Irony in "Lucretius"

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

Note 4 to Chapter 7 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.

Allan Danzig locates a comic dimension in the poem, arguing that Lucretius is caught by his single-minded inability to admit to contraries, his insistence on seeing negation where there is actually tension ("The Contraries"). The best reading of the ironic force of the poem is by W. David Shaw, Imagination. Shaw sees the poem as a study in dissociated sensibility, the problern being presented by the split of imagination and intellect. The speaker, he says, makes "a brilliant, though unsuccessful, attempt to hold fact and values in unison" (p. 130)

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Last modified: 28 March 2001