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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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In Session: Forensic Epic 1830–1840

In Session: Forensic Epic 1830–1840

(p.269) 7 In Session: Forensic Epic 1830–1840

Herbert F. Tucker (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In its 1820–40 efflorescence, the poetic closet drama staked out a space that renewed epic also made its own during the heyday of British national Reform. Literalizing poetic ‘argument’ into debate, and expanding the classical topos of the epic consult, epoists of the 1830s wrote poems whose narrative took the form of an extended, dialogical deliberation. These works addressed their readers as an auditory convened to assist at a process of judgment affirming national unity on a basis liberal rather than authoritarian — or else, in an epic undersong like the Chartist Cooper's, they appealed to liberal principles on behalf of those whom the 1832 compact had left out. As rising Victorian stars like Carlyle and Disraeli worked this forensic vein, Browning took it to extremes that all but wrecked his career. Even Bible epoists (Heraud, Bulmer) now discarded the 1820s mass rush to Judgment, in favour of persuasive rhetoric; and epics of church history that overlaid Protestant Reformation on contemporary Reform supervened upon the dogmatizing of former decades.

Keywords:   closet drama, forensic epic, Reform, liberal, Cooper, Carlyle, Disraeli, Browning, church history

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