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The Cultural Production of Matthew Arnold

Antony H. Harrison

Publication Year: 2009

The career of Matthew Arnold as an eminent poet and the preeminent critic of his generation constitutes a remarkable historical spectacle orchestrated by a host of powerful Victorian cultural institutions. The Cultural Production of Matthew Arnold investigates these constructions by situating Arnold’s poetry in a number of contexts that partially shaped it. Such analysis revises our understanding of the formation of the elite (and elitist) male literary-intellectual subject during the 1840s and 1850s, as Arnold attempts self-definition and strives simultaneously to move toward a position of ideological influence upon intellectual institutions that were contested sites of economic, social, and political power in his era.

Antony H. Harrison reopens discussion of selected works by Arnold in order to make visible some of their crucial sociohistorical, intertextual, and political components. Only by doing so can we ultimately view the cultural work of Arnold “steadily and . . . whole,” and in a fashion that actually eschews this mystifying premise of all Arnoldian inquiry which, by the early twentieth century, had become wholly naturalized in the academy as ideology.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-xi

The last truly important critical book devoted to Matthew Arnold’s poetry was David Riede’s Matthew Arnold and the Betrayal of Language, published at the centenary of Arnold’s death.1 Some twenty years later, we might well wonder at the relative critical neglect endured by this icon of Victorian literature and culture during these two...


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pp. xiii


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pp. xv-xvi

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1. Revolution and Medievalism

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pp. 1-28

Matthew Arnold’s most famous poem, “Dover Beach” (composed ca. 1851),1 concludes with his speaker looking away from the chalk cliffs of England toward continental Europe and lamenting that...

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2. Keats and Spasmodicism

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pp. 29-71

Arnold is, one could argue, the most pervasively intertextual of Victorian poets. Not only does he allude repeatedly to precursors through verbal, thematic, and formal echoes in his poems but also, unlike most canonical poets of the nineteenth century, he names such influential figures openly.

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3. Poetesses

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pp. 72-100

Matthew Arnold’s notorious misogyny, especially during the period of his greatest poetic productivity (1847–53), is perhaps most visible in his now-familiar letter of September 29, 1848, to Clough, as he explains his boredom (at last) with Pierre-Jean de Béranger’s works and compares it with a “feeling with regard to (I hate the word) women. ...

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4. Gypsies

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pp. 101-128

In 1881, Matthew Arnold could, remarkably, still identify with Byron as a poet-gypsy, an outcast wandering Europe and writing verses in futile rebellion against the values and behavior of the social class that had produced him. But if Arnold’s image of Byron as a revolutionary on the ideological margins (“this passionate and dauntless soldier of a forlorn hope”) is not entirely...


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pp. 129-142

Works Cited

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pp. 143-148


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pp. 149-152

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443132
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419007

Publication Year: 2009