Irony and Comedy in the first lyrics of In Memoriam

James R. Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Professor of English, University of Southern California

Note 5 to Chapter 5 of the author's Tennyson's Major Poems, which Yale University Press published in 1975. It has been included in the Victorian Web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

A similar perception is applied somewhat differently but with some of the same results by Michael Y. Mason in reference to the psychology of the poem; by Ward Hellstrom, pp. 54-64, in reference to the poem's imagery; and most notably by Francis P. Devlin. Professor Devlin's argument that the narrator early "expresses his obsession with death and separation through imagery connoting rebirth and renewal" (p. 173) is parallel to mine- I do not think that the narrator "ignores or slights" these connotations (p. 170), though, or that there is a separation at this Point between narrator and poet that would lead to "dramatic irony." W. David Shaw provides excellent generic criticism from another direction. He relates the poem and many of its structural details to the tradition of confessional literature. He also argues, as I do, that the poem's final resolution i given very early, Since his own evidence (see pp. 82, 92-97) for the poem's "circular form" is different from my own, I take it that our studies am complementary.

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Last modified: 28 March 2001