Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University

Advisor

Claggett, Shalyn

Date of Degree

8-1-2011

Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access

Major

English

Degree Name

Master of Arts

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Abstract

Many efforts have been made by nineteenth and twentieth-century critics alike to classify Charles Algernon Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads (1866) as blatantly sacrilegious. This evaluative approach, however, fails to account for the thematic significance of Swinburne’s nuanced use of Christian imagery. Through a reading of three representative poems from the collection – “Dolores,” “Anactoria,” and “Laus Veneris” – this thesis demonstrates that Swinburne appropriates the Catholic concepts of transubstantiation, confession, and suffering for a specific aesthetic purpose. In the Catholic tradition, these concepts symbolically represent a unification of ostensibly antithetical states to achieve transcendence. For instance, the doctrine of transubstantiation unites the spiritual acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice through the physical consumption of bread and wine. Far from being, as Robert Buchanan famously claimed, “unclean for the mere sake of uncleanness,” Swinburne strategically appropriated the mechanism of religious transcendence in order to affect a poetic escape from the very moral categories it represented.

URI

https://hdl.handle.net/11668/15498

Comments

nineteenth-century poetry||unification of body and spirit||Swinburne||Catholicism||body/soul duality

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