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Alfred Lord Tennyson's 'In Memoriam'

A Reading Guide

Anna Barton

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Introduces Tennyson's famous elegy to first-time readers, students and teachers of the poem

This guide takes readers through Tennyson's elegy, providing:

  • The full text of the poem
  • Information about its cultural, historical and literary contexts
  • Four different reading strategies for approaching the text
  • Suggested seminar activities, assessments and module outlines for teachers and lecturers
  • In Memoriam is one of the most famous and influential poems of the 19th century. Composed over nearly three decades and spanning over 100 sections, it is one of the longest elegies in the English language. It is at once a deeply personal description of grief and a wide-ranging discussion of its age.


Chapter 1: Mapping and Making
Part I: Monuments and Fragments
Part II: The In Memoriam Stanza
Part III: Remembering the Elegy
Chapter 2: The Poem
Part I: Outline
Part II: Poem
Chapter 3: The Guide
Theme I: Lost for Words
Theme II: Losing Touch
Theme III: Profit and Loss
Theme IV: Cycle and Ritual
Chapter 4: Contexts and Reception
Part I: Compositional Contexts
Part II: Scientific Contexts
Part III: Reviews and Anthologies
Part IV: Modernist Reactions
Chapter 5: Teaching the Text
Part I: Reading the Text
Part II: Initial Responses
Part III: Teaching In Memoriam as a Victorian Text
Part IV: Thinking about Form
Part V: Module Outline
Annotated Bibliography
Works Cited

About the Author

Anna Barton studied English at the Universities of Warwick and Glasgow and has taught at Keele University and the University of Sheffield, where she is currently a lecturer in nineteenth-century literature. Her first monograph, Tennyson's Name: Identity and Responsibility in the Poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson was published by Ashgate in 2008.


Sure-handed and generously conceived to address a contemporary student's difficulties with In Memoriam and turn them into opportunities. Users of this guide will especially thank Barton for the model essays she has crafted on four strikingly different threads that traverse the poem: language, touch, economics, and ritual cycle.
- Professor Herbert Tucker, University of Virginia
...the study remains a thoughtful and interesting account, packed with essential background information, and lightly invoking, where necessary, Marxist, feminist or homosocial theory.  In fact, given the prescriptive, 'beginner's' nature of the book, it is a credit to Barton to have turned it into a pleasant refresher's course even for the most well-read of Tennysonians.  In other words, both students and teachers will find much here to enjoy.
- Angela Leighton, Trinity College, Cambridge, Tennyson Research Bulletin, Vol 10, No 1

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