine the possibility of using personal feeling as a conduit for communal sentiment. While both poems deploy the standard tropes of Victorian sentimentality, the ambiguous conclusions of Enoch Arden and Evangeline , I argue, call into question the clichés of sentimental discourse. The fates of Enoch and of Evangeline offer, to some extent, a darker vision of the potential for sentimental responses to an individual's suffering to create feeling communities either within or without the poem.
DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/ntn.455
How to Cite: Blair, K., (2007). ‘Thousands of throbbing hearts' - Sentimentality and community in popular Victorian poetry: Longfellow's Evangeline and Tennyson's Enoch Arden. 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century. (4). DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/ntn.455
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Published on 01 Apr 2007.
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