Deconstructing Englishness, Relocating Britishness: Arthur Hugh Clough’s The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich
In 1848, the publication of Arthur Hugh Clough’s The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich. A Long Vacation-Pastoral astounds the Victorian reading public. This complex narrative poem, characterised by heteroglossia, an idiosyncratic metre and a variety of styles and registers, at different levels deconstructs Englishness, as well as it relocates the concept of Britishness. The article aims to show how the poet, both through form and content, provocatively suggests that, behind its façade of stability, Victorian Britain is not a supranational state marked by political uniformity and cultural organicity but rather consists of several “nations within the nation” that cannot be harmonized, owing to language, gender, class and ethnic questions. First, Clough conveys this image of a dis-United Kingdom through his deployment of a heterogeneous amalgam of diversified languages, reflecting individual, cultural, social or geographical differences. Secondly, he debunks a unified idea of Englishness (or Britishness for that matter) by depicting a confused English hero whose emotional fluctuations mirror the fractures undermining the stability and unity of Victorian society: the gender divide; class conflicts; and the clash between rural and urban worlds. Finally, by representing a group of Oxford students’ journey to the exotic Scottish Highlands, Clough invites the reader to reflect on Britain’s ethnic and cultural divisions, on the meaning of cultural reception and the hindrances involved in any experience of trans- or interculturality. Ultimately, the analysis of these three interrelated aspects will explain why Clough’s contentious conceptions of Englishness and Britishness must be seen in the light of his sceptical frame of mind and epistemic (self)doubt.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Gioia Angeletti, "Deconstructing Englishness, Relocating Britishness: Arthur Hugh Clough’s The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich" in: "2020 / 25 Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere", EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, Trieste, 2020 pp. 83-111
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