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Reviews103 life. Through this deliberate subversion of autobiographical conventions, Gosse attempts to re-create his own identity. Thus Henderson identifies a progress from conversion, unconversion to subversion in the three autobiographies. In an epUogue, she attempts to demonstrate the typological foundations of Victorian fiction by arguing that the biblical story of David underlies David Copperfield and Jane Eyre, the autobiographical fictions of Dickens and Charlotte Brontë. Here Henderson corrects Peterson ' s assumption that Victorian women did not use Biblical hermeneutics to interpret their lives (because they were excluded from that tradition) by offering a reading of the "feminization of typology" in Jane Eyre. If her claim that the novel constitutes a "radically subversive remaking of patriarchal Western religion" (189) is somewhat hyperbolic, her discussion ofthe novel is nevertheless persuasive and exciting. The keynote of both these books is change. All these writers are conscious of time—of the life-writer ' s attempts to evade, transform, or arrest it, and of the rapidly changing nature of their own critique of those efforts. Catherine R. Harland fJueen's University David Goslee. Tennyson's Characters: "Strange Faces Other Minds". Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1989. xxiv + 307. $32.50 US (cloth). Tennyson's Characters is a bland and misleading title; David Goslee' s book is not about characters in general, but about particular functions within a complex explanatory model. In his reading of Tennyson ' s poems Goslee encountered a recurring problem: central figures are always striving to assert their independence from the contexts that Tennyson imagined at the same time that he created those figures. Think of the Lady of Shalott and Mariana, imprisoned in their solitary dwellings, the speakers in "Locksley Hall" and Maud railing against a hostile and confining social system, or the poet in In Memoriam striving to break free from the constraints of mortality. Tennyson ' s poems are nearly always restive. How to account for this lack of fit between character and context, and between both of them and the author of the poems? 104Victorian Review Goslee has attempted to interpret this conflict through a structural model of Authorial Presence/Mediator/Other: In each poem a centered, cloistered, but still vulnerable authorial presence is threatened by some Other—a personification of divine, sexual, or natural power—which encroaches upon it from the fringes of the poem ' s imaginative universe. Almost invariably, however, a vatic speaker or a preternatural agent mediates between the authorial presence and the Other—interpreting, humanizing, or conciliating an otherwise alien cosmos, (xi) The paradigm for this model first emerges in Tennyson's very early poems, "Armageddon" and "Timbuctoo," when the mysterious Seraph appears to console and enlighten the poet. The second part of Goslee ' s argument proposes a theory of textual revision. AU ofTennyson ' s major poems grow from a core of early drafts. A consistent feature of Tennyson ' s process of revision is to enrich the basic model by making the mediator figures less preternatural and more human—more like characters in the traditional narrative and dramatic sense. Again, "Armageddon" and "Timbuctoo" are paradigmatic: the later poem grows out of the earlier one, and the mediating Seraph in "Timbuctoo" is noticeably more human and less vatic than his precursor. So this book is essentially a study of Tennyson ' s mediators and of their role in a pattern that grows and develops with the Tennyson canon. Is the thesis of Tennyson's Characters finally convincing? Goslee' s model illuminates our understanding of Tennyson ' s short poems up to the 1842 volume, but it is less successful in explaining the long poems that follow. As Goslee strives to avoid reductionist readings, his model becomes more complex, until the three figures of Mediator, Authorial Presence and Other blend with each other and lose their explanatory power. The model itself is exclusively psychological, to the extent that it overlays questions oflanguage and politics—more than the author intends. Goslee' s reasons for designating one particular stage of manuscript development as the core of a final poem are not always persuasive. StiU, Tennyson's Characters is an interesting book, and well worth reading. Its real value Ues in its deliberate account of how much critics who write about...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 103-105
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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