Poetic Agency: Metonymy and Metaphor in Chartist Poetry 1838-18521 MICHAEL SANDERS N ATIONAL C ONVENTION , THE ORIGINAL historian of Chartism, R. C. Gammage, commented wryly, "It did not turn out to be a perfectly harmonious body."2 According to Gammage, the major source of discord was the disagreement between the advocates of "moral" and "physical force" (pp. 106-111). While subsequent Chartist historiography has offered a more nuanced account of the range of opinion within Chartism, it has also confirmed Gammage's assessment that the related questions of strategy and agency bedevilled the Chartist movement throughout its existence.3 The intention of this article is to demonstrate the extent to which Chartist poetics participate in this central problematic--that of identifying and representing a social force capable of securing the Charter. Broadly speaking, the article will argue that Chartist poetry represents agency through one of two poetic strategies. The first uses metonymy and metaphor to invoke and evoke agency respectively, whilst the second identifies specific concrete groups which it seeks to interpellate as the agents of change. It will argue that these changes in poetic strategy are symptomatic of changes in political understanding. The displacement of metonymy by metaphors of natural force,
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Jun 1, 2001
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