Idylls of the Hearth: Enoch Arden and the Creation of Paradise
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AbstractThis thesis examines a theme of natural theology exhibited in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Enoch Arden.” It surveys the text’s thematic experiments with scenery and spirituality, as well as the strategies governing its narrative during the cultural and religious transformation of Victorian England. Modernist epistemology has exposed Tennyson’s devotion to nature poetry, as well as his progressive understanding of spirituality through acute observation and visualization of the environment. This study traces that progress from the poet’s celebrated early works to the later and lesser-known Idylls of the Hearth, published as Enoch Arden, Etc. “Enoch Arden,” the titular installment of this publication, will be the primary focus of my research. This poem displays a phenomenological view of nature, where spiritual connections manifest between characters and their settings—a theme pervading many works throughout Tennyson’s career, when he sought spiritual enlightenment above literary fame, and rural habitation above modern luxury. My readings are informed by interdisciplinary contributions to Tennysonian literature including biographies, contemporary studies, and periodical reviews. My research concludes that natural theology operates as the central feature of “Enoch Arden,” and many of Tennyson’s narratives. It demonstrates that by textually conceptualizing environmental designs, and humanity’s place within those designs, the poet remedied his lifelong anxieties about the existence of God and an afterworld.
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