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The Modernistic Elements in Browning’s Dramatic Monologue

Author GanLu
Tutor XiChuanJin
School Yangtze University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords Robert Browning dramatic monologue poetry modernistelements thematic elements stylistic elements
CLC I561.072
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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Robert Browning (1812—1889) was an English poet and playwright, whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologue, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. Browning’s greatest contribution was the improvement and perfection of dramatic monologue—a unique form of poetry. Dramatic monologue method, which is borrowed from the poetic drama, has greatly influenced modernist poets, such as T.S Eliot, and Browning is a proficient practical pioneer of this method. Browning has shaped many different types of characters by the method of dramatic monologue, and thus deeply reveals the internal psychology of the characters. Dramatic monologue is adept in the dramatization of the characters, who expresses their inner world objectively and calmly, in the poems. The main features of modernist literary works reflect both in the selection of the themes and writing styles, and Browning’s dramatic monologue has typical modernist elements in both two aspects. First, Browning’s dramatic monologue poems have distinctive modernist characteristics in the selection of themes. The recurrent themes such as suspicion toward existing institutions and religion, alienation and despair etc. are highlighted themes in modernist literary works. Second, the writing style of his dramatic monologue also possesses many modernist elements, including diction, words and expressions. To begin with, Browning’s dramatic monologue uses relatively weird and obscure words to express the characters’complex inner world. Next, the rhetoric devices also bear modernist elements. Irony, comparison and juxtaposition all bring modernist elements to his dramatic monologue poems, which are different from romantic literary works. Last but not the least, in discourse level, Browning’s dramatic monologue adopts the method of modernist narration, such as multi-point of view narration and fragmented narration. The fragmented narration reflects in both the fragmented dramatic setting and fragmented plots. Browning’s dramatic monologue poems contain non-Victorian code. His poetry has make a useful exploration of modernism, and he has opened up a new path for the poetry in the Victorian era.The thesis consists of the following six chapters:Chapter One mainly introduces Robert Browning’s life, his unique dramatic monologue poems, and the development of Modernism literature.Chapter Two reviews the researches toward Robert Browning and his poems abroad and at home both diachronically and synchronically, and briefly summarizes the previous studies. Chapter Three analyzes the modernistic characteristics of Browning’s poetry. Browning’s poetry is different from the Romantic poetry, which is enthusiastic and blind toward love, art and religion. His poetry permeates with inexcitable thinking and profound doubts. Browning’s dramatic monologue poetry sharply glimpses into the conflict between the reality and the ideal under the brilliant veil of the Victorian era, the alienation and despair of people under these conflict. These themes and the profound meaning they expressed both prove that Browning’s dramatic monologue poems have similar elements with modernist literary works.Chapter Four analyzes the modernist elements in Browning’s poems, which are embodied in the following aspects:First, in diction, like most of modernism literary works, Browning’s dramatic monologue applies weird and obscure words. Second, Browning’s dramatic monologue uses some recurrent rhetoric devices in modernist literature, such as irony, comparison and juxtaposition. These rhetoric devices enhance the aesthetic appreciation of his poems. Third, Browning’s poems in dramatic monologue have modernist elements in narrative method. To begin with, narration in multi-point of view is a typical characteristic of modern literature, whose aim is to express the differences of subjective views of different characters. Although, there is only one narrative role in his dramatic monologue (the monologist), readers can obviously feel three different narrative roles-the monologist, the implied listener and the poet. The connotation of his poetry is fully expressed from these three points of view and here is where the charm and glamour of his poetry stands. Next, his poetry uses fragmented narration, specifically, the fragmentation of setting and the fragmentation of plots, which proves his characteristics of modernism. Browning’s dramatic monologue is always fragment, and all the dramatic ingredients, including dramatic background, events and actions, can only be refracted from some broken monologic lines in the poems. The method of fragment narration in this way is highly praised by modernism. Despite Browning’s poems are difficult because of the fragment narration, which leave readers with great scope of imagination. Stream of Consciousness is another modernist elements in Browning dramatic monologue poems. Stream of consciousness literature is an important branch of the modernist literary, and dramatic monologue is one of the main techniques of stream of consciousness. Dramatic monologue is used to deeply reveal the awareness of the monologists in the poems. This method improves the plots of the drama and also increases the depth and breadth of the significance of his poetry.Chapter Five summarizes the thesis and further affirms Browning’s exploration of Modernism. It is cited in Mao Poetry that:" In order to move heaven and earth, or even ghost and deity, nothing else can achieve it more and better than poetry." That’s because poetry is the cries and shock from the bottom of hearts, and the secrets of hearts are eternal themes of literary works and the nature of human beings is thus glimpsed into. Browning’s confusion, questioning, thinking and exploration reflect the ambiguity and complexity of human nature and all of these are reflected in the various interpretations of his poems. Although Browning cannot look throughly into the human nature, he never stops to explore the essence of Modernism. He interprets from his own perspectives and thus leaves a footprint in the history of poetry. So he and his poems are the guideline of the20th century.

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