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Two Interpolated Speeches in Robert Browning's A Death in the Desert

Two Interpolated Speeches in Robert Browning's A Death in the Desert ROBERT INGLESFIELD collection Dramatis Personae, published in May 1864, is a poem of exceptional interest, intimately related to the intellectual life of its time. The date of composition is uncertain. Relatively long at 687 lines, the blank-verse poem consists largely of the spiritual last testament of the dying St. John, the evangelist and last surviving apostle. St. John's speech, intellectually dense and often extremely concentrated, almost elliptical in expression--together with introductory and concluding narrative passages in the person of the narrator-witness (who is probably, though not certainly, Pamphylax)--is presented as the contents of an ancient Greek parchment manuscript: the elaborate framing device is introduced in the opening parenthetical interpolation (ll. 1-12), enclosed in square brackets, in the person of the manuscript's early Christian owner. In A Death in the Desert Browning engages urgently, though always implicitly, with modern questions of religious belief and doubt--as contemporary readers and reviewers immediately recognized. The poem needs to be read in the context of the profound crisis of religious belief of the early 1860s, in which both the Essays and Reviews controversy1 and the deeply disturbing intellectual influence of modern, mainly German, Biblical criticism played an important part. Browning attempts to "take http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Victorian Poetry West Virginia University Press

Two Interpolated Speeches in Robert Browning's A Death in the Desert

Victorian Poetry , Volume 41 (3) – Dec 16, 2003

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2003 West Virginia University.
ISSN
1530-7190
Publisher site
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Abstract

ROBERT INGLESFIELD collection Dramatis Personae, published in May 1864, is a poem of exceptional interest, intimately related to the intellectual life of its time. The date of composition is uncertain. Relatively long at 687 lines, the blank-verse poem consists largely of the spiritual last testament of the dying St. John, the evangelist and last surviving apostle. St. John's speech, intellectually dense and often extremely concentrated, almost elliptical in expression--together with introductory and concluding narrative passages in the person of the narrator-witness (who is probably, though not certainly, Pamphylax)--is presented as the contents of an ancient Greek parchment manuscript: the elaborate framing device is introduced in the opening parenthetical interpolation (ll. 1-12), enclosed in square brackets, in the person of the manuscript's early Christian owner. In A Death in the Desert Browning engages urgently, though always implicitly, with modern questions of religious belief and doubt--as contemporary readers and reviewers immediately recognized. The poem needs to be read in the context of the profound crisis of religious belief of the early 1860s, in which both the Essays and Reviews controversy1 and the deeply disturbing intellectual influence of modern, mainly German, Biblical criticism played an important part. Browning attempts to "take

Journal

Victorian PoetryWest Virginia University Press

Published: Dec 16, 2003

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