Authored Book

Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart



Blair K (2006) Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart. Oxford English Monographs. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

- Contains individual chapters on well-known Victorian poets and poems, including those frequently studied on undergraduate and graduate courses - Demonstrates the significance of the heart and of heart disease as a cultural and literary phenomenon - Provides interdisciplinary study of poetry and medicine, as opposed to the more common study of medicine and the novel - Covers both canonical and non-canonical works from the period, including popular and working-class poetry Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart is a significant and timely study of nineteenth-century poetry and poetics. It considers why and how the heart became a vital image in Victorian poetry, and argues that the intense focus on heart imagery in many major Victorian poems highlights anxieties in this period about the ability of poetry to act upon its readers. In the course of the nineteenth century, this study argues, increased doubt about the validity of feeling led to the depiction of the literary heart as alienated, distant, outside the control of mind and will. This coincided with a notable rise in medical literature specifically concerned with the pathological heart, and with the development of new techniques and instruments of investigation such as the stethoscope. As poets feared for the health of their own hearts, their poetry embodies concerns about a widespread culture of heartsickness in both form and content. In addition, concerns about the heart's status and actions reflect upon questions of religious faith and doubt, and feed into issues of gender and nationalism. This book argues that it is vital to understand how this wider culture of the heart informed poetry and was in turn influenced by poetic constructs. Individual chapters on Barrett Browning, Arnold, and Tennyson explore the vital presence of the heart in major works by these poets - including Aurora Leigh, 'Empedocles on Etna', In Memoriam, and Maud - while the wide-ranging opening chapters present an argument for the mutual influence of poetry and physiology in the period and trace the development of new theories of rhythm as organic and affective.

Title of seriesOxford English Monographs
Publication date31/12/2006
PublisherClarendon Press
Publisher URL
Place of publicationOxford

People (1)


Professor Kirstie Blair
Professor Kirstie Blair

Dean of Faculty of Arts and Humanities, AH Management and Support Team