Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Readers of Sordello have insufficiently appraised Browning's use of a late-medieval, early-Renaissance setting to express his nineteenth-century themes. They tend either to dismiss the poem's historical details in favour of its nineteenth-century implications, or to exaggerate Browning's interest in the Italian Renaissance at the expense of his nineteenth-century concerns. The thesis argues that although Browning is reasonably accurate about historical details, a greater concern is to illustrate the continuities between historical periods determined by universal human inclinations and experiences, and by the continuities of God's providential ways.;Other Victorians' historical writings tended either to idealize or repudiate the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, and to question the potential of the nineteenth century. The thesis argues that Browning in Sordello, with its late-medieval, early-Renaissance setting, persuades readers to temper these idealizations and repudiations by affirming the progressive efforts of men throughout history to respond to the "Eden tale" of human experience.;In addition to the discussion of Sordello's setting in Chapter One, the thesis tries to resolve critical problems with distinctions to be made between Browning, Sordello, and the narrator. It is argued that both the thirteenth-century Sordello and the nineteenth-century narrator are represented as developing, fallible poets who illustrate responses to human experience and poetry Browning sees as characteristic of the thirteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sordello represents some thirteenth- and nineteenth-century extremes of Neoplatonic idealism and libertinism; the narrator is a Christian-humanist poet whose attitudes towards the end of the poem approximate those of Browning.;These arguments are developed in chapters analyzing the poem's three main themes: Chapter Two discusses Browning's affirmation of secular love which is based on temporal service rather than on other-worldly ideals; in Chapter Three, Browning's awareness of and response to religious problems in the 1830's is examined; Chapter Four explains the discriminations made in Sordello between a mystical, prophetic poetry characteristic of some Italian Renaissance and nineteenth-century poetry, and the dramatic poetry characteristic of the English Renaissance which Browning affirms and develops.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.