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literature

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Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892)  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

In fact, the only passing reference is found in The Princess when the young feminist states that she and a fellow student are "faster welded in one love / Than pairs of wedlock" (IV 236-237); in hinting at romantic involvement between transgressive women, Tennyson participates in a tendency among the Victorians to portray rebellious women as sexually nonconformist, even homosexual.

This allowed patriarchal Victorian men to claim that the women's movement threatened the very cornerstone of Victorian society: the nuclear, heterosexual family. Certainly it provided one of many excuses contained within the context of the poem for the harsh treatment that the rebellious women receive as they are conquered and reintegrated into Victorian heterosexual culture.

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Conclusion

Thus Tennyson clearly does not fit into convenient categories such as "radical" or even "progressive"; rather, he, like so many of his contemporaries, was an eager participant in the ongoing debates on gender roles and the place of emotion and commitment in a society that seemed obsessed with technological progress and the accumulation of wealth.

As part of his explorations of alternative forms for social organization and moral engagement, he looked to bonding as one source for positive (in the case of men) or negative (in the case of women) emotional ties that might have an effect upon the fragmentation that he saw around him.

But homosocial and homosexual desire are not always easily distinguishable, and certainly in In Memoriam the boundary between platonic and actively erotic forms of love seems fuzzy.

In this way, Tennyson challenges are our own ability to classify writers as "gay" and "straight." Though heterosexual, Tennyson wrote poetry dealing with love between men that is still capable of evoking a profound response from gay audiences today and that has an important place in any consideration of gay literary history.

Donald E. Hall

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    Bibliography
   

Dellamora, Richard. Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

Faderman, Lillian. Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present. New York: Morrow, 1981.

Hoeveler, Diane. "Manly-Women and Womanly-Men: Tennyson's Androgynous Ideal in The Princess and In Memoriam." Michigan Occasional Papers in Women's Studies. No. 19. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1982.

Martin, Robert Bernard. Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Nunokawa, Jeff. "In Memoriam and the Extinction of the Homosexual." ELH 58 (1991): 427-448.

Ricks, Christopher. Tennyson. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

Shaw, Marion. Alfred Lord Tennyson. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1988.

Sinfield, Alan. Alfred Tennyson. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson. 6 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1903.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Hall, Donald E.  
    Entry Title: Tennyson, Alfred Lord  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 10, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/tennyson_al.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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