175. (Lord Byron)

An answer to the question, “Why does Don Juan incite laughter?” will not take the form of verbal criticism, because verbal criticism, the close analysis of language, will murder the life of the jokes by dissection even as it succeeds in revealing what cognitive elements the jokes arrange and order. The question needs to be approached differently, and I’ve made notes towards doing so: but the … Continue reading 175. (Lord Byron)

174. (Lord Byron)

Like many other great works of Romantic literature, Don Juan finds human caring to be a source of life and makes it an object of contemplation; like Blake’s lyrics and visions, like the poetry of Wordsworth’s decade, or Coleridge’s ballad, Byron’s mock-epic cares about caring. Looking for criticism on the topic, I came to Erik Gray’s study of nineteenth-century British poetry, The Poetry of Indifference, but found … Continue reading 174. (Lord Byron)

117. (Lord Byron)

“If there is a critique of the Enlightenment to be made, it is not that the philosophes believed in human nature, or the universality of reason: it is rather that they were so dismally unimaginative about the range of what we have in common.” The Byron of Don Juan, I suspect, would not have been averse to Kwame Appiah’s words, from his spirited defense of “Rooted Cosmopolitanism” … Continue reading 117. (Lord Byron)

72. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Tennyson loved Byron first; the story, propagated by Tennyson’s laureate self, of the young Alfred sobbing at the great poet’s death (and carving Byron’s name in rock) both acknowledged the depth and disavowed the persistence of his feelings. In the anecdote, they are made to seem juvenile, adolescent, even infantile. But through adulthood Tennyson was, in his own mind, the infant crying and with no … Continue reading 72. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

32. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

A short phrase binds an entire ream of Tennyson criticism: “the art of the penultimate.” That Tennyson’s art looks forward with foreboding, that it does so with a burden of what has come before, is the spine supporting almost all major Tennyson criticism from the past forty years (and more). But what if the phenomenon the phrase fits were to be fitted from another angle? … Continue reading 32. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)