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Title: Algernon Charles Swinburne : the causes and effects of his Sapphic possession
Author: Ingham, Anthea Margaret
ISNI:       0000 0004 2704 3895
Awarding Body: University of Birmingham
Current Institution: University of Birmingham
Date of Award: 2011
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The thesis regards the extraordinary power of Sappho in the 1860s as resulting in a form of “Sapphic Possession” which laid hold on Swinburne, shaped his verse, produced a provocative new poetics, and which accounted for a critical reception of his work that was both hostile and enthralled. Using biographical material and Freudian psychology, I show how Swinburne became attracted to Sappho and came to rely on her as a substitute mistress and particular kind of muse, and I demonstrate the pre-eminence of the Sapphic presence in Poems and Ballads: 1, as a dominant female muse who exacts peculiar sacrifices from the poet of subjection, necrophilia, and even a form of “death” in the loss of his own personality; as a result, he is finally reduced to acting as the muse’s mouthpiece, a state akin to that of Pythia or Sibyl. Verse written under such duress instigates a new poetics where the demands and constructs of the muse produce a sublime composed of aberrance, fracture and the darkness of myth. To explicate this argument I read Poems and Ballads: 1 through carnival, a form of Bacchanal or Sapphic Komos which has the effect of blurring the boundaries between life and lyric, and which demands a joyous and reciprocal response from its readers, in which they must acknowledge their own attraction to the Sapphic sublime.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PQ Romance literatures ; DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World ; GR Folklore ; PN0441 Literary History ; PN0080 Criticism ; BF Psychology ; PR English literature