• Tennyson’s Wrinkled Feet: Ageing and the Poetics of Decay

    Author(s):
    Jacob Jewusiak (see profile)
    Date:
    2021
    Group(s):
    LLC Victorian and Early-20th-Century English, TC Age Studies
    Subject(s):
    Aging--Study and teaching, English poetry, Nineteenth century, Poetry
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    age, tennyson, decay, Age studies, Victorian poetry, Environmental humanities
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/nm9w-cd55
    Abstract:
    This article argues that Tennyson’s ‘Tithonus’ (1860) draws together ageing and decay through the poem’s formal wrinkling: moments where metrical disruption, folding, slackness, or concealment correspond to the insights derived from the perspective of great age — chiming the poet’s keynotes of disappointment, mourning, and loss. I turn to ‘Ulysses’ (1842) and ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ (1832) — poems with a similar, though differently stressed, investment in age and decay — to demonstrate the political stakes of this thesis. While for Ulysses old age presents the triumphant opportunity to live ‘Life to the lees’, this arises from a sense of masculine anxiety about imminent decay. ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ positions ageing and decay against the imperative to work as a means of decentring the monolithic temporality of capitalist utility. These poems theorize the poetics of rot as a senescent challenge to the masculine and capitalist assumptions about the inherent value of mastery, productivity, and vigour.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    7 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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