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Journal Article

Swinburne's Dramatic Monologues: Sex and Ideology

Thaïs E. Morgan
Victorian Poetry
Vol. 22, No. 2, The Dramatic "I" Poem (Summer, 1984), pp. 175-195
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40002965
Page Count: 21
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Swinburne's Dramatic Monologues: Sex and Ideology
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Abstract

Despite evidence pointing to polemic as Swinburne's primary aim in "Poems and Ballads, First Series (1866)," literary critics tend to regard his dramatic monologues as the fictionalized autobiography of a sexually maladjusted individual. As Swinburne himself points out, however, the classical and medieval characters and settings in "Anactoria," "Laus Veneris," and "Hymn to Proserpine" are ironic masks, calculated to ambush the publicly prudent but privately prurient Victorian reader. Swinburne uses metaphors that mix religious and pornographic codes in order to expose the double standards in Christian discourse and iconography. After demonstrating the many contradictions in Victorian values, each of his dramatic personae takes a countercultural stance, recommending "sleep," or the suspension of morality itself, as the only way out of the sado-masochistic perversions that repressive Victorian society has fostered.

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