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Title: System and poetry : studies in the writings of Lord Byron
Author: Howe, A. R.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2003
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The thesis aims to offer new insights into Lord Byron's writing, focusing in particular on Don Juan. It attempts this through an investigation into the concept of 'system', a highly resonant term in the early nineteenth century and one the poet repeatedly invoked in a pejorative sense to indicate an unresponsive mind-set antithetical to the poetic. The introductory chapter offers an historical description of 'system' and its related vocabulary, drawing out the different applications of the world (intellectual religious, political and aesthetic). In particular, Byron's antisystematic attitude is related to and distinguished from philosophical scepticism, a subject central to some recent studies of Byron. The remaining four chapters explore the most significant manifestations of 'system' and the resistance to them cultivated in Byron's later writings. Chapter two considers Byron's prose intervention in the controversy over the nature of Pope's poetry in which he attacks a 'systematic' approach to literary writing. Particular emphasis is placed on Byron's engagement with the historical background to the controversy, especially Johnson's implied censure of Joseph Warton. The third chapter looks at the philosophical and religious aspects of Byron's thought through a reading of the drama Cain. The play is considered with reference to past critical interpretation, which has tended to view the play as expressive of a religious or philosophical 'position'. Navigating between these divergent arguments, the chapter suggests that the play resists any dogmatic interpretation and is most fruitfully thought of as a mediation on the role of the poet. Chapter four investigates the presentation of human consciousness in Don Juan through the poem's obsessive interest in physical process and its effects on mental states.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available