The variety of Browning’s poetry has made it difficult to see his work as a canon rather than merely a collection. The Elusive Self takes issue with the opinion that Browning’s art is diffuse and argues instead for a unity born of his interest in man’s acts of introspection.
The author observes in Browning’s idiosyncratic style and sense of time an adaptation of Romantic notions of spontaneity. She reinterprets his obsession with Perseus figures and investigates the hitherto neglected strain of apocalyptic imagery that helps Browning define the process of self-confrontation.
This study identifies for the first time Browning’s most innovative contribution to Victorian poetry, his development of the confession manqué. This genre is seen to enact the strategies whereby man balks at the truths he seems to seek and defers or falsifies confessional self-discovery.
The Elusive Self is a clear presentation of character and the psychological workings of the characters’ conflicted selves. Its thematic approach, supported by new observations on the poet’s personal myths and verbal habits, offers a fresh synthesis of Browning’s art.
Constance W. Hassett is assistant professor of English at Fordham University.
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