Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King in the Discourse of Postcolonial Criticism

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Portland State University English 547: Arthurian Literature

Tobias Wilms 913944913

Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King in the Discourse of Postcolonial Criticism
Introduction: Ever since his name was first mentioned by the Welsh monk Nennius in the 9th century, writers modified and applied the great King Arthur's popular legend to convey their various political, religious and social beliefs. The Victorian author Alfred Lord Tennyson followed this tradition exemplarily and enwraped his imperialistic views in the famous Arthurian poem Idylls of the King. The aim of this paper is to accentuate his political and social ideologies from the context and introduce to some of the reactions of postcolonial critics.

Idylls of the King, a Piece of Victorian Literature: Especially if Tennyson's Idylls are the first and only piece of Arthurian literature one has read, one can irritatedly ignore its dedication and letter to the royals Albert and Victoria, and simply summarize it as the story of a medieval King, the adventures of his accompanying knights, the fortune of the ladies at his court, and the creation and downfall of his kingdom in twelve books. Those readers, however, who are familiar with the previous versions of Arthurian stories written by Chrétien de Troyes and Thomas Malory, for instance, cannot be satisfied with that. They wonder about Tennyson's framing poems “Dedication” and “To the Queen”, stumble over the changes the author made in his adoption of the Arthurian legends, and start thinking about what Idylls of the King really is about. So did Cecil Y. Lang and published her results in the essay Tennyson's Arthurian Psycho-Drama. In her work she makes an important discovery, namely that “Tennyson seldom composed anything […] without some kind of contemporary reference” (Lang 16). This finding excludes the possibility 1

that Tennyson just wanted…...

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