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Gender-to-Gender Anxiety and Influence in Robert Browning's Men and Women

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2008

Extract

In their courtship and marriage, the Brownings did not contend for that “mastery” the wife of Bath and other traditional sources of marital wisdom cite as the usual object of competition between the sexes. Instead they struggled over the privilege of admiring and serving the other. Robert Browning won that competition, his victory both symptom and cause of a poetic silence that lasted throughout most of his married life. An important exception to his prolonged inactivity is Men and Women, Browning's successful attempt at bringing his innovative style to full, sustained articulation. In order to achieve the kind of psychological, as well as intellectual, independence that would enable him to speak “in [his] true person” (“One Word More,” line 137), however, the poet needed to alter the terms of his relationship with his wife, who was both the emotional center of his life and a more successful, more popular poet. Browning achieved this separation in Men and Women, particularly in “One Word More.”

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1986

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