"Who knows if he be dead?": Maud, Signification, and the Madhouse Canto

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					"Who knows if he be dead?": Maud, Signification, and the Madhouse Canto
Anne C McCarthy
Victorian Poetry; Spri
				
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Description: Most readers have approached Maud with the first ques- tion in mind, either to attempt to reconstruct the events that take place in this notoriously fragmented narrative or to foreground their absence.2 The latter question, however, draws our attention toward what E. Warwick Slinn calls the brilliance of Tennyson's dialectical and figurative ambiguity which shifts dramatic action away from external event towards signifying process. Understood within the context of uncertainty surrounding death, Maud's so-called mad scene discloses a fear of what might be broadly termed insignificance: not only the lack of societal importance the speaker complains of across the poem, but also a textual condition in which one's very survival depends on other people's reading practices which are themselves always open to dispute.
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