Tennyson's bipolar speakers: from melancholy in 'Mariana' to madness in Maud.

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Smith, Jenita
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation discusses Alfred, Lord Tennyson's early poetry and his last great poem, Maud, as psychological and autobiographical works. Living in a chaotic and tumultuous age, Tennyson, like Matthew Arnold and many other Victorian poets, was filled with dissention against science, progress, and materialism. In an age when Victorian scientists treated madness as a social and legal problem, poets of the day were both fascinated and sympathetic because they sensed that madness was a symptom of the times. Thus, Tennyson's poetry is peopled with depressed and mad speakers who serve as metaphors for the mental chaos of an entire period, maddened because of new scientific information and a disregarding of love in the rush toward material wealth.
Chapter One establishes the effects of the "black blood" of Tennyson's ancestry and the devastation of living with a bipolar and alcoholic father, a weak mother, and brothers who were mentally unstable, alcoholics, and drug addicts.
Chapter Two traces melancholia, madness, and bipolar disorders, beginning with the ancient Greeks and Romans and continuing up to the present day, with special emphasis on the Victorian Age.
Chapter Three discusses bipolar speakers in Tennyson's early poems, "The Outcast," "My life is full of weary days," "Mariana," and "Tithonus," who, because of deep depression and despair, isolate themselves from society and long for death. "Locksley Hall," the last poem in this chapter, shows the reverse of depression, and readers see a bipolar speaker who rants and rages about materialism and class differences.
Chapter Four deals with Tennyson's most controversial poem, Maud. Here, Tennyson's bipolar protagonist vividly expresses anxiety and madness about a materialistic and doubt-torn society.
Chapter Five discusses Maud as a major psychic catharsis for Tennyson. With the publication of In Memoriam, his marriage to Emily Sellwood, and his laureateship, Tennyson, by 1850, for the first time, had stability in his life. Because of this stability, in 1855 with the writing of Maud, he worked through the angst he had lived with and carried with him all his life.
Adviser: Larry Gentry.