The Uses of Genre

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


C. Day Lewis, in his influential 1947 lectures on The Poetic Image, contrasted the wealth of subject matter available to the poets of his day — ‘to-day our English poets are committed to the belief that every idea and every object of sense is potentially material for poetry’ — with the narrowing of the ‘variety of poetic media’ open to them to essentially one form: ‘the semi-lyrical, semi-contemplative medium in which the bulk of modern verse is written’.1 A century earlier, mid-Victorian poets such as Clough, Patmore and Barrett Browning were labouring to clear a place in their poetry for ‘every idea and every object of sense’, at a time when such poetic inclusivity was certainly not a given and when the preference for lyric forms was already hardening into prescription. As we have already seen, poets who took up the critical gauntlet of representing ‘unpoetic’ modern life in verse bucked the trend towards an increasingly centripetal Tennysonian lyricism and uniformly insisted on the roominess and complexity of long, narrative forms. These expansive poems drew into their own orbits a range of genres that was indispensable to the forging of forms capable of reflecting a diverse and (in multiple ways) novel age.


Modern World Modern Life Paradise Lost Classical Epic Conjugal Union 
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Copyright information

© Natasha Moore 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Public ChristianityAustralia

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