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Artful ExperimentsWays of Knowing in Victorian Literature and Science$
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Philipp Erchinger

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474438957

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474438957.001.0001

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Robert Browning’s Experiment: Composition and Communication in The Ring and the Book

Robert Browning’s Experiment: Composition and Communication in The Ring and the Book

(p.186) Chapter 7 Robert Browning’s Experiment: Composition and Communication in The Ring and the Book
Artful Experiments

Philipp Erchinger

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter concentrates on Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book, a series of twelve dramatic monologues, which has repeatedly been described as an instance of “empiricism in literature” (Langbaum) and as one of “the most ambitious literary experiments in the period” (Slinn). Trying to substantiate and make good on such claims, the chapter argues that The Ring and the Book invites its readers to participate in the composition and evaluation of an experimental form that transfers the tradition of the epic into “a novel country” in order to create a mode of writing “in difficulties” and “encumbered with incongruities” (Walter Bagehot). As a result, The Ring and the Book refuses to be read as if it were an accomplished work. Rather, it has to be made to work. Presenting itself as an experimental arrangement, Browning’s multi-voiced and many-sided text demands its readers to follow the grain of a kaleidoscopic pattern in the making, the components of which lack an underlying ground or design to hold them in place. The chapter’s argument is developed by way of an engagement with the controversial Victorian reception of Browning’s long poem.

Keywords:   Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book, experimental form, dramatic monologue, poetry, composition, communication

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