Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Rebecca Stern


Sacred forms, in the shape of doctrines and creeds, constituted a large part of Tennyson’s childhood religion. This is reflected in “The Lotos-Eaters,” written in 1832, as Tennyson cautions against increasingly popular ideas of secular materialism; Tennyson’s mariners parrot the ideas of Epicureanism, but their arguments mirror that of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene character Despair. In putting Despair’s words in the mariners’ mouths, Tennyson warns against forgetting religious ritual, as this leads to suicide and eternal damnation. However, with the death of Arthur Henry Hallam in 1833, Tennyson’s religion shifted dramatically. In Memoriam gives us the final version of Tennyson’s beliefs as a fluid faith in a God of Love. Written before In Memoriam, “Ulysses” does not provide the same clarity of faith but instead captures Tennyson’s realization that religious change is needed in order to cope with sorrow. By creating poetic tension between the two facets of Homer’s and Dante’s Ulysses, Tennyson reveals the consequences of his belief in forms: the Homeric version of the character underscores the poet’s determination to live, not yielding to despair, and the Dantesque figure highlights the dangers of Tennyson’s faith in forms, as holding on to it will only lead to death.


© 2016, Carleen Lara Miller Ratcliffe