A. E. Housman's Ballad Economies

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Abstract

A. E. Housman published his first volume of verse in 1896 and his second in 1922; the former (A Shropshire Lad) appears at first glance to have little more than its ballad-like forms in common with the self-consciously avantgarde work of the best-known decadent poets, while the latter (Last Poems) does not reflect stylistic development and shows no sign of having been published in the same year as The Waste Land. Their author’s historical individuality may therefore seem indeterminate and even immaterial, as he does not embody the aesthetics most frequently associated with high Victorianism or the fin de siècle or early modernism. Housman himself, a classical scholar who was largely uninterested in joining contemporary bohemian coteries, was well aware of his ambiguously ahistorical status. In a 1928 letter to his publisher Grant Richards, he declined an offer to reprint his work in A Book of Nineties Verse: “to include me in an anthology of the Nineties would be just as technically correct, and just as essentially inappropriate, as to include Lot in a book on Sodomites; in saying which I am not saying a word against sodomy” (qtd. in Maas 1971, 271). And he had similar feelings about being selected for Georgian Poetry 1911–1912, informing its editor that “I do not really belong to your ‘new era’” (qtd. in Maas 1971, 125).1 Short and discontinuous, repetitive and restrained, Housman’s poems occupy a space outside both the discursive prolixity of much Victorian narrative verse and the polyvocal open-endedness of much twentieth-century poetry.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEconomies of desire at the Victorian fin de siècle
Subtitle of host publicationlibidinal lives
EditorsJane Ford, Kim Edwards Keates, Patricia Pulham
Place of PublicationNew York ; London
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Chapter2
Pages35-61
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781315739373
ISBN (Print)9781138826342, 9780367871260
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Ninetenth-Century Literature
PublisherRoutledge
Number16

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  • Cite this

    Alfano, V. (2016). A. E. Housman's Ballad Economies. In J. Ford, K. Edwards Keates, & P. Pulham (Eds.), Economies of desire at the Victorian fin de siècle: libidinal lives (pp. 35-61). (Routledge Studies in Ninetenth-Century Literature; No. 16). New York ; London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315739373-10