Incest in Victorian Literature Criticism: Poetry - Essay

John Donovan (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Incest in Laon and Cythna: Nature, Custom, Desire,” in The Keats-Shelley Review, No. 2, 1987, pp. 49-90.

[In the following essay, Donovan traces the publishing history of Laon and Cythna, from its inception to its reprinting as The Revolt of Islam,and argues that the changes between the two versions make it difficult to understand Shelley's intent.]

The printing history of Laon and Cythna; or, the Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century includes a notorious peculiarity. Shelley's grand attempt at a narrative romance on the epic scale, and his longest poem, was composed in draft at Marlow during the...

(The entire section is 19340 words.)

D. L. Macdonald (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Incest, Narcissism and Demonality in Byron's Manfred,” in Mosaic, Vol. 25, No. 2, Spring, 1992, pp. 25-38.

[In the following essay, Macdonald theorizes that Manfred is a powerful revision of Goethe's Faust and of the tradition behind it. Macdonald explains that the central act of the poem, the pact with the devil, can be traced to the psychodynamics of incest.]

In 1816, Byron left England forever, his reputation ruined by the collapse of his marriage and the rumors of his affair with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. He went first to Switzerland, where he met the Shelleys and suggested that they all pass the time by writing ghost...

(The entire section is 6327 words.)

Richard Cronin (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Shelleyan Incest and the Romantic Legacy,” in Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. XLV, 1996, pp. 61-76.

[In the following essay, Cronin explores the evolution and significance of the themes of love and incest in Shelley's poetry. The critic contends that Romantic poetry in general and Shelley's work in particular left a difficult legacy for the Victorians, challenging them to accommodate these themes in an acceptable manner for the reading public.]

I begin with a particular legacy, with the copy of The Revolt of Islam owned by Arthur Hallam and bequeathed, after his early death, to his friend and fellow-Apostle, Henry Alford. Like Hallam, Alford was a minor...

(The entire section is 7132 words.)