Wandering between Ten Worlds: Morris’s Guenevere Poems and the Failure of Discourse DAVID COWLES n “The Defence of Guenevere” and “King Arthur’s Tomb,” the opening I poems of William Morris’s 1858 volume The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems, Morris shows through the tragic relationship of Guenevere and Launce- lot how discourse systems limit the ways we can experience our lives. By re- presenting the conceptual strug gles of Guenevere and Launcelot, whose needs, natures, and experiences greatly exceed their systems’ ability to define and categorize, Morris critiques not only the conceptual systems available during his own time but the very possibility of achieving satisfying truth or transcen- dence. In t hese early poems, conifl cting conceptual systems, each of which claims full interpretive authority, plague the lovers with irreconcilable contra- dictions and create a kind of cognitive dissonance that threatens their self- understanding and even their sanity. Launcelot and Guenevere attempt several strategies for bridging the gap between language and real ity, but ultimately both succumb to the unyielding constraints of language and convention. Morris wrote these poems during his heady years at Oxford, under the power- ful inu fl ence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the coterie
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Apr 18, 2018
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