This chapter extends the survey of criticism about Browning’s complex relationship with Romanticism that is so crucial to understanding his work. Much of the criticism covered here situates itself, either explicitly or implicitly, in relation to Harold Bloom’s theory of the anxiety of influence as discussed in Chapter 1, either by adopting aspects of it or by suggesting alternatives. The first section on Browning and Wordsworth contrasts a Bloomian reading by John Haydn Baker with one by Lawrence Kramer which locates the intertextual dialogue between two poems in the wider context of Victorian revisions of Romantic textual strategies. This is followed by an analysis of Browning’s poetry in terms of the paradigm of Romantic irony by Clyde de L. Ryals and Patricia Diane Rigg. Competing interpretations of Browning’s aesthetics as explained either through the literary-historical context of Romanticism or through the perspective of modern theory also characterise criticism on his ideal of the imperfect, as demonstrated by Catherine Maxwell’s reference to the Romantic sublime and Herbert Tucker’s deconstructive reading of the same concept. Closely combining historical and modern approaches, David E. Latané situates Browning in relation to Romantic elitist poetics but also draws on twentieth-century reader-response theory. The chapter closes with Britta Martens’ discussion of Browning’s dramatised confrontation with Romantic self-expression in the poems in his own voice. Browning and Wordsworth: More Anxiety? Shelley might have been a huge influence on Browning and other Victorian poets, but William Wordsworth, who became Poet Laureate in 1843, was certainly the most popular Romantic poet among the general public.
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