Nineteenth-Century Centre Research Seminar – Wednesday 25th October at 5pm

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Please join us for our first research seminar visiting speaker event of the year! James is a terrific scholar and a wonderfully engaging speaker, so we’re set for an illuminating evening. Further details below. Do spread the word to other interested parties. And if you can’t attend in person but would like to hear James’s talk, we’ll be making it available live via Zoom. Just email me at and I’ll provide you with the link.
Dr James Williams (University of York)
Arts 103 (Constance Naden Room) at 5pm
‘Victorian Poetry in the Underworld’
In this paper I will explore the uses that Victorian poetry found for the group of related classical underworld myths, primarily the interlaced cycles of stories around Persephone (or Proserpine) and Orpheus and Eurydice. I will consider how practices of classical allusion in nineteenth-century poetry differ from those of the Renaissance and Modernist periods, which theories of allusion typically take as paradigmatic. I argue that the characteristic forms of mythography present in Victorian poetry provided poets and readers with a conceptual grammar for reflecting on questions of poetics that would now fall under the description of “literary theory”, a mode of discourse whose obliqueness was sometimes a condition of its force. The paper represents work on a chapter of a monograph in progress on poetic mythography in the nineteenth century. It will consider work by Tennyson, Swinburne, Coventry Patmore, and others.