302 / VICTORIAN POETRY shares turf with the broadside tradition (p. 105), as do other poems of the period. Indeed, this first chapter on the broadside ballads is so powerful that the conventions of that genre seem to color all that follows. In chapters two and three, further historical contextualization illuminates the relationship of mental science and the insanity defense to poems like "Porphyria's Lover" and "A Last Confession," and the ways in which The Ring and the Book engages with contemporary ideas about domestic violence and "the vexed gender politics of marriage, domesticity, and criminality" (p. 171). O'Brien's readings of the poems she takes up are both deft and substantial, and will provide important points of reference for future scholars. Her project demonstrates the power of detail: framed by an historicist's sensibility, Crime in Verse rejoices in the local and specific, as do most of the murder poems themselves, with their emphasis on "the full particulars" of the crimes they relate. Yet O'Brien also maintains a sophisticated theoretical analysis, piecing those details into revelations about the larger institutional and ideological structures that shaped Victorian poetry. CLINTON MACHANN Book-length studies of Arnold have not been numerous in recent
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Nov 28, 2008
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