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Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart$
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Kirstie Blair

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199273942

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199273942.001.0001

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‘The old unquiet breast’: Matthew Arnold, Heartsickness, and the Culture of Doubt

‘The old unquiet breast’: Matthew Arnold, Heartsickness, and the Culture of Doubt

Chapter:
(p.145) 4 ‘The old unquiet breast’: Matthew Arnold, Heartsickness, and the Culture of Doubt
Source:
Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart
Author(s):

Kirstie Blair (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199273942.003.0005

This chapter examines the use of the heart in religious discourse. In Evangelicalism, Roman Catholicism, and the emerging culture of doubt, appeals to the heart and to the truth of feeling were relatively commonplace, whereas Anglican writers were suspicious of such appeals and sought to control and contain over-emotional expressions of faith. Poetry by writers with High Church sympathies, such as John Keble, Richard Trench, and Frederick Faber, seek to regulate the heart, though not always successfully. Arnold's poetics were strongly influenced by Tractarianism, and equally affected by his belief that he suffered from dangerous heart disease. His poems, particularly ‘The Buried Life’ and ‘Empedocles on Etna’, are anxious about the production and regulation of feeling, particularly in relation to religion, and display this through imagery of heartsickness.

Keywords:   religion, faith, doubt, Tractarianism, Arnold, Faber

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