1. ‘Nineteenth-century poetry, we realize, was characteristically preoccupied with the creation of a dream-world’ (F.R. LEAVIS). How just an assessment is this ofTennyson?
2. ‘[I]t is action, action, action that we want’ (Tennyson’s friend Trench). How does action feature in the poetry of Tennyson?
3. ‘[T]he saddest of all English poets’ (T.S. ELIOT on Tennyson). How does Tennyson represent sadness? Is there more to him than that?
4. Justify, or dispute, Christopher Ricks’s description of Tennyson’s ‘art of the penultimate’.
Some Suggested Reading
Auden, W. H., ‘Tennyson’, in Forewords and Afterwords, selected by Edward Mendelson (London: Faber, 1973), 221–32. (Originally the introduction to Tennyson: An Introduction and a Selection (1946).)
Bayley, John, ‘Tennyson and the Idea of Decadence’, in Hallam Tennyson (ed.), Studies in Tennyson (London: Macmillan, 1981), 186–205.
Brooks, Cleanth, ‘The Motivation of Tennyson’s Weeper’; in John Killham (ed.), Critical Essays on the Poetry of Tennyson (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960), 177–85.
Dodsworth, Martin, ‘Patterns of Morbidity: Repetition in Tennyson’s Poetry’, in Isobel Armstrong (ed.), The Major Victorian Poets: Reconsiderations (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), 7–34.
Eliot, T. S., ‘In Memoriam’, in T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays (3rd edn.; London: Faber, 1951; repr., 1980), 328–38.
Griffiths, Eric, ‘Tennyson’s Breath’, in The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 97-170.
—— ‘Tennyson’s Idle Tears’, in Phillip Collins, Tennyson: Seven Essays (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992), 36–60.
Hunt, John Dixon (ed.), Tennyson: In Memoriam: A Casebook (London: Macmillan, 1970).
Jump, John D. (ed.), Tennyson: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967). (See especially the reviews by Hallam, Sterling, Leigh Hunt, and Hutton.)
Langbaum, Robert, The Poetry of Experience: The Dramatic Monologue in Modern Literary Tradition (1957; repr., London: Chatto & Windus, 1972), esp. 87–93. On the dramatic monologues.
Ricks, Christopher, Tennyson (2nd edn.; Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989). The best introduction; also a biography.
Tucker, Herbert F., ‘Tennyson and the Measure of Doom’, PMLA 98 (1983), 8–20.
Hallam Tennyson’s Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A Memoir by his Son (2 vols.; London: Macmillan, 1897, sometimes reprinted in one volume) [0067. d. 021, 022] has often been criticized for its piety: there is a noble defence in Christopher Ricks, Essays in Appreciation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 172–205 [0047 h. 062]. The first modern biography is Sir Charles Tennyson’s excellent Alfred Tennyson (London: Macmillan, 1949) [0067 d.023]. More recent lives include Robert Bernard Martin, Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart (Oxford/London: Clarendon Press/Faber, 1980) [0067 d.029]; and Peter Levi, Tennyson (London: Macmillan, 1993) [0067 d. 037]. All the best anecdotes are collected in Tennyson: Interviews and Recollections, ed. Norman Page (London: Macmillan, 1983).