Jacob Jewusiak deposited Tennyson’s Wrinkled Feet: Ageing and the Poetics of Decay in the group LLC Victorian and Early-20th-Century English on MLA Commons 1 year, 8 months ago
This article argues that Tennyson’s ‘Tithonus’ (1860) draws together ageing and decay through the poem’s formal wrinkling: moments where metrical disruption, folding, slackness, or concealment correspond to the insights derived from the perspective of great age — chiming the poet’s keynotes of disappointment, mourning, and loss. I turn to ‘Ulysses’ (1842) and ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ (1832) — poems with a similar, though differently stressed, investment in age and decay — to demonstrate the political stakes of this thesis. While for Ulysses old age presents the triumphant opportunity to live ‘Life to the lees’, this arises from a sense of masculine anxiety about imminent decay. ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ positions ageing and decay against the imperative to work as a means of decentring the monolithic temporality of capitalist utility. These poems theorize the poetics of rot as a senescent challenge to the masculine and capitalist assumptions about the inherent value of mastery, productivity, and vigour.