All-College Writing Contest

Award

All-College Writing Contest Winner 2004-05

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2005

Author Comments

I wrote this essay for Professor Robert Archambeau’s English Literature II class, in which I received my first formal introduction to Victorian literature and thought. At the beginning of the course, we were asked to describe our associations with each period to be studied and our expectations for the corresponding literature, and I soon discovered that the literature of the Victorian period contradicted most of my preconceptions. I was intrigued by the elegant and brutal antinomies of Victorian ideology and struck by the depth of consciousness in these works. Though the authors I analyzed here—Matthew Arnold, Thomas Hardy and William Butler Yeats—span nearly a century, this long time frame provided an opportunity to trace the breakdown of Europe’s traditional religious-based value system and compare various reactions to the ensuing philosophical void. As is typical of my writing style, this essay attempts to synthesize numerous poems by each author and to address several relevant social issues. Despite the inherent dangers of simplifying philosophical concepts—particularly the complex mythology of Yeats—I tried to condense these ideas enough to provide a cohesive overview of this turbulent period. In addition to acknowledging the philosophical elements, I also came to appreciate Arnold for his subtle grace, Hardy for his petulance, and Yeats for his unique, disturbing imagery.

Faculty Advisor

Robert Archambeau

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