Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in English

Committee Chairperson

Michael A. Zeitler

Committee Member 1

Michael D. Sollars

Committee Member 2

Charlene T. Evans

Committee Member 3

Haiqing Sun


• Formalist • Marxist • Matthew Arnold • Poetry • Psychoanalytic • Robert Browning


Throughout the literary world, many critics have attempted to pinpoint the root cause for the sudden changes in style and attitude about writing the poetry that ultimately chased Robert Browning and Matthew Arnold into developing their own style in which to convey their innermost compassion for humanity. They hid their injured poetic souls; they hid their innermost thoughts, but they expressed themselves through their characters. By expressing themselves as the voice behind the speaker, they were able to create an artificial mask and utilize the mask as a method of capitalizing on the very essence of what the dramatic monologue tried to express and establish: a poetic play. But by creating this avenue, Browning and Arnold were able to create a niche for themselves in the closing years of the Victorian Age. Of course one can understand that there are limitless factors that can contribute to the direction of a person’s development from childhood to adulthood, and also the time that elapses between each event and how their points of view change along the way. In studying Robert Browning and Matthew Arnold, a few choice factors should be considered as foremost when analyzing these two poets. In the cases of Robert Browning and Matthew Arnold, the key factors one should focus on are their family upbringing, their cultural values, and the literary pressures they were experiencing. I will demonstrate that formalist, psychoanalysis, and Marxist materialism theories are the keys for unraveling the personas of these two Victorian poets. The formalist critic focuses on the lasting impact a work forms on the readers’ mental imagery of the poem and how the readers react to the poem’s flexibility, while also allowing the readers to find whatever they may wish to find in it. The formalist critic also applies to the appropriateness of the poem’s structure. This method allows the readers to form a pattern, to evoke an idea of where the poet is going with the theme or the plot of the poem. On the other hand, the psychoanalytic critic probes the theory of the development of the human psyche. The psychoanalytic critic focuses on what and how certain personal experiences and events affected these two poets and what compelled them to alter their lives and to alter their writing styles so abruptly. In the case of the Marxist materialist theory, I will show that the status of both of these poets contributed to the transformation of their attitudes, and how their class status enhanced the shaping of their views about their surroundings. This study will focus on their experiences growing up, their experiences concerning their relationship with other family members, and their encounters with their contemporaries. In this study, I will present the argument that both these authors were strongly influenced by parochial expectations, by social upheavals, and by literary pressures from other contemporary poets. The emphasis is to demonstrate how in each poem these influences surface to reveal how these factors played a major role in molding their true personas. This study will take into consideration the historical and personal events that were taking place at the time, such as the after effects of the long lasting change of the transference between ideologies from Hellenist to Hebraic, and the Industrial Revolution, which obscured anything that stood in its way. It was a golden age for innovation, but a trying time for literary works; however, ironically, it was during this time that Browning and Arnold were producing their finest works . Furthermore, in this argument I will show that the poems of Browning, such as “My Last Duchess,” “Porphyria’s Lover,” and “Fra Lippo Lippi,” and Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” “The Buried Life,” and his literary criticism on various poets reveal how each influence surfaces in their poems. This study will shed light on how each historical event was relevant in forming the poet’s resilience and state of mind, in developing his particular views about the world he lived in. This study further explores the possible and probable consequences that peer pressure had on both these writers. The focus of each analysis will be upon revealing clues to their character, to their attitude, and, with the emphasis on the direction each poet took in order to overcome the stigma of exclusion. This overview reveals how each poet earned the right to be included into the company of elite writers and into the realm of great poets whose works are read worldwide