“Then Thickest Dark did Trance the Sky”: A Representation of Psychological Decay in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Mariana”

Dorota Osińska


The Victorians openly expressed their deep fascination with the study of mind which was reflected in the rise of the nineteenth century “Psychological School of Poetry”. One of the authors who was captivated by the question of mental disorders was Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Despite the extensive research on his poetry, “Mariana” tends to be overlooked and reduced to a mere depiction of unbearable loneliness. However, this study focuses on the way how Tennyson, by using different modes of poetical representation such as visual, auditory, and temporal, indirectly portrays a degradation of the protagonist’s psyche, thus showing that the mental state can be expressed by the external images of a surrounding landscape, not character’s subjective perception. By the close reading of the poem as well as comparing the description of psychological disintegration with another well-known heroine of the Victorian era Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, one may conclude that the conveyed imagery of decay and blight mirrors the gradual psychological downfall of the female character. Contrary to Harold Bloom’s reading of the poem, I will argue that Mariana’s tragedy lies precisely in her retreat from the external world and dwelling in the vicious circle of her predicament which reinforces the character’s masochistic coping mechanisms. Above all, the power of the poem lies not in the immediate shock and disgust, but in evoking a sense of moroseness that slowly kills the protagonist.


Victorian;literature;poetry;psychology;isolation;Tennyson;XIX century

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/nh.2019.4.74-89
Data publikacji: 2019-09-13 22:32:45
Data złożenia artykułu: 2018-10-30 23:07:23


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