Whereas the emphasis of the previous chapter was on the formal features of the dramatic monologue, on considerations of the genre as a communicative act and especially on Langbaum’s generalised reading experience, this chapter focuses on the dramatic monologue within its historical and literary contexts. After a brief overview of suggestions for the dramatic monologue’s generic predecessors, the second section of the chapter identifies those cultural and literary factors that led Browning and other Victorians to develop the genre. It covers Isobel Armstrong’s influential concept of the ‘Victorian double poem’, J. Hillis Miller’s interpretation of the genre as Browning’s response to the Victorian Crisis of Faith, Loy D. Martin’s Marxist reading and Britta Martens’ analysis of the genre in relation to social changes and other prose genres. The third section focuses on research which positions the genre more specifically with regard to the developing discipline of psychology. Ekbert Faas, Michael Mason, Ellen O’Brien and Barry L. Popowich read the dramatic monologues about extreme mental states as applying ideas from contemporary psychiatry. Finally, Gregory Tate analyses Browning’s portrayal of thought processes in relation to Victorian concepts of the human mind. Generic Predecessors Many critics have investigated the reasons why Browning and other poets of the period developed the dramatic monologue. One approach to the question is to identify its generic predecessors. The most rigorous example of this is Benjamin Willis Fuson’s Browning and His EnglishPredecessors in the Dramatic Monolog [sic] (1948).
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