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EpicBritain's Heroic Muse 1790–1910$
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Herbert F. Tucker

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199232987

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199232987.001.0001

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For All the World: Eclectic Epic 1870–1895

For All the World: Eclectic Epic 1870–1895

(p.462) 11 For All the World: Eclectic Epic 1870–1895

Herbert F. Tucker (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Having rescued the epic muse from the usages of the novel, heroic myth declined towards the fin de siècle into a Victorian museum collectible. The characteristic form for epic after 1870 became the anthology of tales, organized by deep, reflexive belief in civilized progress. Classical antiquity (Lewis Morris), Ireland and the South Seas (de Vere, Ferguson, Domett), the world's religions (Owen Meredith, Edwin Arnold), natural history and English history too (Blind, Palgrave) — all found place in epics whose plots were folded into the meta-narrative of a progressive evolution that had produced imperial modernity as its crowning vantage. Against this escalation of claims greater poets of the day, Morris and Swinburne, pitched their epic dissent, maintaining in plots of singular catastrophe tragedy's resistance to assimilation by the Gilded Age, and stubbornly enshrining the scandal of tragic joy where the newcomer Yeats might recruit it for fresh political purposes. The epic logic of eclectic retrospect meanwhile bred a scholarly subgenre in comprehensive, multi-volumed literary, national, and anthropological histories.

Keywords:   anthology, progress, Ireland, Owen Meredith, Edwin Arnold, Blind, tragedy, Morris, Swinburne, Yeats

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